When my oldest was born, I was not great at lullabies. I just didn't know very many of them, so when it was time to try singing to my baby, I stuck with songs I knew. I had no idea how singing to your baby affects you, but I did want to try. So the majority of my nighttime song repertoire included Taylor Swift tunes that I would whisper-sing with half-closed bleary eyes while my son was wide awake and I tried desperately to get him back to sleep. Turns out, I was reaping the benefits of singing without even realizing it.
Singing to your baby is a common occurrence, and the impacts your baby experiences are well-known and often discussed by experts. "Babies are learning how to connect to their parent, and hearing their voice helps them. Babies are also learning how to soothe themselves, which hearing their parent's voice, especially singing, does," Maureen Healy, author of The Emotionally Healthy Child and parenting coach at Growinghappykids.com tells Romper. "The cadence of nursery rhymes or certain lyrics is helpful to babies — in coordination of being physically rocked, this provides an audible rocking or soothing quality to them."
But how does singing to your baby affect you? As the parent of a young baby, you may find yourself stressed to the max because, well, taking care of a baby is just stressful. They cry and whine, and their sleep and feeding schedules are demanding. It makes sense that you might need some stress relief. As it turns out, singing to your baby can pull double duty by soothing them and helping you relax mentally and physically.
"Singing is a wonderful way to lift your mood, which is evidenced by research," Healy says. "Of course, the idea is to sing something that makes you feel happier and that can your child can sense a positive surrounding environment. Babies are so sensitive to their surroundings including lights, smells, touch, and yes, sound."
The act of singing impacts your brain by releasing hormones like endorphins and oxytocin, which can increase feelings of happiness, according to a report by Time. This same report also supports the notion that singing can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, leading to less overall stress for people who sing regularly. So, whether you find yourself belting out ballads or sweetly humming harmonies to your little one, as long as you do it consistently, you should see some stress relieving benefits.
Singing can also help boost your immune system, according to a report from researchers at the University of Frankfort who studied a rise in the immunoglobulin A antibodies in singers after an hour-long choir rehearsal. When my kids were babies, I did anything and everything I could to try to stay healthy, especially during cold and flu season. All of that singing to my son night after night when he couldn't sleep very well could have helped boost my immune system, and I am ridiculously grateful for that.
The best part of the physical and emotional benefits that you reap when you sing to your baby is that your baby also benefits when you sing to them. "Babies pick up on your emotional tone and if you pick a song, which you love, your baby will feel and sense your emotional state," Healy tells Romper. So all of those Taylor Swift songs I sang to my son way back when were really helping to lift my emotional state without me even realizing it. I might have been resentful if I had picked boring old lullabies to try to mumble through in the middle of the night, but picking songs that I liked helped make the entire process easier for us both.