The more you learn about a baby’s development, the more you will see how little they actually need in terms of toys and entertainment–how the world around them is a playground of discovery all on its own. At the same time, it will become clear how the little ways we engage and communicate with our wee ones can actually have massive impact as they grow.
We recently recorded a podcast with Caitlin Kjeldsen, a clinical researcher and NICU music therapist. In this podcast, Caitlin talks about what makes a lullaby and why babies love them. During our conversation, Caitlin mentions two sounds that your baby loves and that are developmentally good for them. Mama’s voice… and silence.
The Magic in Your Singing Voice
Babies. Love. Voice. And they love mama’s voice most of all. Put that voice to work with a simple song or lullaby and you’ll really have their attention.
And the best part? You don’t even have to be good at it.
It doesn’t matter what you sound like because your voice is most familiar to your baby, making it their favorite. Even if you don’t sound perfect, your singing is giving them language input–and that’s highly important for language development.
Pro Tip: If you’re still feeling a little nervous about singing, it’s ok to play music for your baby. But we suggest you keep the recordings simple with no more than one voice and one instrument. Keeping the music less complex and limiting it to only 20 minutes ensures that baby doesn’t get overstimulated (especially before sleep times).
The Power of Silence
Did you know that babies need silence? Especially when they sleep? During baby’s first year, their brains are incredibly busy forming connections and making pathways. Silence is crucial in order to provide them the time they need in order to strengthen and consolidate all these pathways. So when you can, let sleep times be quiet times.
Pro Tip: If you are eager to use a white noise machine with your little one, we suggest trying to hold off until baby is over 6 months old when many of their neural pathways have already been established. And even then, we suggest white noise be placed several feet from the baby’s head, never be at the max volume setting, and be turned off once the baby is asleep.
We also talk about this value of silence for our babies in our podcast with Dr. Nathalie Maitre. Nathalie is a co-founder of smallTalk and a physician scientist specializing in infant brain development. In our conversation, she describes the importance of providing quiet play times for baby to consolidate their learnings, emphasizing the significance of rest without much enrichment–a time where instead, you allow your baby to think through what they’ve learned and practice it. If you give baby these opportunities (perhaps when they first wake up from a nap), you’ll start to notice them testing their learnings out in different ways–practicing new sounds and exploring the environment around them.
So, put away the classical music. Put away the white noise machines. And keep it simple. Give baby what their little brain is really craving–simple melody lines–and silence.