Prev Next

Lullaby, and Goodnight…

By Amalah

bounce_back_lullaby.png
Illustration by Secret Agent Josephine

After Noah was born, I realized that I didn’t know any lullabies. Or at least, not that many. I knew the first verse to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, none of the actual words to Brahm’s, and always got thrown after a few lines of Hush Little Baby. Billy goat? Horse and cart? Cart and bull? WHO IS DOING THIS SHOPPING?

I remember Googling around for song ideas and lyrics and being absolutely SHOCKED to learn that Twinkle Twinkle Little Star shares its melody with both the alphabet song AND Baa Baa Black Sheep. Like, I called my husband to tell him this. Right then. On the phone. Because seriously, can you believe it? Can you believe we’ve gone our entire collective lives without noticing that? Don’t you feel kind of betrayed?

He didn’t, but whatever. It was a very big moment for me at the time, though.

Later, I was doing other important things online (reading blogs) and discovered that a lot of new mothers just made songs up for their babies. Or sang stuff like…The Beatles. Real music. Or other actual non-lullaby songs. I tried making up lyrics for Noah, but mostly ended up doing a Randy-Newman-like take on Twinkle Twinkle, essentially narrating whatever it was we were doing, or singing about crap I saw in the room.

A typical attempt:
Rocking, rocking, rocking…horse.
That is not safe for you to ride of course.
I sure wish that you would sleep,
Go to bed and not make a peep.
Rocking, rocking, rocking…chair.
I am tired and losing my hair.

And if that wasn’t weird enough, every time I tried to think of a “real” song to sing, the only one I could think of was — inexplicably — Barry Manilow’s Copacabana. I didn’t really know most of those lyrics either, but once Copacabana pops into your head, there is absolutely nothing else you can think of to sing. So I would.

By the time Ezra arrived, my skills had improved somewhat. I was at least familiar with a few more children’s songs, and I got pretty good at creating verses to my own original composition of High-Maintenance Baby.

But you know what? His favorite song was the same as his brother’s. Every night I would nurse and rock and sing. I’d hum Brahm’s, muddle through Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and then finally give up and break out the big guns: Her name was LOLA. She was a SHOWGIRL.

Your turn: What ridiculous thing do you sing to your baby?

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon

Comments

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Christi
Guest
Christi

Don’t forget the Alphabet Song. Same tune as Twinkle and Baa Baa. At 2 weeks post-partum I thought I was a GENIUS when I figured this out. Yeah.
I actually seem to naturally go into showtunes and old Girl Scout songs. And Muppet songs (Rainbow Connection, anyone?) But the strangest thing I ever found myself singing to Widget was “Creep” by Radiohead. My husband? The Imperial March from Star Wars. (baby’s gone to the Dark Side!)
Kidlet’s current favorite is “Me and My Dinosaur” which I learned when I was five or six. http://dragon.sleepdeprived.ca/songbook/songs5/S5_26.htm

TheSpectrum
Guest

I am not a mom but a nanny of twin boys. When they were little, I too discovered that the melody was the same to Baa Baa, Twinkle Twinkle and, I believe, the ABC song. The twins preferred a medley of all three, sung in the correct order, every single night.
And if they still weren’t asleep after a few rounds of that, I busted into Kermit the Frog’s “Rainbow Connection” inexplicably followed by “One Fine Day” by Carole King.
?? No idea. BUT IT WORKED.

Bliz
Guest
Bliz

As a nanny, my favorite “lullaby” to sing was “I’m So Tired” by the Beatles– it has a nice slow, soft tune and an apt theme. I always felt a twinge of guilt when I got to the “I’ll have another cigarette” part, but hey, his parents have years to undo that damage.

beth
Guest

I LOVED making up songs for Bruno and I’d usually sing them to distract him from crying and it usually worked. In the car I’d sing variations on this song: Who’s got the cutest little face on a baby that I’ve ever seen? Bruno’s got the cutest little face on a baby that I’ve ever seen. (changing the adj and noun every time around softest cheeks, cubbyiest thighs, sweetest face, etc) Or a call and response where I sang both parts: Who’s the cutest baby? It’s Bruno! (a little lower) – Who’s the cutest Baby? It’s Bruno! (A little higher)… Read more »

