Scientific Evidence That Babies Like Lullabies

iStock / iStock

A new study provides a scientific backing for using lullabies to calm fussy babies.

The study, published in the journal Infancy by researchers from the University of Montreal and the University of Toronto Mississauga, included two experiments. In the first, infants 7 to 10 months old listened to recordings of speech (some baby talk and some normal speech as would be directed towards adult) and songs in Turkish, an unfamiliar language to the infants. In the second, the researchers repeated the experiment in French, a familiar language. 

The babies’ parents sat behind them while the researchers played the recordings, up until the point where the infants began making distressed crying faces. In both Turkish and French, the babies stayed calm for longer when listening to music. When listening to a Turkish song, they stayed calm for nine minutes, compared to about four minutes for Turkish speech. In French, they listened to the song calmly for six minutes. 

“Even in the relatively sterile environment of the testing room—black walls, dim illumination, no toys, and no human visual or tactile stimulation—the sound of a woman singing prolonged infants’ positive or neutral states and inhibited distress,” study co-author Isabelle Peretz of the University of Montreal explains in a press release. “These findings speak to the intrinsic importance of music, and of nursery rhymes in particular, which appeal to our desire for simplicity, and repetition.”

Perhaps you could test the theory out yourself with these creepy lullabies from around the world.