Want a peaceful newborn? Sing lullabies to your baby belly, scientists say

Singing lullabies to baby in the womb has benefits for both mum and bub.
Singing lullabies to baby in the womb has benefits for both mum and bub. Photo: Getty Images

If you're currently in nesting mode, getting ready to welcome a new baby, scientists have discovered one more thing to add to your to-do list: sing your unborn bub some lullabies. 

According to new research published in the journal Women and Birth (journal of the Australian College of Midwives), the babies born to mothers who sang lullabies both before and after birth spent significantly shorter periods crying.

As part of their study, researchers from The University of Milan recruited around 170 women from antenatal classes, all of whom were 24 weeks pregnant. The women were split into two groups: the first were asked to sing their babies lullabies for the remaining three months of their pregnancy and the months immediately afterwards, while the second group were not.

Researchers were interested in the effects of singing lullabies on a number of different measures: bonding, newborns' behaviour and maternal stress.

Results highlighted several interesting findings - and provide some pretty good motivation to start warming up those vocal chords and brushing up on your lullaby lyrics. Babies who were sung to cried 18.5 per cent of the time, significantly less than the 28.2 per cent recorded for bubs in the second group.

And when it came to colicky babies (infants who are well but cry an excessive amount of time), the researchers had further good news. "Infantile colic was reduced in the singing group, even in the second month after birth," they wrote.

For mum and bubs in the lullaby group, there was yet another benefit, as mothers who sang to their babies while in the womb had greater postnatal bonding as measured by the Mother-to-Infant Bonding Scale (MIBS). They also recorded lower levels of "perceived maternal stress".

Based on their findings, the authors concluded: "Mothers singing lullabies could improve maternal-infant bonding. It could also have positive effects on neonatal behaviour and maternal stress."

In 2013, a study showed that babies who were played lullabies in the womb were able to remember them three months after their birth - something called "pre-conscious learning".

Study co-author, Eino Partanen, told The Washington Post that expectant mums could sing a certain song - such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - to their unborn bubs, then later use the same song to soothe their crying infant. Singing the same melody, he explained, could serve as a soothing reminder of their baby's time in the womb.

"The voice of the mother is the most salient sound in the womb," he said.