Music to promote early language

Katy Mitchell. With thanks to Nicole Da Rocha for her support and advice.| View as single page | Feedback/Impact


Bonding with a newborn baby is the process by which a secure attachment is developed, resulting in the infant feeling safe and calm. This process happens by responding to the baby's cues to nurture, soothe and provide comfort. Babies are born knowing their mother's voice (Querleu et al. 1984). It has also been shown that day old babies show a preference for their mother's voice compared to an unknown adult (DiCasper & Fifer, 1980).

Lullabies are used in cultures around the world to lull or calm a baby to sleep. The soothing slow beat of the music, results in calmer breathing and a slower heart rate, creating security and promoting well-being. This musical melody helps a baby to feel safe and promotes the development of a secure attachment.

This video shows a baby comforted by her father's voice shortly after birth in the delivery room. She stills and opens her eyes to her father's soothing words of 'I love you.'

So what is it about the voice, that is so captivating to a newborn infant?

Infant-directed speech or motherese/parentese are terms used to describe the sing-song quality of the way that an adult relates to a new born baby. It is unique in rhythm and pitch, and very different from our routine everyday communications with others. It has a musical quality about it, with a wider range of pitch and slower more exaggerated sounds. These engaging sounds result in babies looking for longer and promoting attention, which is the foundation for language learning.


Music with your baby

  • Sing lullabies to soothe and calm your baby
  • Sing while feeding your your baby
  • Sing simple short songs with actions to help your baby to look at you and give attention.
  • Rock gently with your baby to the beat of the music 
  • Use actions to reinforce meaning such as moving your finger round the palm of your baby's hand for round and round the garden.
  • Use the BabyBeats programme


Song ideas
Round and round the garden like a teddy bear
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Incy Wincy Spider
Row row row your boat
Wind the bobbin up
Two Little Dickie Birds
Heads, shoulders, knees and toes
Pat-a-cake, Pat-a-cake





De Casper, A.J. & Fifer, W.P. (1980) 'Of human bonding: Newborns prefer their mothers’ voices'  Science, New Series, Vol. 208, No. 4448 (June.6) pp.1174-1176. [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 April, 2021].

English, K (2013) Children with hearing loss, parents and "auditory imprinting". Advancing Audiologic Counseling online Forum. Available at: loss-parents-and-auditory-imprinting/ [Accessed: 16 April, 2021].

Michael, Jr (2015) Delivery Room. [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 April, 2021].

Querleu, D., Lefebvre, C., Tutran, M., Renard, X., Morillion, M., Crepin, G. (1984). 'Reaction of the newborn infant less than 2 hours after birth to the maternal voice'. J Gynocol Obstet Reprod, 13(2), pp.125-134.