Snuggle And Sing: Songs To Keep You Warm In The Early Years

Lullabies have been a curiously common feature in the history of humanity. In fact, it was found that in 315 societies, 28 languages, and 45 countries around the world, researchers found love songs, religious songs, healing songs … and lullabies (Mehr et al., 2019).

Looking at such a wide variety of influences, this paper (with 19 different authors) found that all of these societies:

  • use words in their songs
  • use dancing

While they found that all musical systems:

  • use tonality (relationship of music notes, sounding bright, sad etc.)
  • balance repetitive and unexpected melodies and rhythms

This means that most people can work out, just from the sound, whether songs are lullabies, religious, love songs or healing songs, because they are slow or fast, have fewer or more different notes, and have rhythms that make you feel like moving in different ways in response to the beat. Lullabies have been found to have slower beats closer to the relaxed heart rate with fewer notes, promoting soothing feelings of relaxation.

In response to these findings on how soothing lullabies can be, many studies have been done to see whether there is an effect on the body that can be measured. This year, a study was done (Namjoo et al., 2022) with 90 neonatal babies over 14 days. Babies in neonatal wards are known to have high stress responses, including high heart rates, low oxygen levels and poor or disturbed sleep quality, which all affect the body’s ability to heal and grow normally.

This study group involved 3 groups: one group of babies was played recorded lullabies for 20 minutes every day; one had their mothers singing to them for 20 minutes every day; and the final group only listened to the medical machinery of medical monitors and machinery, and adult conversation. Before the musical experiment, all the babies had similar heart rates, oxygen levels and sleep quality, but after the 14 days, researchers saw a significant difference in the results.

Both the recorded and live lullaby-singing improved all of these physiological areas, especially when recorded singing was played while babies slept, although researchers were unsure whether live singing was more or less effective than recorded singing. This suggests that these babies would heal faster, grow more normally, and potentially spend less time in hospital than those without this musical interaction. And that this musical interaction encourages a form of relaxation on a primitive level that does not require language or understanding to benefit from it.

We know that many parents use music playing softly in the background, with some even using white noise (or brown noise, apparently helpful for people on the autistic spectrum). So here are a few well-known lullabies to get you started, from all four “corners” of the British Isles:

Rock a Bye Baby (English)

Rock-a-bye baby on the treetops
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall

And down will come baby, cradle and all

Rock a bye baby up in the sky
On a soft cloud, ‘tis easy to fly

When the cloud bursts, the raindrops will fall

And baby comes down to mother once more

Rock-a-bye baby on the treetops
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall

And mummy will catch you, cradle and all

This song has a number of unconfirmed histories, ranging from early sightings of native American practices, to old English practices, but all agree that baby will be safe.

Suo-gân (Sleep My Baby) (Welsh)

Sleep my baby, rest my loved one
Softly slumber now with me

Clasped in mother’s arms so tender

Warm in mother’s love for thee

Naught shall ever come to harm thee

While my loving watch I keep

Thou my pretty one shall slumber

While I sing thy lullaby

This is the English wording for this lovely Welsh lullaby, sung by so many wonderful singers and choirs – and very singable for everyday people like us, too!

Toora Loora Loora (Irish)

Over in Killarney, many years ago
Me mother sang a song to me

In tones so sweet and low

Just a simple little ditty, in her good old Irish way

And I’d give the world if she could sing

That song to me today

Toora, loora, loora, Toora, loora, lai
Toora, loora, loora, hush now, don’t you cry
Toora, loora, loora, Toora, loora, lai
That’s and Irish lullaby

Oft in dreams I wander to that cot again
I feel her arms a-huggin me as when she held me then
And I hear her voice a hummin
To me as in days of yore
When she used to rock me fast asleep
Outside the cabin door

This classic Irish lullaby also has unknown origins, having been sung for so long by so many, but like so many lullabies, talks about baby feeling safe and reassured with mother.

Ally Bally Bee (Scottish)

Ally Bally, Ally Bally Bee
Sitting on your mammy’s knee
Greetin for another bawbee
To buy some Coulter’s candy 

Poor wee Jeannie’s getting awfa thin
A rickle o’ banes covered ower wi’ skin

Noo she’s gettin’ a wee double chin

Wi’ sookin’ Coulter’s candy

Mammy throw me ma penny doon
Here’s auld Coulter comin’ roon

Wi’ a basker on his croon

Selling Coulter’s candy

When you grow up a man to be
You’ll work hard, and ye’ll sail the sea

And bring hame pennies for yir faither n me

Tae buy mere Coulter’s candy

The story goes that Coulter was actually a man called Coltart who sold a particular candy that he balanced on his head. The recipe is long forgotten, but the song remains!

These lovely lullabies remind us of the privilege it is to be human, the joy we give and receive by singing to another, and the comfort we can bring each other at any age, just by being together. So sing!

Mehr, S. A., Singh, M., Knox, D., Ketter, D. M., Pickens-Jones, D., Atwood, S., Lucas, C., Jacoby, N., Egner, A. A., Hopkins, E. J., Howard, R. M., Hartshorne, J. K., Jennings, M. V., Simson, J., Bainbridge, C. M., O’Donnell, T. J., Krasnow, M. M., & Glowacki, L. (2019). Universality and diversity in human song. Science, 336(6468).

Namjoo, R., Mehdipour-Rabori, R., Bagherian, B., & Nematollahi, M. (2022). Comparing the effectiveness of mother’s live lullaby and recorded lullaby on physiological responses and sleep of preterm infants: A clinical trial study. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, 19(1), 121–129.


Snuggle And Sing: Songs To Keep You Warm In The Early Years

Research has shown time and time again the positive effects music has on young children. It can reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and promote relaxation. But more than that, singing with your little one provides a special bonding experience that you’ll both cherish forever. At Musicaliti, we’ve carefully curated a playlist of songs that are perfect for snuggling up with your child during the early years. From beloved classics like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ to heartwarming lullabies like ‘Hush Little Baby’, our playlist is full of songs that will keep you warm and cozy throughout the chilly months. So grab a blanket, cuddle up with your little one, and let the music soothe your souls. We promise, it’ll be a moment you’ll never forget.

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