My son hates sleep with a passion. Don’t get me wrong; he sleeps well. He just hates going to sleep. For months we tried everything from rocking, to walking, to bouncing, to driving, to swinging. Warm baths stirred him up, as did cuddly pajamas. Pacifiers went from a clever tool to a bedtime toy. Bottles were great, until you had to burp him; sitting up meant it was time to play. We asked around and read up; you name it, we did it to try and cajole this poor kid into thinking sleeping was an idea worth trying. Needless to say, success ebbed more than it flowed. In the end we were more exhausted than he was.
Then I started singing.
When I was pregnant I had read up on the benefits of communicating to your baby in utero. Not only did we converse frequently throughout the day, I also made it a habit of singing a bedtime song to my son every night. But, when he was born 2 weeks early I was thrown into a bit of a tailspin. In the shock of new motherhood — when days and nights ran together — I’d forgotten our bedtime ritual. Although I sang to him frequently, I usually relied on whatever melody was in my head at the moment. My voice always seemed to soothe the tears well enough, but as he grew older and wiser to our bedtime tricks, I had to change up my routine. Suddenly, the bedtime song I sang every night while pregnant came back into my mental rotation.
And peace returned to my household.
I recalled reading somewhere that scientists measured brainwave activity showing that babies as old as four months remembered songs they heard frequently in the womb. As soon as I began singing, I realized I wouldn’t need lab equipment to test the veracity of this experiment. My son stopped, looked up at me and smiled wide. His attentive grin carried with it an expression of contentment. The simple melody was more than a song; it was a lifeline of shared experience that inexplicably bonded us together. The world wasn’t a strange place any longer. It was home, and it was safe, and it would be here tomorrow, so it was okay to shut our eyes for a while.
Why hadn’t the sleep literature I read (and believe me, five months of sleep issues translate into a lot of studying) ever advised carrying forward in-utero communication? Probably because most sleep experts view sleep training as something you begin the day you bring baby home from the hospital. The reality is that your baby has already developed about 9 months of sleeping habits all on his own. Now that they’re outside of your body, everything is new and different. Yes, your touch and smell carry a familiarity, but what happens when you put him down? Your voice is the one thing that can connect you to your baby when he isn’t being held.
Want a good night’s sleep as soon as possible? Don’t wait until you bring your baby home; start singing as soon as you know baby is on the way. And don’t forget that song!