Dawn
Guest
Dawn

Oh, I have quite a medley myself that I started when my daughter was born 3 years ago: 2 songs from ‘Mary Poppins’ (Stay awake/don’t rest your head and Feed the Birds), Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Hush Little Baby (though I’m lost after the billy goat part) and ended with ‘Rock a Bye Baby. She still loves Rock a Bye Baby for some reason…. My son gets some ‘new’ ones added into the mix: Sha-na-na’s ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ and New Edition’s ‘Earth Angel’. Both of which are in my range so hey! He seems to enjoy it. I’m sure my husband… Read more »

Moleskine Mama @ moleskinemama.blogspot
Guest

All of the singing I’ve done with my daughter has been varieties of Will Ferrell’s song to James Caan in “Elf.”
I’m your mooooom, and I’m singING, and I love youuuuuu, and I’m siiiiinging! Now we’re putting on the diaper and you’re so cuuuuute and I’m singiiiing!
All of course, paired with my soooo out of tune voice.
True love is seeing that little girl smile up at me, despite my inability to sing her a proper lullaby.

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

So far I fall back on a few songs I learned in Pioneer Girls (think Girls Scouts crossed w/ bible study). There is “A Daisy on My Toe”, “My Tall Silk Hat”, and the one that always gets a giggle because of the tone it is sung in is “A Prune Song”. Ahem: (chorus, sung really fast) “Nooo matter how young a prune may be he’s always full of wrinkles. (slower pace) A baby prune’s just like his daaad, only he’s not wrinkled half sooo baaad. (chorus) (hold fist to your eye and peek thru, in squeeky voice) Leetle seed… Read more »

Jess
Guest
Jess

I sing in a Celtic band. I drag my kids to see other folk musicians, too. One time one of the band asked for requests. My 2 yr old offered up “Twinkle Twinkle.” They obligingly played it. Ellie’s second request was “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” They laughed and played the same song again. Then they preempted her next request and said “This next one’s for Ellie – The Alphabet Song.” She was in heaven. As far as what I sing? Any music that I’m currently performing – it’s extra rehearsal time…which is fine usually, but the Irish drinking songs? Whoops.

becky
Guest
becky

My 2 year old’s favorite song since birth is Sweet Adeline by Weezer. Its a barber shop style song and its the only thing I know all the words to without hearing the music.

Dana
Guest

Big Rock Candy Mountain…the hobo version, not the sweet Lisa Loeb version. My now 3 year old sings, “With the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees…”

Jessicawp
Guest
Jessicawp

I didn’t really do lullabies but I do sing goofy songs to real tunes for Finn.
To the tune of the Be Aggressive cheer from 8th grade soccer:
Finn! Finntastic!
Finn Finn Finntastic!
F I N N T A S T I C
Finntastic!!!!
Two bath tub songs:
to the 50s tune
splish splash Finn is taking a bath
with his mommy on a _____ night
rub a dub he is chunky in the tub
laughing and having a good time.
To Brass Monkey by the Beastie Boys
splash monkey
chunky monkey
(repeat)
And now everyone knows what a huge dork I am.

Courtney
Guest

Yellow Submarine! This was the only song I could remember all the lyrics to offhand, and my son loves it. It was the first thing I sang that actually made him smile (!) and confirmed that he is a Beatles fan, which is awesome. Lately I’ve been singing the Talking Heads’ “Nothing But Flowers,” and Big Rock Candy Mountain. Neither of which I know all the words to. Sometimes I look them up online and sing to him while I read them off my laptop, because I hate trailing off in the middle of a verse even though he doesn’t… Read more »

Kim
Guest
Kim

Ohhhh, I sing lots of ridiculous things to my baby. I sing and play bass in a bluegrass band, so I try to use our nightly walk and sing time to memorize/practice lyrics. I sing songs about killing your lover because she won’t marry you, miners dying underground, cheating lovers, drinking, whoring, gambling, etc. Poor kid is going to have some serious issues some day… but he’ll have great taste in music!

