singing is AN ACTIVITY FOR A NEWBORN BABY
At the University of Pittsburg Medical Center (UPMC) in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, babies receive a very warm entry into the world. Dr. Carey Andrew-Jaja, MD, FACOG, welcomes babies into the world through song as he delivers them. “Happy Birthday to you!” rings through the delivery room lead by Dr. Carey-Andrew’s powerful baritone voice, communicating much warmth and security to the newborn baby. The above video from UPMC’s youtube channel shows him in action. Although the baby is not able to sing yet, the singing engages his attention and he feels what is communicated through the voice. Singing is a wonderful way to engage with your newborn baby.
Dr. Carey-Andrew’s practice of singing to the newborn baby immediately following birth in the delivery room and during his visits to mother and baby in the hospital room were inspired by a colleague. An older OB-GYN on staff at UPMC had a habit of singing to the babies and one day as he was nearing retirement he asked Dr. Carey-Andrew if he sang to the babies. He said, “They love it!” That was the moment the baton was passed to him to sing to the babies he delivers. And he has delivered thousands of babies, welcoming each one into the world through song.
Dr. Carey states that he thinks “I am singing to a future important person” and “it is a beautiful world we live in.” He describes this as a moment where he forgets about all of the tragedies in the world around us and focus on the beautiful moment occurring in his presence. Maybe singing lessons can be added to the roster of OB-GYN courses required in medical school?
SPEECH DEVELOPMENT THROUGH BABY SONGS
How do babies learn to talk? One way is through hearing songs. When a baby hears a song frequently she becomes familiar with patterns such as word groupings. When the pattern repeats within the song and then the song repeats, baby has the chance to learn pieces of the song. As infants near their first birthday they are learning to sing a few words to their favorite song. “Twinkle twinkle little star” is one of the favorites. As baby nears the age of two she is beginning to learn the alphabet through the “ABC Song.” Sometimes parents have songs they love and they introduce them to baby as well. In the a video from HoundDogBillie’s youtube channel, watch 21 month old Ella Mae sings “An American Trilogy” by Elvis Presley. Elvis’ music is not typical song material sung to babies, but this song’s slow melody makes it easy for baby to follow and with repetition it is a wonderful learning experience.
BABY MUSIC LESSONS
Listening to a tune frequently teaches baby to hear the accented musical moments in the song. Babies and toddlers try and join in to their favorite moments such as a musical crescendo through the movements of their body forward and backward or the movements of their arm in time with the music. In the above video, Ella”conducts” a crashing musical moment with her arm moving up and down perfectly timed with the music. She also joins in with other accented moments with her head moving forward and backward or side to side in perfect time. The first musical instrument baby learns to play is her own body through the use of her voice and the accompaniment of her head, torso or arms to the music. Later she will learn to play actual instruments as extensions of her limbs, such as the triangle, tambourine, xylophone, or piano.
SING TO BABY IN THE CAR
One of my favorite tips for parents is to sing to baby in the car and sing the same songs so she can learn them and try to join in. This video is a beautiful example of what can develop over time with that kind of patience and persistence. You may get bored with the song, but not your baby who is learning speech. The repetition brings her much joy when she can join in on some of the fun that she is hearing. Many parents have found that baby stops fussing in the car when they begin singing. Songs are also a way that baby can continue to engage with you when you are driving and she is stuck facing away from you in her carseat. She can focus on what she is hearing as well as continue her connection with you.
A BABY SONG FOR RIDING IN THE CAR
Parents often ask me what to do when their baby cries in the car. It is quite unbearable to hear baby wailing in the backseat while one is sitting in the front behind the wheel. Baby is also facing the back of the car so she can not see her mother or father. I encourage parents to sing while driving in the car in order to maintain the connection with baby (always keeping your eyes on the road, of course). Old McDonald Had a Farm is a favorite for driving in the car because you can keep naming different animals to make the song longer: cow, pig, sheep, chicken, horse, dog, cat, etc. Babies also enjoy hearing the sounds the animals make such as “Oink, Oink,” or “Bow-Wow.” For a reminder of the tune, listen to the children sing “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in the above video from lothdur’s youtube channel. With frequent repetition of the song baby will become familiar with it and may try and sing along in her babytalk.
A BABY SONG FOR SPEECH DEVELOPMENT
Babies learn to talk by watching you talk and sing. Singing is very important because it groups words together in the same way each time she hears them. This makes them familiar and easier for her to learn to repeat. Before repeating words, baby must learn to repeat sounds. Old McDonald Had A Farm is an excellent to teach baby the “O” sound. When you sing the song, exaggerate the “O” sound by making a large “O” shape with you mouth and by increasing the volume of the sound. You can emphasize the “O” sound in “Old McDonald” and in “E-I-E-I-O.” This helps baby to see how you make the “O” sound as well as hear it as a distinct sound on its own. One day she will surprise you and sing along with “Blah, blah blah blah O, blah blah O, blah blah O.” This is the beginning of speech development.
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INCREASE IN PREMATURE BIRTHS
One out of every nine children born in the United States is born premature, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Premature babies often need to remain in the hospital for awhile to have their breathing monitored and to be closely watched for a period of time. Research published Monday in the journal Pediatrics found that live music benefits the development of premature babies. Researchers found when the music is either played or sung live rather than played from a CD or radio it reduced the stress response in premature babies. Theoretically, this allows more energy to be directed toward healthy infant development such as growing and eating. The research was conducted in 11 hospitals, led by the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, and followed the benefits premature babies received when music therapists worked with the mother and baby. Watch the above video from TheNewYorkTimes youtube channel to see a baby and mother working with a music therapist while in the hospital.
