Originally posted June 17, 2013.
Mom’s voice is perfection to her baby
Today I am pleased to have Matt Logan, MA, MT-BC, a board-certified music therapist, offer a guest post about the enhancing effects of music for the mother-baby relationship. Matt writes knowledgeably about the positive effects of music on our emotions and physiology. He works as a music therapist at a children’s hospital in Oakland, California., with kids of all ages and backgrounds and he loves this work! He runs two websites: A Perfect Lullaby and Music Therapy Source.
Matt’s CD, a beautiful collection of lullabies, called A Perfect Lullaby, is available for purchase by going on over to the Perfect Lullaby website. Matt says the CD came about from research in his undergraduate program. His goal was to create a CD of perfect lullabies to help soothe babies. But lo and behold, his research and experience found that babies prefer their own mama’s voices! So, he created an empowering CD for moms. The CD provides support for mamas (and dads) to sing to their babies themselves! First, the singer sings through the verses of the song and then simply hums the melody is a lovely track of the actual sung lullaby and then simply hums the melody, providing an opportunity for mom or dad to sing along.
Please welcome this kind-hearted musician here and read more about singing, bonding, and stress reduction!
Mamas have been soothing babes with their voice since for-ever!
Imagine a prehistoric scene: a crying infant is scooped up by his mother, consoled by her touch and by her milk. Instinctively, she begins to sing, providing another layer of comfort. She may be singing the lyrics of an ancient hymn, or simply cooing vowel sounds.
In fact, it hardly matters which it is, because the message is in the melody itself. The descending contours of her intonations provide reassurance, telling him, “You have nothing to worry about. Close your eyes and rest.” Her baby’s eyelids grow heavy and gently close to the sounds of his mother’s perfect voice and the feel of her perfect touch. This mama-babe sequence has happened hundreds of times before. Each consistent, reciprocal act reaffirms her baby’s attachment and trust in her. And the babe considers his mom’s voice to be absolutely perfect!
Mamas used voice and touch to lull their babies to sleep well before one could be a professional singer. We sang and hummed before the days of choral masses written by esteemed composers; before captivating Italian operas with virtuosic arias; before the invention of gramophones and the birth of the record industry. We sang in families and in communities prior to the invention of competition shows like American Idol, where the talent is downplayed and the singer’s every flaw is critiqued.
Actually, the concept of being a professional singer is a rather new one when you consider the entire span of human existence.
Express yourself: We are ALL singers and dancers!
In the old days, everyone sang. Communal singing and dancing were common features of tribal rituals. These musical festivities united the tribe and brought focus to the community’s mutual goals.
Music also occurred in more intimate settings, as in the everyday scene described above. It wasn’t just a pleasantry, but rather, a tool that was used to communicate, comfort, and soothe.
Your baby considers your unique voice to be perfection
In this brief blog post, I want to share that babies don’t need to hear professional voices, but that they love to hear their moms sing. We know babies prefer their mother’s voice to any other. I hope to empower moms to feel comfortable singing to their infant because of the many benefits of doing so for both mom and baby.
Research shows that babies prefer their mother’s voice to any other, and perhaps we have gotten away from that deep knowing. Music therapists who work with infants will tell you that it is so much more important for a baby to hear his mom’s voice. A baby is comforted by what is familiar; and a baby hears his mama’s voice resonating throughout her body as early as 19 weeks gestation!
In fact, once could say that a mother’s voice is the one connecting bridge between life in utero and life after birth. So, no matter what you think of your voice, know that your baby loves it. You don’t have to sound like Kelly Clarkson; you don’t even have to sing in tune!
So much more important is how you use your voice to show that you are attending to your baby’s needs. Sometimes he’s feeling the need for exciting and engaging play songs and sometimes the need is for calming lullabies. You can use your vocal qualities to influence your infant’s arousal states.
Singing helps develop language and is good mindbody medicine for stress reduction
Besides using singing as a way to connect emotionally to your baby, singing also helps develop language. The repetitive nature of songs, especially those written for children, lends itself to the development of language skills.
When words are sung, they are presented at a slower rate, giving infants more time to process them. Through songs, infants get additional practice at word segmentation (knowing where one word stops and another one starts), and also get lessons in vocabulary (think about songs teaching colors, animals, numbers, letters, etc.). Children’s songs often emphasize important sounds or words by repeating them or highlighting them melodically.
Finally, and very importantly, singing is good for mom, too. Beyond the emotional fulfillment achieved by connecting with an infant through song, there are biophysical changes that occur when one sings. Cortisol, a stress hormone, has been shown to decrease during or shortly after participating in singing. Furthermore, singing has been shown to increase antibodies that contribute to a healthier immune system. Through singing, moms can access a relaxation response, which can be particularly beneficial on those most stressful days.
Indeed, the benefits of singing are numerous, and not all of them could be addressed here. The important points are that babies love to hear their mothers sing, songs can be used to regulate infant emotional and arousal states, language information is presented in songs, and singing is good for mom, too.
If you know a new mom, give her some encouragement to express herself vocally. If you are a new mom, just go for it! Start by singing traditional lullabies and play songs, and go from there. Looking for ideas or lyrics? I’ve collected the lyrics to some of the most loved lullabies on my Perfect Lullaby website. Take a look!
And I’d love to share with you one of the songs on the Perfect Lullaby CD. Here is Elizabeth Tinnes singing (also a music therapist) and myself playing the guitar for the lullaby All Through The Night. Enjoy!
Wishing you many happy hours singing and cuddling with your baby and sweet dreams, Matt.
Editor’s Note: This article was edited slightly from the original , including adding headings.