Sing to Your Fussy Baby

Singing a song that your baby recognizes may be the best way to calm them down when they are distressed.

A small study (2020) looked at three different ways to calm babies (8 and 10 month old) when holding them was not possible.  

  1. Expressive talking
  2. Singing an unfamiliar song
  3. Singing a familiar song

The study found that talking produced the most negative effect (increased distress), and singing a familiar song produced the most positive effect, evoking excitement, pleasure and increased smiling!

If you are going to try this with your baby, you’ll need to have a collection of songs you sing regularly so that you and your baby are familiar with them.   Remember—it’s about you singing to your baby, not just playing the music for them.

Rather than watching videos of others singing, try to listen to music together without visuals. The songs need to be ones that you can learn to sing well enough that you can enjoy singing them to your baby.

The list below are musicians who sing songs that are simple and repetitive, making it more likely that you can familiarize your baby and very young toddler (and yourself!) to them for the purposes of singing and soothing.  I’ve tried to choose musicians that babies will love and parents won’t hate (!)

  • Ella Jenkins:  You’ll Sing a Song and I’ll Sing a Song
  • Pete Seeger: Birds, Beasts, Bugs and Fishes
  • Bob McGrath: Sing Along With Bob
  • Sophie Barker: Lullaby
  • Lisa Loeb: Catch the Moon

There are many great musicians that sing songs that older toddlers and preschoolers will love, and parents too.   They play original music that is fun for kids and adults, classics, or modern adaptations of classics.  

These songs and/or arrangements listed below are a bit more complex than the previous ones.  But they still might work if you can memorize them and sing them.  

Some examples:

  • Ziggy Marley’s Family Time
  • Johnny Cash’s Children’s Album
  • Jerry Garcia & David Grisman Not for Kids Only
  • Earthworm Ensemble Backyard Garden

Of course, any music that you are passionate about is great to share.  Listen, sing, dance together and make music of your own!  Music is for more than just soothing babies!