For hundreds of years, mothers have crooned their babies to sleep with lullabies, fathers have sung nursery rhymes to their toddlers, and families have made folk music a part of everyday life. Why? Because music is calming, music facilitates language development, and most of all, music is enjoyable for both parents and children.
Past studies gave the incorrect impression that exposure to classical music might even increase a baby's intelligence — the "Mozart Effect" — and for some time, a few individuals claimed that listening to Mozart would boost a child's IQ. Regardless, it is clear that the more music your baby hears and the more "musical" connections her brain makes, the more music will play a role in her later life.
Studies have shown that even within the womb, a baby responds to music and melody. Hearing is fully developed by the third trimester, and when a fetus hears a tune over and over again, she will recognize and feel comforted by that tune after her birth.
If classical music is played for premature babies, their heart rates slow down and their breathing steadies, showing that the music helps to relieve stress.
For your upset baby, music can serve the very practical purpose of calming her down. Your baby doesn't care whether you are completely tone deaf or an opera star, as long as she hears the comforting sound of your voice. Here are some ideas for how to introduce your newborn to singing and music:
When your baby is upset, hold her close to you, sing to her, and dance and sway with the music. The combination of close body contact, movement and music can do wonders to soothe a crying baby.
Try singing and listening to a variety of different types of music to see how your baby reacts. When she is upset or sleepy, she may respond to lullabies (such as Disney's Lullaby Album). When she is cheerful, she may love to dance to your favorite pop song with you. When she is quiet and alert, she may like to listen to classical music.
Sing the songs or lullabies you remember from your childhood. You may find yourself tearing up as you do. If you don't remember the words to the songs, check out a book from the library — or, even better, ask your mother or father. Recorded music has its place, of course, but be sure to also give your baby the gift of your own experience with music.
Use music to let your baby know what is happening and to establish comforting routines:
Not only is music comforting for your baby, it is also very calming for you. Whether you are singing a song to your crying baby or dancing around the kitchen trying to soothe a colicky newborn, music can help soothe your jangled nerves as well as your baby's.
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