The word ‘lullaby’ comes from the verb ‘to lull’ and appeared in the English language sometime in the 16th century. However, the very practice of singing to a baby to help it fall asleep dates all the way back to ancient times. Interestingly, it is a universal phenomenon present in all cultures around the world. Lullaby studies have shown that no matter what language the song is in, the music it is sung to is similar in its tones across cultures. So what it is in a lullaby that is so special for a baby?

Chances are, you have probably started talking to your baby even before it was born. As a result, children come in this world with a developed sense of sound and respond very well to it. The repetitive, predictable music of lullabies is set in a way that reminds the baby of the motion they experienced in the comfort of mother’s womb. This explains the calming and soothing effect the ‘cradle song’ has on infants.

A lullaby is not just a way to help your child fall asleep. It presents tremendous benefits when practiced regularly. First of all, your child is practicing active listening skills as a opposed to just hearing sounds. The more exposure the child gets to the language, the easier it is for him to start talking himself. Repetitive patterns – such as the ones present in lullabies and nursery rhymes – are especially useful as they help babies to understand language patterns. That is why your baby’s initial reaction to a song might be a lot of cooing and gurgling. Lullabies, when used every day, help build a predictable sleep routine, enabling children fall asleep faster and sleep better (which also makes parents’ life easier). And finally, lullabies create that very special intimate moment for a caregiver and a child to bond that boosts baby’s sense of security and ability to relax.

Some parents shy away from singing to their children because they think they cannot sing perfectly. While you can try playing recorded lullabies sung by professional singers on your baby monitor or a phone, there is nothing sweeter for a baby than the sound of your voice. So pick your favorite song (or make your own) and sing away!