Babies are in tune with mama’s voice. It is one of the first things that they hear, along with her heartbeat. They might hear other family voices, as well, helping them key in on the people who will care for them as they grow. Lullabies are a way to continue that focus, and to develop a warm relationship with your little one, a relationship that engenders trust and that will help carry you through the stormy years of developing independence.
Sources for Lullabies
If your mother and your mother’s mother sang to you and your siblings, then those songs become part of your memory bank. Even if you have to look them up to get all the words, they are part of your heritage. If your family wasn’t focused on singing, you can still locate and learn lullabies. Walk into any music store, go to the section that has music for children, and you are certain to find a recording or two of sleepy-time music. If your budget doesn’t run to buying music recordings, especially after purchasing all the “must-have” things for baby, your public library is like to have music recordings as well as a friendly librarian to point you toward some all-time favorites. If you have a device that plays sound, such as a phone, tablet or computer, YouTube has a wealth of lullabies, as well as background music for sleeping. Here are a few links and some ideas.[amazon_link asins='B01M21GVI6,B004CTDGRO,B018SYI3OY' template='ProductCarousel' store='us-1' marketplace='US' link_id='251a1ee5-d950-11e8-80f8-91988bece34a']
Hush Little Baby
This is a classic lullaby, with a wide variety of lyrics. You can find a pretty recording of it here. This is an especially nice recording with sweet, gentle lyrics. If you delve very deeply into lullabies you will discover that they, like nursery rhymes, often have hidden meanings and questionable pasts. But this one has all the earmarks of a perfect lullaby: a sweet, singsong tune that is easy to sing softly, multiple verses, and a tune to which you can add your own lyrics.
Hush-a-Bye, or All the Pretty Horses
All the Pretty Little Horses has an incredibly lovely melody. It is often suggested that it is of African-American origin, and that it might have been sung to the Master’s child, while the care-taker’s own child was left behind, untended. This recording is a sweetly sung version with one of the least jarring central verses. It might be noted that one version of the primary lyric runs, “…and when you wake, you shall have cake, and all the pretty little horses.”
No list of lullabies would be complete without the classic Brahm’s Lullabye. This pretty rendition from YouTube is complete with lyrics and two youngsters.
Here is a humorous rendition from Kids TV of this classic lullaby. The music is gentle and lovely, and the cartoon rendition is a loving recounting of this lullaby classic, as well as the classic frustration of a parent who is trying to get the youngest member of the family to sleep.
What’ll We Do With the Baby-O
This is another lullaby from the bad old days of the south. Clearly, care of this baby wasn’t high on anyone’s priority list! If you can find a copy of the lyrics from Suzette Haden Elgin’s filk song, it is much more fun and a lot more gentle – as was her explanation. It went something like this: back when people went to dances as a family, someone always got stuck watching the baby. You could sing mean lyrics to the baby, and he or she wouldn’t care as long as you bounced him or her (gently) on your knee. What would you do with the baby-o is a baby bouncing song designed to keep little ones entertained until the parents get off the dance floor. Elgin’s version started out, “What should we do with the baby-o? Send him off in a rocket-o…”
If you like your music a little more modern, here is a lovely one from Secret Garden’s album “Earth Songs.” It isn’t as easy to sing as some of the others, but if you squeak on some of the high notes, no one but you and the baby are likely to notice at 3:00 am.
For sweetness you can scarcely surpass the Irish. This sweet and gentle lullaby is a wish for many good things for a little one. It is also an acknowledgement that parents aren’t always able to fix all of the problems that will arise. But you can always wish.
Lullabies don’t have to be traditional sleep songs for babies. They can be any song that has a repetitive rhythm, an easy tune and is something you can remember. For example, Janis Joplin’s song “of great social and political import,” the Mercedes Benz song makes a decent lullaby. Long mournful ballads with a lot of verses also work well. And we should not forget Arlo Guthrie’s Car Car song.
The real point of a lullaby is to make soothing vocal noises that keep baby’s attention, then slowly lull the little … ah… sweetheart off to sleep. Hopefully the lulling part will be soon enough for a tired parent to get some sleep as well. Singing lullabies also gives the parent something to do while waiting for those little eyes to drift slowly closed. If some homemade lyrics get in there somewhere, well that’s the creative part of parenting. Just remember that if you sing something like, “Go to sleep, little creep…” it could come back to haunt you when your little one moves from preverbal into verbal. Just remember not to sing anything to your baby dearest that you don’t want to share with your mother-in-law, nursery school teacher, and any other handy adult. Babies do love to share, and they don’t discriminate.
If you don’t have time or the voice to sing lullabies, there are long sections of sleepy-time songs available on YouTube, Amazon Prime, and many other sources. Just be careful that you don’t fall asleep along with your baby before you can get your little one tucked in for the night.
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