Janice
Guest
Janice

We sing “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats, “Low Rider” by War and “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beetles. That last one sprung from a sun shaped musical toy he has that plays that song.
Basically babies love anything with a good beat to it, or fun noises in the middle (like the fast notes refrain parts in Low Rider and Safety Dance).
We get laughed at when we start singing these to him (especially Low Rider), but then people see him break out into a HUGE grin and they smile along with us all 🙂

Anna
Guest
Anna

I had the same revelation when my daughter was born – just another consequence of never being around babies until I decided to have one. So while I didn’t know any lullabies or child-appropriate songs at all, I did know a lot of TV theme songs. So she got a lot of WKRP in Cincinnati, Brady Bunch, and Facts of Life.

Nicole
Guest

Shook me all night long
Really.

Courtney
Guest

I just remembered the other song I sing, to the tune of the Spiderman theme song:
Stinkerpants, stinkerpants
does whatever a stinkerpants does
will he ever take a nap?
no, he won’t, he’s a stinkerpants
look out . . . he is a stinkerpants
This works for lots of other stuff – will he eat some solid food? does he want to talk a walk? I think I mostly love it because it reminds me of Spiderpig from the Simpsons movie.

LoisandHi
Guest
LoisandHi

Every night, I start off with “I’ve Just Seen a Face” by the Beatles, then go into “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkel (it’s my daughter’s name), and end with a lullaby (“Go to sleeeeeep, go to sleeeeeep, go to sleep little baby…”).

Amy
Guest
Amy

In the early days of nursing when I knew no songs I made this up, and still sing it: Yummy, yummy, yummy I got milk in my tummy, now I don’t have to cry. Yummy, yummy, yummy I got milk in my tummy, I like it & I don’t know why. We like milk cause it’s good for us. We like milk cause it’s got what we need. We like milk cause we like to fuss. We like milk so we’ll grow indeed. Yummy, yummy, yummy I got milk in my tummy, now I don’t have to cry. I also… Read more »

kate
Guest
kate

“The Cow and the Elephant.” It’s the only surefire song that will always (and hopefully forever) make my baby happy while he’s riding in his carseat with no one else to entertain him. And it includes animal noises…so, yay! Here’s how it goes, “The cow and the elephant and the __ (insert animal), went down the river on a __ __ __(insert 3-syllable object that rhymes with above animal name). The cow said “moo” and the __ (animal from above) said “(insert sound)” and the elephant sang along “tra la.” For example: The cow and the elephant and the dog… Read more »

Di
Guest
Di

What currently works is a recitation of “Hippos Go Berserk,” which tends to make him annoyed because he knows he’s going to bed, but then I launch into “Maxwell Silver Hammer” and he puts his head on my shoulder and drifts off. I don’t know if I should be worried, but I tend to gloss over the words “dead” and “head.” Yikes.

Bekki
Guest
Bekki

When the twins were born, the only two songs I knew all the words to when I was half asleep and it was 2 am were “Istanbul, Not Constantinople” and “Particle Man” by They Might Be Giants. I sang those a lot. My husband busted out some of the slower Nine Inch Nails.
Now I’m kind of stuck on 5 Little Monkeys and the Ladybug Picnic.

Caitlyn
Guest
Caitlyn

I’m making a distinct effort to sing “O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus” at least once a day. No idea why, really. Once that is done, I try to think of something else, and the only thing that comes to mind is “So What” by Pink. Which must make for an odd combination.
At least it’s better than “Angel is the Centerfold”

Jenny
Guest
Jenny

Every night my mom would stand in the hall between my brother’s and my room and sing us some songs, but she always ended with a version of “Sunrise, Sunset”. We didn’t have a clue it was from Fiddler on the Roof, the lyrics were so perfect we thought she made it up for us! Imagine my shock when in JUNIOR HIGH (I kid you not) she took us to see Fiddler and I exclaimed (too loudly) “MOM, they’re singing YOUR SONG!?” Many years later I chose this song to be played as my mother and mother-in-law were escorted into… Read more »

NikMama
Guest
NikMama

I thought I was the only one who JUST realized that Twinkle Twinkle and the ABCs song were the same melody!! So those are the only lullabies I sing to my son because I know the words. Oh, I also sing the “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston and I know I sound terrible, but I love that song and the message.
I could sing anything and he will smile. One of the best things about being a parent!

