Lullabies and Preterm Infants: A Contribution for the Study of Infant Directed Singing in the NICU

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The practice of singing to babies has been observed around the world, in all cultures and historical periods. In cases of prematurity, benefits of maternal singing have been reported for both the baby and maternal anxiety levels. Therefore, several authors have expressed concerns about the possible decrease in singing practice for the infant and, consequently, the loss of transmission of children’s oral repertoire. In this study, our purpose was to understand what and how do mothers sing to their babies, in the specific case of hospitalized pre-term infants in a Portuguese NICU. We used a mixt method in a study case where 36 mothers sang without words to their hospitalized preterm infants during Kangaroo Care. We parametrized the repertoire and analyzed its characteristics, namely the melodic contours, range pitch, melodic intervals, rhythm, tempo and form. The participants also responded to a questionnaire regarding the habits of singing to their baby. Older and more educated mothers sang more pre-existent melodies and younger mothers tended to improvise. This study showed that the former mothers tend to sing adult songs and children's mediated songs to their hospitalized babies more than traditional Portuguese play songs or lullabies suggesting that mothers are not familiar with the Portuguese repertoire, as shown in other studies. It is possible that the sociological changes Portuguese families, as well as the development of automatic reproduction devices that replace mother’s voice, led to this fact. The latter mothers’ improvised singing was highly repetitive and mostly by whole tones. These characteristics, maybe related to an attempt to please and calm the baby, were also common to a comfortable chant for a female voice without practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the First International Conference Psychology and Music
Subtitle of host publicationInterdisciplinary Encounters
EditorsBlanka Bogunović , Sanela Nikolić
Place of PublicationBelgrade
PublisherBlanka Bogunović and Sanela Nikolić Faculty of Music, University of Arts in Belgrade
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)978-86-81340-20-2
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventPsychology and Music: Interdisciplinary Encounters - University of Arts in Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia
Duration: 24 Oct 201926 Oct 2019
Conference number: 1st


ConferencePsychology and Music
Internet address


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