BENEFITS OF LIVE MUSIC FOR BABIES
- calms breathing
- facilitates sleep
- improves sucking
- slows heartbeat
- promotes the “quiet alert” state
Researchers clearly emphasize the benefits of music for babies when it is played or sung live. This is because the music can be changed or adapted to the needs of the baby. For example, if baby is falling asleep the music can be sung more softly. The field of music therapy teaches practitioners to observe baby and adapt the music being played so the baby improves one of his developmental rhythms such as sucking, breathing, or sleeping. The therapist is trained to observe the minute changes in baby and adjust the music accordingly. Ideally, the parent is learning to do the same.
MUSIC INSTRUMENTS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF BABIES
Although several instruments may sound interesting to newborn baby, a few were used regularly by the music therapists because of their effects on vital signs. The external musical rhythm influences one of baby’s internal rhythms. Music therapists are trained in this technique and favor a few particular instruments for their beneficial effects. The Gato Box replicates the mother’s heartbeat while the Ocean Drum coordinates with the rise and fall of the breathing. Singing while strumming a guitar also was effective at changing the stress response of babies. Often parents chose a song they liked and slowed down the tempo while they sang rather than singing a traditional lullaby song.
ALL BABIES BENEFIT FROM MUSIC
There is one important difference between music played from a CD versus music played live. The live music is played in response to the rhythms of the infant. Tempos should be coordinated with the vital signs of the baby such as the rise and fall of the breathing, the movement of the eyes, or the rise and fall of the chest. For example, the ocean drum can be tilted one direction as the chest rises and then tilted the other direction as the chest falls so the sound of the drum will be harmonious with the breathing pattern of baby. The New York Times article states that it is not important for parents to necessarily buy these instruments, but to learn to mimic them as they observe their babies. We suggest that the practice of playing music and singing to your baby should be embraced by every parent. If research proves that it benefits premature babies it most likely provides the same benefits to babies carried full term. And don’t forget, the music also calms the nervous system of the parent.
Source: “Live Music’s Charms, Soothing Premature Hearts,” by Pam Belluck, New York Times, April 15, 2013.
FIVE SENSORY STOCKING STUFFERS FOR BABIES
The development of a baby includes the stimulation of the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. Choose baby toys that bring a variety of sensory experiences for baby play time and daily rituals. These items are from one of our favorite online sites, Bella Luna Toys.
1. BABY HAIR BRUSH
The daily ritual of hair brushing becomes a sensory experience for baby when using a high quality brush with natural bristles. Take your time and she will focus on the sensation of the brush against her scalp and through her hair.
2. SILK PEEK-A-BOO CLOTHS
Small cloths made of silk stimulate baby’s sense of touch. These are great for the favorite baby game of peek-a-boo.
3. KNIT BABY RATTLES
Ad a few knit baby rattles to your collection of baby toys. The variation in texture from the hard wood or pewter of classic baby rattles provides a different sensory experience for baby. Plus, the rattling sound stimulates baby’s hearing. These yummy ice cream cone shapes are adorable!
4. BABY LULLABIES
Connect with baby through your voice. Learn some favorite lullabies that will calm her and facilitate speech development. Exaggerate the words and she will enjoy watching you sing as your mouth and eyes make different shapes. The senses of sight and hearing are stimulated by singing to baby.
5. BABY BLOCKS
Wooden baby blocks in the shape of tiny boats stimulates baby play. The wood is a firm material for the sense of touch and the rocking action stimulates baby curiosity. The fun bright colors are also easy for baby to see.
Enjoy Baby’s First Christmas!
Photos courtesy of Bella Luna Toys.
“Music Lessons May Benefit the Diaper Set,” Ann Lukits, Wall Street Journal, 6/19/12.
MUSIC CLASSES AND BABY DEVELOPMENT
Can music lessons benefit the cognitive development of babies? A small study of 34 infants who participated in weekly hourlong music lessons in Ontario, Canada concludes the answer is yes. The results of the study was published earlier this year in The Annals of the New York Academey of Sciences and summarized in the Wall Street Journal. The study divided babies into two groups, one attended active and the other attended passive music lessons. Activities in the active music lessons involved singing, movement, and playing percussion instruments. During the passive lessons the babies played with toys while classical music was played in the background. The babies in the study participated in these lessons from 2008-2009.
BENEFITS OF MUSIC CLASSES FOR BABIES
The benefits occurred when babies actively participated in the music lessons. After six months of interactive music lessons babies showed more sophisticated musical understanding, early language skills and advanced brain development than babies in passive-listening music classes. Test such as EEGs monitored brain activity and responsiveness to music after attending the classes. Active participants had larger and earlier brain response to piano tones than the babies in the passive music classes. Parents also noticed the active-music babies were easier to soothe and more socially advanced.
PARENTING TIPS FOR MUSIC WITH BABY
Stellar Caterpillar would like to remind parents that babies love music. Just watch the 11 month old twins rock out to Daddy’s guitar in the above video from Brovadere’s youtube channel. This is motivation enough to include more music, both passive and active, in your daily routine. Suggestions include attending a music class for babies, singing to your baby often, and buying toys or baby rattles that make interesting sounds.