Even before birth, music is used to connect with babies, and parents will sing to their children or play music for them. Early exposure to music has been linked with positive brain activity and has been shown to provide comfort to infants. Many parents used music to help their babies fall asleep peacefully, though there may be questions of which type of music is best and for how long infants should listen to it. While there are no magical time periods or composers who have proven to be best, there are some general guidelines that parents can follow to help choose the best music and ways for their children to hear it.
Many parents sing to their babies, talk to them, or play music for them even before they are born. Infants are exposed to sound constantly during fetal development, albeit distorted or varied due to the amniotic fluid, and they have also been shown to react to the stimuli of sound. After they are born, many infants find comfort in familiar sounds or rhythms. Prerecorded music can be most effective when it is simple, using soft repetitive sounds that are soothing and predictable. Classical and jazz music are often looked to as the music of choice for new parents, but some of these choices are not smooth, have starkly contrasting measures, and incorporate unpredictable beats and tunes. The genre is not as important as the core components, and music that is rhythmically predictable can be found in county, classical, light rock, or other options.
Alternatives to music selections include those that are nature based, such as waterfalls, rainfalls, waves in the ocean, or simple outdoor sounds such as bird calls. These relaxation audio selections are often targeted to parents of newborns, those who are trying to reduce stress in their lives, or possibly those who are ill. Often the sounds on these recordings are very rhythmical, such as ocean waves. There is a natural rhythm in our bodies of breathing and heartbeats, so it is not unrealistic to think that the mind finds these sounds soothing and peaceful.
For those parents who use music or other calming recordings to help their babies sleep at night there are various electronic options. Standard CD players have playback options, such as an auto-repeat or auto-off, and there are even devices that are voice activated that come be turned on by the crying of a baby.
It is the worry of some parents that playing music all night will have negative effects on their infants and their sleeping habits. Children should always be exposed to low volume level music as a precaution to protect their eardrums. Consistently listening to light music at night might not be harmful, but for some infants it can make it more challenging for them to learn how to sleep on their own. Times such as travelling might be more difficult because having constant music available at night is not always practical or possible.
For infants who learn to fall asleep to music, but awake in the middle of the night to silence, there might be more difficulties for them to sooth themselves back to sleep. For these children, devices that turn on in response to their cries might be helpful, or parents can find other sources of calming sounds that are natural in the home. Even an aquarium placed near the nursery might offer enough repetitive sounds to be soothing and constant.
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