Beyond Rock-a-Bye Baby: Why Singing Lullabies Is Personal

“Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory.” -Oscar Wilde

He’s not wrong.

I love music, and music is incredibly powerful.

Just the opening chords of a familiar song can bring comfort emotions. It could be the music or lyrics that move us.

Sometimes music transports us to a different time and place. We can relish in that memory, good or bad, for the duration of the song.

I have always loved to sing- along with the radio, as a theatre student and actress, at karaoke nights, even during commercial jingles. I sing love songs and rock anthems and everything in between.

I know the lyrics to possibly thousands of songs. And yet when my first baby was born, I felt completely tongue-tied trying to find the words to any of them to sing my sweet little babe to sleep.

Sure, we’ve all heard of the scientific studies linking babies’ early exposure to music, and specifically the singing/voice of their main caregiver, to greater brain development and activity from an early age.

We know that babies learn through patterns and repetition, and songs are an awesome way to implement those into everyday interactions.

I just hadn’t spent any of my first pregnancy researching potential lullabies the way I had pored over so much other parenting and baby-related information. But just so you know, there is no need to research this; I’ve got you!

Start With The Basics

There’s something romantic to me about singing a song like Hush Little Baby to an infant. I often became overwhelmed thinking about all the mothers and grandmothers who had sung those very same lyrics to their babies decades or even centuries earlier.

Music connects us to each other. And there is little that I craved more than connection in the early days of motherhood {other than maybe sleep!}. It was just me, my baby and a song during the deep dark quiet of overnight wakeups and feedings. I felt the power of all those ancestral mothers who had come before me.

woman holds newbornI thought of my own mother, and the songs she sang to me when I was a child; mostly written and sung by the female folk artists and songwriters from the 60s and 70s. These songs were, of course, tweaked with her own additions {and omissions} to make them appropriate bedtime lullabies. She loved Carly Simon, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Linda Ronstadt, among others. Hearing any of these songs now evokes such an intense and visceral response in me.

It wasn’t long before I began to remember the music library that had long been stored inside my heart and mind.

Make It Personal

Somewhere Over The Rainbow, from my childhood favorite movie The Wizard of Oz became a standby. I still sing that nightly to my four year old, over 8 years after I began singing it to my first born child. No, these aren’t sweet little ‘baby’ lyrics. They’re pretty melancholy, to be honest. And you know what? It doesn’t matter!Adele’s album 25 was released when my firstborn was a young toddler. I began singing “When We Were Young” to him and even now when I hear those opening chords, my heart leaps and constricts with love and longing for those snuggly baby days. On her latest album, “My Little Love” would be a beautiful lullaby.

AdeleI chose a favorite Chicks {formerly Dixie} song to sing when my daughter was born. “How long do you wanna be loved? Is forever enough, is forever enough” {the tune is aptly called “Lullaby”}. My family had moved from the Midwest to Texas just weeks after I found out I was pregnant with her. The opening lyrics, “They didn’t have you where I come from/I didn’t know the best was yet to come” felt so fitting as I settled into my Texas life and role as a mom of two.

Now, my nightly songs are a mix of the familiar, the traditional, and some of my favorite rock and pop songs.

There is no wrong way to sing to your child. This is bedtime; not an audition for American Idol. Whether you feel silly, uncomfortable, or completely at ease singing, it’s a ritual that can enhance your bond with baby. A bond that continues as that baby becomes a child and beyond. And the songs you choose to sing may just become part of your own family folklore.

Lullabies for All Ages

And it’s not too late to start a song tradition with your older kiddos, too! Let music connect you. Here are a few ideas for lullabies to sing with your family:

Traditional

You are my Sunshine, Hush Little Baby, Rock a Bye Baby, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Jesus Loves Me, Angels Watching Over Me

You are My Sunshine

From Musicals

Edelweiss, My Favorite Things {The Sound of Music}, I Love You {Baby’s Name} Conrad {Bye Bye Birdie}, Somewhere Over The Rainbow {The Wizard of Oz}, Memory {Cats}, Dear Theodosia {Hamilton}, Somewhere {West Side Story}, Someone To Watch Over Me {Gershwin standard} Good Night My Someone {The Music Man}

Disney

Baby Mine {Dumbo}, Can You Feel The Love Tonight? {The Lion King}, Stay Awake {Mary Poppins}, When You Wish Upon a Star {Pinocchio}, Once Upon A Dream {Sleeping Beauty}, Part of Your World {The Little Mermaid}, You’ll Be In My Heart {Tarzan}

Rock/Pop

Blackbird, Across the Universe, Let It Be, Hey Jude {The Beatles}, Shelter From The Storm, Make You Feel My Love, Forever Young {Bob Dylan}, Fire and Rain, Sweet Baby James {James Taylor}, What A Wonderful World {Louis Armstrong}, Close To You {The Carpenters}, Isn’t She Lovely? {Stevie Wonder}, Tiny Dancer, Your Song {Elton John}, Three Little Birds {Bob Marley}, Little Wing {Jimi Hendrix}, Piano Man, So It Goes, Just the Way You Are {Billy Joel}, At Last {Etta James}, Thinkin’ Out Loud {Ed Sheeran}, I Hope You Dance {Lee Ann Womack}, Love Story, Never Grow Up {Taylor Swift}, Thousand Years {Christina Perri}

The possibilities are endless! I hope this list has inspired you to find some new favorite lullabies. And if it’s not on the list, I’d love to hear what you love singing to your littles!


 

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Mary B. is a lifelong creative, dreamer, and joy seeker. Born and raised in northern Illinois, Mary attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, receiving her B.F.A. in acting, then worked as a sometimes actress/model, sometimes waitress. Mary and her husband got married in Sept 2012, welcomed a son in 2014, moved to Texas from Chicago in 2016, and welcomed a daughter in 2017, completing their family. She self-publishes her musings on marriage, motherhood, and life on her blog, Accidentally Texan,. In her free time {free time--ha!} Mary loves to read, cook {and eat ;)}, work out, swim, travel, and spend time with her family. Mary believes emotional connection is the root of humanity and our collective purpose in life.

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