Study Says Good Singing Can Calm Babies

Oct 31, 2015 12:47 PM EDT | By Armi Cruz

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A new study published in journal Infancy showed that infants stayed twice calm twice as long when listening to a song compared to when they listen to smeone speaking.

Isabelle Peretz, a professor at the University of Montreal's Center for Research on Brain, Music and Language aims to determine if infants experience music differently. They do not respond to music unlike most adults and children who respond through physical movements such as nodding, tapping and drumming.

"Infants do not synchronize their external behavior with the music, either because they lack the requisite physical or mental ability," says Peretz. "Part of our study was to determine if they have the mental ability. Our finding shows that babies did get carried away by the music."

A total of 30 healthy babies were observed by Peretz and her colleagues. These babies were between six to nine months old. To avoid familiarity which can alter the result of the study, the researchers used Turkish language since none of the babies came from Turkish-speaking homes. There was no social interaction made between the babies and the performer. The infants listened to recording of adult speech, 'baby talk' and music.

The study started with the infants in a calm condition while their parents were out of view. The researchers then played the recordings until the babies were in a 'cry face' state. They showed anguish through expressions such as lowered brows, lip corners pulled to the side, mouth opening and raised cheeks.

The results showed that the infants when played a song stayed calm for about nine minutes. However, when they were exposed to speech, they only stayed calm for about four minutes which significantly, was half the result of the first experiment. While 'baby talk' made them calm for a little longer than four minutes.

"Our findings leave little doubt about the efficacy of singing nursery rhymes for maintaining infants' composure for extended periods," Peretz said. "Even in the relatively sterile environment of the testing room- black walls, dim illumination, no toys, and no human visual or tactile stimulation- the sound of woman singing prolonged infants' positive or neutral states and inhibited distress," she added.

Peretz also cited that this conclusion can be beneficial for parents who are in socioeconomic and emotional difficulties. Babies in distress can become overwhelming and angering depending on the situation. So knowing that this can be intervened using music and songs can save a parent-child connection in vulnerable households.

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