Music can get us excited and motivated, remind us of fond memories, help calm us down when we’re stressed, or even help us wind down for sleep. Babies are no different, and they often respond well to calming music and lullabies. Sometimes they prefer that mom or dad sing them a song, but many babies do well with a CD or playlist of sleepytime tunes to help them get ready for bedtime.
The Best Type of Music for Babies
The truth is, there’s actually no one type of music that’s best for babies. It’s all down to their personal taste! Who can forget the funny moment in the sitcom Friends when baby Emma only calms down to Sir Mix-A-Lot? While we probably wouldn’t start there, it’s possible your little one has a favorite song that’s outside the realm of ordinary lullaby tunes - and that’s okay!
Instrumental Music - Classical and instrumental music is great for babies because it doesn’t have any words and can be played quietly for a relaxing atmosphere in the nursery. Some babies don’t like CDs or playlists because of the jump between styles of music from one song to another, but that’s not as much of an issue with instrumental music since many of the styles and instruments are consistent through multiple songs.
Misty W. says, “Our daughter loves anything Bach.”
Tiffany M. says, “When she was a baby, we did white noise. In the toddler years we transitioned to a CD of Native American flute lullabies. She won’t sleep without it.”
Popular Music - It sounds a little out of the ordinary, but many babies and toddlers respond well to the popular music that their parents like! Try putting on a Beatles CD or music with soft vocals (although it’s possible they like punk rock too - no judging here).
Shayna E. says, “My kid was sort of weird. Avenged Sevenfold knocked her out as a babe, and now she loves P!nk and Imagine Dragons.”
Kathryn M. says, “‘Hey Jude’ was my go-to for my oldest. The younger two really like more alternative rock like Linkin Park.”
Holly S. says, “Some of our favorites are ‘Sweet Baby James’ by James Taylor and ‘Come Away With Me’ by Norah Jones.”
Classic Nursery Rhymes - The old classics like Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, etc. can be real favorites for your baby, especially when sung by you! Baby doesn’t mind if you’re a little out of tune, but there are recordings available for the vocally shy.
Briary R. says, “My kids never liked CDs because they woke up when the songs changed. I sing to them at every nap and bedtime.”
Sarah S. says, “I remember the first time my daughter was really crying, and I thought, ‘I should sing a lullaby’ but I panicked because I couldn’t think of any and it was 2:00am and I hadn’t slept in three days. So I sang the ABCs over and over. That song still helps her calm down when the going gets rough.”
Lullaby Versions of Popular Songs - These are super fun for babies and parents! Parents hear their favorite songs but baby only hears the soft tones of a lullaby melody perfect for bedtime. Check out Rockabye Baby to see if your favorite song has been turned into a lullaby! They’re also available on Spotify.
Lexie M. says, “Rockabye Baby is awesome!”
Renee C. says, “I have the Rockabye Baby CDs because the normal repetitive kids’ music annoys me.”
Millissa B. says, “I like Rockabye Baby. There’s a Justin Timberlake collection that we love!”
White Noise - While not specifically music, a white noise machine can help babies fall asleep and stay asleep longer, since the normal bumps in the night are drowned out by a constant background hum. Many adults sleep with a fan or white noise machine, and baby can benefit too!
Briary R. says, “Our kids have an air purifier and ceiling fan in their room for white noise.”
Tips for a Musical Bedtime
If you’re putting baby down with music, try to make it part of the bedtime routine but not something that stays on after you leave the room. If the song ends, they may wake up and need you to come back and restart the music. But if you play (or sing) a song or two as part of bedtime and then turn on a white noise machine to leave the room that stays on overnight, they may have an easier time falling asleep and staying asleep until they wake naturally!
If your baby doesn’t respond (i.e., get sleepy and calm) with your chosen tunes, mix things up and try some different songs. Follow baby’s cues to find out what works best for them. You may notice them nodding off in the car seat to the Moana soundtrack or getting sleepy while you sing to yourself making dinner. Pay attention to these clues so you can recreate the calming effect at bedtime!