Singing lullabies or even humming tuneful comes quite naturally for most parents and grandparents trying to calm an unsettled baby. Now, a new study has revealed that parents who sing lullabies can promote and have far-reaching mental health benefits for the parent and child.
A therapist, who is an expert in this field, is now working with institutions to further analyse and spread the benefits of these findings.
Infant-directed singing helps learn to regulate their emotions, which allows them to later navigate socialisation, school, and the professional world, according to de l'Etoile, who has spent her career studying the habit.
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"If a mother can sing in a way that captures the infant's attention, it can help them tap into those brain structures that they need to develop for self-regulation," said de l'Etoile, a board-certified therapist and associate dean of graduate studies at the University of Miami Frost School of Music.
Yet, while singing to infants is something most mothers do naturally -without even realising the benefits – for those in difficult circumstances, infant-directed singing may not be as instinctive, de l'Etoile observed. She has noticed that mothers impacted by depression, domestic violence, or substance exposure may need encouragement and guidance to provide this unique form of caregiving.
"Infant-directed singing is a way that communicate with their babies that most infants can recognize and respond to. But to be most effective, the mother needs to be attentive and sensitive to infant cues," said de l'Etoile.
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"For some moms that may not be happening and that impacts the infant."
But because infant-directed singing is so advantageous, de l'Etoile is working with the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology's flagship early intervention program at the Linda Ray Intervention Center to create a program that will guide mothers in the practice.