A new study has revealed that mothers who sing lullabies can promote infant development. Infant-directed singing helps babies 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.
"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 music 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 mothers communicate with their babies that most infants can recognise and respond to. But to be most effective, the mother needs to be attentive and sensitive to infant cues," said de l'Etoile. "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 coaching program that will guide mothers in the practice.