Lullabies help babies and children sleep, and ease their pain, So say scientists this week – just as a moving video (above) of a tearful baby listening to her singing mother goes viral.
There’s a clear link between small children hearing traditional soothing songs, such as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and them feeling better, say the scientists, who conducted a study at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Music therapist Dr Nick Pickett took his guitar onto the children’s wards, and sang and played 37 songs, such as See-Saw Marjorie Daw, Five Little Ducks and Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star, to the small patients. He then compared the effect the music had on the children with the effect on them of being read a story, or just being left alone.
And it was the music that more conclusively reduced children’s pain, slowed their heart rates and improved their moods.
“Parents have been singing to their children for thousands of years and they have always instinctively known that it helps their children relax,” says Dr Pickett.
And it’s definitely the ‘live’ singing voice that works better than instruments or recorded music. “Babies and young children respond to the singer’s voice first,” says Dr Pickett, “and instruments second. More than one instrument can actually become quite confusing and less effective.
“Facial expressions and visual stimulation during the performance of a lullaby are just as important and live performance allows the adult to adapt their singing depending on the child’s mood.”