Keep on singing – Lullabies really do help children feel better!

Are you ready for an ‘I knew it!/I told you so’ moment? Good!

Researchers participating in a joint project with Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and the University of Roehampton have proved that lullabies help poorly children feel better.

Now, most of us knew this already (‘I told you so’) but sometimes it’s nice to have a little scientific backing to support the parenting instinct that dictates the way we manage our babies.

What is interesting about the study is that it wasn’t necessarily mum or dad singing to the children participating in the research. The physiological responses of 37 paediatric patients at GOSH with cardiac and/or respiratory conditions, between the ages of seven days and four years old were involved in three 10-minute sessions – involving lullaby-singing, story-reading and a third ‘control’ session with no interaction – led by GOSH music specialist Dr Nick Pickett.

The study, published in the journal “Psychology of Music”, shows that children experienced lower heart rates, less anxiety and reduced perception of pain after they had lullabies sung to them. And the effects were reduced when the lullaby was replaced with a story, suggesting that the calming effect has to do with musical tone; a voice is not quite as effective as a voice that sings.

Dr Pickett’s results showed that children responded to voice before instrument and that live renditions of songs were more calming than recorded versions.

Another interesting fact: the lullabies sung to children in the study included those identified as particularly effective in previous research by Dr Pickett – songs including ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’,’ Hush Little Baby’, ‘Five Little Ducks’, ‘See Saw Marjorie Daw’ and ‘Hush a Bye Baby’.

Now I’m the type of mum who is more likely to sing a song by The Cure or Metallica (yes really!) as a lullaby. But when my youngest daughter was 6 months old, she spent a week in hospital  and only song that I could sing through my worried tears was ‘Five Little Ducks’ and she always responded with quiet and calm… and loved the song for many a day thereafter.

It definitely seems like it’s worth passing down some of the century-old sings to our children – just in case they need to lullaby their own children to a state of serenity.

Source: Gosh.nhs.uk – “Research proves lullabies really do help children feel better”