Mama2ETC
Guest
Mama2ETC

“You Are My Sunshine”, “Coat of Many Colors” and “Love Potion No. 9” were standards. I seemed to gravitate towards favorite songs from my own childhood, which I guess I remembered better than any others. I also liked “You’re So Vain” and “Witch Doctor, and I even had my own Barry Manilow, “Can’t Smile Without You”. Also, with each child I added songs that fit them… “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” for my very bouncy son, and made up words to “Macarena” for my daughter, whose name sounds similar. And a heavy dose of songs from Sesame Street and They… Read more »

becky
Guest
becky

My 2 year old’s favorite song since birth is Sweet Adeline by Weezer. Its a barber shop style song and its the only thing I know all the words to without hearing the music.

Lynnette
Guest
Lynnette

Yes, I knew that those songs shared a common melody from being in music school. I also added a made-up version that uses Baby Girl’s name. I sing all four in a row, then onto the girlie’s favorite, Rainbow Connection. She’s also a fan of the Yogi Bear theme song, and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air rap. Really, she’ll stop whatever she’s prattling on about if I start singing. I just wish I could remember more songs that don’t have high notes in them. Soprano arias can be jarring at bedtime.

tami
Guest
tami

i sing sweet child o’ mine by guns n roses 🙂
its really a sweet song and perfect for a baby.

Cobblestone
Guest
Cobblestone

I stuck with the alphabet song in 3 verses (prepare to have your geek brain BLOWN!)
Verse 1 – standard
Verse 2 – sign language (WHA?? Mom is using her fingers!!???)
Verse 3 – sounds. Ah, Baa, cuk, duh, eh, fff,gua etc. X is tough.
If Mister is around he’ll do the big finale and sing in backwards!

Francesca
Guest
Francesca

My mom sang me beautiful irish lullabies when I was little. I sing Liz Phair songs to my kids- they are the only ones I know the words to.

holli
Guest
holli

For whatever reason, when my daughter was a newborn, I started singing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” to her in desperation one night. (The George Michael/Elton John live version, complete with “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Elton John!” in a faux-Brit accent.) It worked, and since then she hears it fairly frequently.
Once, in a pinch, I sang her a slow version of “Hey Ya!”
And I also make up songs as we go about our day… this morning it was “Mommy does not want to go to workkkkkk, no no no.”

Maria
Guest
Maria

Poor Jakob! Most of the time he gets, “Ohhhhh, Jakey… Jakey Jakey Jakey…. Ohhhhh, Jakey, Jakey I love yoooooou”. Original, yes? Although if there’s ever anything funny that pops into my head, he’ll get that too.

Melanie
Guest
Melanie

Okay I’m not a mom, but I read your blog and the advice smackdown and hope to someday, in the not-so-distant-as-soon-as-I-can-convince-my-husband-we’re-ready future, hope to be a mommy. My mom ran a home daycare growing up, I worked in a daycare during summers and breaks from college, and I have 12 neices and nephews… so I’m not without experience. Anyway, my go-to when it comes to lullabies is what my family calls the apple song. It simly goes “apple apple a a a. baby baby b b b” (making the noise not the letter). You don’t have to know any words… Read more »

Emily
Guest

My husband and I basically sing everything to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.” Somedays it’s “You’ve got poopies in your pants, yes you do, yee haw!” Our son laughs and claps, and it’s pretty cute. However, at bedtime the little kiddo has his own song, which I made up one night when I was beyond exhausted. It’s no special tune, but each night Rusty knows that when we sing, it’s time to get in his crib. We sing about everything, and I must admit, that my husband and I use it as a way to get… Read more »

Danielle
Guest
Danielle

Our little boy is named Danny, so of course, “Danny Says” by the Ramones — his first and favorite lullabye. He also likes musicals, particularly “Hairspray,” so “Good Morning Baltimore!” is a favorite in our house.

