Lullaby and Goodnight!

Sally Jaeger is a storyteller and the creator of Lullabies & LapRhymes for parents with infants from birth to 9 months old. 


Hello Everybody! Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Aparita Bhandari, CBC Radio Producer and Journalist, as she prepared Lullabies a special radio program for CBC Radio One airing Good Friday, April 14, from Noon – 1:00. Aparita visited our class at Baby on the Hip last week, and we hope you will hear our lovely moms singing with their babies on her show!

Speaking with Aparita caused me to reflect on why lullabies are such an important component of our Lullabies & LapRhymes classes for parents and caregivers with babies.  I hope you will enjoy my blog post on lullabies and hope you enjoy listening to Aparita’s Lullabies program!

Here’s a link for A Lullaby Story for the photo and the bios of some of the participants. Please see the link below for the audio:

For your listening convenience, here is a link to the audio:

I would love to hear your stories about sharing lullabies with your family!

Keep singing! – Sally


A lullaby is one of the oldest kinds of songs and still one of today’s parent’s  most powerful parenting tools, useful for soothing, bonding, venting and rocking.  The earliest lullaby in print was found on a Babylonian tablet from 4,000 years ago, now on display in The British Museum in London.

It is never too early to begin singing to your baby, even before birth, as this quote from an article in BBC News, Jan. 21, 2013 describes. The Universal Language of Lullabies: “The mother’s voice is described by Russian paediatrician Michael Lazarev as an ‘acoustic bridge’ between the cocoon of the womb and the outside world.”

Lullabies & LapRhymes, for parents with new babies from birth to 9 months, is an educational program that evolved out of the first storytelling class that I created for parents and caregivers in 1981, Mr. Bear Says Hello, for babies from birth to 3 years old.  After a few years of running this program, it seemed like a wise idea to divide our classes into two groups:  one for non-mobile babies and one for mobile toddlers.  This meant new parents with infants from birth to 9 months could relax and focus on the babies in their laps, resulting in a calmer and quieter environment. Since children from 10 months onward are gaining new mobility and want to use it, the result is a very active and busy environment, and Mr. Bear Says Hello continues to offer a receptive setting for them.

Lullabies are an important component of our infant class, because they are a powerful tool for bonding the adult and the child.  Sharing lullabies one on one, face to face with your baby, lets your baby know that you are there, you are listening and that you care.

New parents may need time to get used to the sound of their own voices.  A baby loves her/his parent’s voice the best – it is a gift no one else can give to the child.  One of my colleagues recently remarked that “singing and playing with your baby is a natural thing to do, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone.”  Our class is there to help!

Nowadays, parents might “share” a song or lullaby with their baby by playing an iphone or an ipad.  This is not the same as the connection that can be made one on one, singing face to face, with your baby cradled in your arms.  Which would you prefer if you were the baby?

Once I was in a small and bustling restaurant, when all of a sudden, there was a quiet lull in the room, and I could hear some very soft singing.  I looked around, and a couple of tables away, a young mom was rocking her baby and softly singing, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.” It made me feel happy and grateful to witness this moment demonstrating the bonding process, simply and naturally with a song.

When I created Lullabies & LapRhymes, I had two main goals in mind.  First, was to teach the adults a practical and portable collection of age appropriate rhymes, stories, fingerplays and lullabies, that could be learned by heart over the session and used to soothe or engage their babies, day or night, at home or on the go.  It was a handy repertoire that adults could carry around in their heads!

Second, we would nurture early literacy through a love of language play.  As babies enjoy listening, they begin to develop their language skills, along with acquiring vocabulary and an understanding of communication.   And although my program was based on oral language play, storytelling, we did share books, too.  And to quote Bob Barton and David Booth, from their book Mother Goose Goes to School, “…Mother Goose is always around during word play.”

Lullabies continue to be an essential part of our weekly program repertoire.  From repetitive, soothing and wordless, like the Scottish croon Bishyby, to long ballads full of imagery, like Hush Little Baby, there is a place in everyone’s day to enjoy a lullaby with their little one.

For the baby or young child, a favorite lullaby can be a signal:  now I can relax.  Imagine if you were an exhausted new parent and someone in your family said to you, “I will watch your child, now you go enjoy a nice long bath by candlelight.”  You might immediately heave a sigh of relief just at the thought!

The familiarity of a lullaby can comfort immediately, and can be especially helpful when traveling with young children.  Sleeping in a strange place can be less frightening with a familiar lullaby soothing you to sleep.  Connie Kaldor shares this imploring song on her CD Lullaby Berceuse, “Daddy’s fast asleep.  Mama wants to sleep.  Baby won’t you close your eyes.”

Lullabies are also handy when soothing a child in an unexpected situation, such as a visit to the emergency room or if you are suddenly stuck somewhere when your car breaks down or the power goes out.

In addition to the powers of soothing and bonding, lullabies have other important functions, such as teaching about danger.   Old lullabies may be a warning as they reflect a time when animals or fairies might steal unattended babies, as expressed in an old Celtic lullaby,  “I left my baby lying here, to go and gather blackberries.”

Lullabies can offer a safe way for overwhelmed parents to vent.  A song can soothe with a simple and beautiful tune, and while the baby is too young to understand the words, the words might help channel a parent’s frustration, worries or exhaustion.  We tell our participants that it is always better to vent than to explode!  We learned this snippet of an old music hall song from Toronto storyteller and author, Celia Lottridge, “Today’s the day we give babies away with a half a pound of tea!”

Lullabies are a living tradition.  From 4,000 years ago to the nurseries of today, lullabies have helped parents and caregivers bond with and soothe their children.  By singing lullabies today, we can pass them down to the next generation.

Canadian mom Stefanie, who lives in rural France with her family says,  “Lullabies are completely cross-cultural/universal/human, like breast feeding.  People everywhere, whether in refugee camps or by the side of the road or in the lap of luxury like us, sing to get their children to sleep.”

It’s never too early or too late to start sharing lullabies. Singing with your family builds a unique tradition that will grow with your family over the years.

And as Dr. Seuss says, “If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.”