The Origin of Lullabies
Chances are, no matter where you are from, your mother sang a lullaby to you when you were a baby. Lullabies have been around throughout history, and many of those still sung today are the same as those that were sung hundreds of years ago. The term “lullaby” is believed to come from the terms lull-ing and by-ing, soothing sounds to help a baby drift off to sleep. There are also those who believe the term is from a Hebrew saying, “Lilith-Abi,” which means “Lilith be gone.” Lilith was a character from folklore who was thought to steal children away in the night. The lullaby was an incantation meant to keep her away.
One of the earliest lullabies written down is from about 2000 BC. The lullaby is etched on a clay stone that would fit in the palm of your hand. This particular lullaby is threatening in nature, warning the infant not to cry and disturb the family in the night, or horrible things would happen to it. If you listen to many lullabies, you will see a theme among them of threats and scare tactics. Even the lullaby known by almost everyone, “Rock-a-by-baby,” is about danger: boughs are breaking, and cradles are plunging from the trees. There are several theories about its meaning. Some think it has to do with Native American mothers, who placed their babies in hammocks from birch tree branches. Others believe that the song has to do with a family that lived in a tree, with the children going to sleep in hollowed out branches. Whatever the origin, the song was first seen in Mother Goose’s Melody,published in 1765.
As effective as lullabies are in getting an infant to sleep, keeping the baby secure and comfortable enough to remain asleep is key. It’s highly unlikely that a mother will remain with her child all night long, singing to ensure the feeling of security. Swaddling a baby in a blanket is another way to allow the baby to feel secure and comfortable. The Love to Dream Swaddle is an ingenious blanket that you wrap your baby in, but it allows freedom of arm movement. The baby has natural movement, while still feeling securely wrapped. Baby nap mats are another way to take comfort with you when traveling. These cushioned mats are easily transportable, and give the baby a comfy napping area when away from the crib. Don’t forget to invest in these products when looking for baby blankets on sale. Keeping baby cozy and secure will allow for a good night’s sleep, lullaby or not.
In addition to helping baby fall asleep, many scholars believe there are other benefits to having a mother sing a lullaby to her baby. One such benefit is the bond it forms between the mother and the child, giving the child a sense of wellbeing. Another benefit is the sharing of communication with the baby. While a baby is listening to the lullaby, it is developing essential language skills. There are those who believe that as the singing of lullabies occurs less and less by mothers of present day, the language skills of the child are suffering as a result.