Lady N
Guest
Lady N

Mana Mana! Doo Doo Do Doo Doo.
No lyrics necessary. Baby loves the bouncing on “Mana Mana” and chortles knowing it’s coming.

deborah
Guest
deborah

because I am well and truly a disturbed individual, I started modifying club songs with my lab rats- Press That (the lever) to the tune of “smack that”…then moved on to my dog-stupid furry dog, poops on the floor (think apple bottom jeans) and finally my infant son with “all the single babies”. I think weird al stole my life’s calling.

beccado
Guest
beccado

the big head scratcher for us is “on top of spaghetti”, yes, the meatball song. if my son is upset or crying, that song calms him down immediately. it’s so bizarre, but it always works, so my husband and I keep singing it. the other weird thing (and more than a little embarrassing) is that we used to rap while burping him. He had reflux, so we always wanted to burp him really well in an effort to minimize the subsequent puking. And we made up our own lyrics to Baby Got Back. It went something like “I like big… Read more »

Jenn
Guest
Jenn

My Munchkin is One now, and I still don’t know any baby-appropriate songs. I sing him Birdhouse in Your Soul by They Might Be Giants, Hang On Sloopy by the McCoys and Louie, Louie – complete with a dance move he finds hilarious.

Kalena
Guest
Kalena

I’m with Christi on Rainbow connection – it’s the only one I can reliably remember all the words to, and has become our “sleepytime” song.
My husband’s standby – The Gambler. My kid will know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, when to walk away, and when to run.

Liz
Guest

I like the slowness of Iron and Wine for nighttime rocking. Otherwise, I just make up my own words to short tunes I can think of on a moments notice…and “Blackbird” by the Beatles is always a favorite.

Bethany
Guest
Bethany

I have a playlist on my iTunes dedicated to my son. We bring the laptop along and since lullabies right along with the music. It currently consists of Katherine McPhee’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Rainbow Connection, Regina Spektor’s Samson, some mellow John Mayer, Jason Mraz, and Jack Johnson, Billy Joel’s lullaby, plus the Kenny Loggins Return to Pooh Corner album. He loves it all. Our favorite non-bedtime song is Say Hey, I Love You. We have a daily dance party to that one.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Uh…Christmas carols. On the bad nights after I’d run out of lullabies, they were the only songs I could think of that I knew all the words to…
So “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” was a mainstay. In July.
Whatever. He didn’t know.

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

My older son loved a rousing rendition of “Pop Goes the Weasel.” My younger son, now 7 months, adores “Gitchee Gitchee Goo” from the show “Phineas and Ferb.” No matter how unhappy he is, if I sing that song, he stops crying and grins. It’s like magic.

Karen
Guest
Karen

YES! This post is completely me, except my oddly inappropriate song that pops in my head is “There are worse things I could do”, from Grease. Good thing I didn’t have a little girl!
I do love “Stay Awake” from Mary Poppins, as well.

Kimberly
Guest

This is great! Our favorite is Peter Paul and Mary’s If I Had a Hammer. We also enjoy Simon and Garfunkel, the Sound of Music, Paul Simon, and the occasional patriot song.

Heather Ann
Guest
Heather Ann

My bonny likes over the ocean…my puppy lies over the ocean…my kitty lies over the ocean – you get the picture.
http://www.kididdles.com/lyrics/m033.html
Oh, they built the ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue… complete with
what a lousy piece of junk
amen, the end
made in Japan
which I feel I shouldn’t sing, but it was how I learned the song and it seems incomplete without that ending. Of course, it doesn’t make any sense because Japanese products are not crap. Sigh.
I also sing a rousing rendition of Farewell to Nova Scotia. We’re all about the sea over here!

Stefanie
Guest
Stefanie

I realized the same thing with my daughter. I also can’t remember the way any child’s stories go. One night I tried to tell her “Little Red Riding Hood” and got as far as “Once upon a time there was a little girl with a red hood…” before I realized that I knew the beginning and end but not he middle. My daughter’s favorite soothe-to-sleep song is “Closer” by Joshua Radin. At his concerts he always talks about how his friends use his music to make their kids fall asleep, and out of desperation one night I tried it. Worked… Read more »

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

“All the Single Babies” (Single Ladies)and “Did you Poop In Your Pants?” (J*** in My Pants) are favorites at our house. We also do variations on “Who Wants a Clean Butt?” sung to the Clean House trill by Niecy.