The Language of Lullabies

Have you ever made a story up together with your baby? Have you ever written music together, where both of you are equally competent writers? Have you ever wondered why Lullabies are a global phenomenon often containing dark concepts and why we do it?


It turns out that the answers to these questions are deeper than you might think. It’s not just a question of entertainment for your little sprog. It almost seem to be an autonomous approach, something innate within us all on a global unified scale.

The often bizarre conversations I have with my little one (usually after changing her nappy) aren’t exactly intellectual. However, there is a structure to them for baby to understand (rhythm & pitch/tone) and it’s lovely to watch her respond and see how happy she is while we chat. I’ll often get a little grin and that’s encouraging for me too. It’s almost like she’s answering my questions even though the verbal content my well be irrelevant.

Mothers voice has been described as a definitive acoustic bridge between prenatal and post natal life. This is down to the persistent exposure to the sound of mothers voice for the baby, and therefore mums voice can be automatically more calming. So unfortunately for us dads they will have to get used to our voices just a little bit more.

Lullabies help us connect with our children. They help our babies language development. We are not teaching them songs when we sing to them. It’s an appreciation of a story from both perspectives on a musical level. It provides company for both baby and adult, it can calm the parent and in turn the baby can respond too ultimately leading to her falling asleep. Of course this is dependant on whether or not you have noticed one of your arch nemesis’ – the almost invisible piece of Lego on the floor that your 4 year old has left for you to stand on. Sleep for all can be quite difficult in those circumstances!

I always thought that the most sadistic sounding lullaby I ever heard was ‘See Saw Marjorie Daw’. There is a reason behind why lullabies can contain or be based on negative/dark content, according to a BBC World Service broadcast that was aired back in 2012. It contains explanations to all of the above and I’d recommend you have a listen. Thanks to John for pointing this one out to me. Link below:

I made a point out of the first song I ever sang to my first born as a ‘Rage against the machine’ classic. You know – because I’m a man. I didn’t really make a point out of the first song I sang to my second because, you know – I’ve grown up 🙂

Which lullaby do you think is the most sadistic? Do you chat/sing to your baby? If so, what do you sing?

The Language of Lullabies

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