10 Classic Lullabies for Babies

Our baby lullabies karaoke playlist is here, complete with all the instrumentals and lyrics needed to sing your sweetheart into dreamland.

Hush Little Baby

Like most songs on this list, this age old folk song has been in use for generations. It’s all about wooing children with gifts in exchange for some shut-eye (we’ve all been there). Sometimes referred to simply as “Mockingbird,” It’s been covered by countless popular artists.

Hush Little Baby Lyrics

Hush little baby don’t say a word,
Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
And if that mockingbird don’t sing,
Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.

And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Mamas’ gonna buy you a looking glass.
And if that looking glass is broke,
Mama’s gonna buy you a billy goat.

And if that billy goat won’t pull,
Mama’s gonna buy you a cart and bull.
And if that cart and bull turn over,
Mama’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover.

And if that dog named Rover won’t bark,
Mama’s gonna buy you a horse and cart.
And if that horse and cart fall down,
you’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.

Rock-a-Bye Baby

Rock-a-Bye Baby had been around for many years before it appeared in print in 1765 in London in Mother Goose’s Melody. It’s not known exactly what the origin story is, but when it was first printed, a note was added at the end: “This may serve as a warning to the proud and ambitious, who climb so high that they generally fall at last.”

Rock-a-Bye Baby Lyrics

Rock-a-bye baby
On the treetop
When the wind blows,
The cradle will rock
When the bough breaks
The cradle will fall,
And down will come baby
Cradle and all.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Often one of the first songs an English-speaking child learns to sing, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” is derived from a poem by Jane Taylor. It has been adapted many times in various languages.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star Lyrics

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are

You Are My Sunshine

Originally recorded by Jimmie Davis (who later would become governor of Louisiana) and Charles Mitchell  as a country song in 1939, it has been covered extensively since then. So many artists have put their own spin on it over the years, that some speculate it may be the most widely recorded song in American popular music. It’s easy to sing, catchy, and perfect for your own interpretation!

You Are My Sunshine Lyrics

You Are My Sunshine
My only sunshine.
You make me happy

When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away

The other night, dear,
As I lay sleeping
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken
And I hung my head and cried.

You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know, dear,
How much I love you.
Please don’t take my sunshine away.

Frère Jacques

This French nursery rhyme is all about waking up a lazy friar who has overslept, but it works well for a lullaby due to its repetitive verse, traditionally sung in a round to the tune of “Three Blind Mice”. It’s a simple tune that has found its place as a go-to lullaby for tired parents in cultures all over the world.

Frère Jacques Lyrics

Frère Jacques
Frère Jacques
Dormez vous?
Dormez vous?
Sonnez les matines
Sonnez les matines
Ding ding dong
Ding ding dong

Are you sleeping
Are you sleeping?
Brother John
Brother John?
Morning bells are ringing
Morning bells are ringing
Ding ding dong
Ding ding dong

Brahms’ Lullaby (Cradle Song)

One of Johannes Brahms’ most recognizable songs, Cradle Song is as soothing for baby as it is for parents, full of ethereal imagery and set to a lovely melody you probably already know by heart. This one is a classic that will no doubt help lull you both gently into dreamland.

Brahms’ Lullaby (Cradle Song) Lyrics

Lullaby and good night,
With pink roses bedight,
With lilies o’er spread
Is baby’s wee bed.

Lay thee down now and rest,
May thy slumber be blessed.
Lay thee down now and rest,
May thy slumber be blessed.

Lullaby and good night,
Thy mother’s delight,
Bright angels beside
My darling abide.

They will guard thee at rest,
Thou shalt wake on my breast.
They will guard thee at rest,
Thou shalt wake on my breast.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Written for The Wizard of Oz in 1939, this ballad is famously sung by Judy Garland in the film and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song. We’ve included this beautiful ukele version that is perfect accompaniment for the, shall we say, less skilled, singers among us.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow Lyrics

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
And the dreams that you dream of
Once in a lullaby, oh
Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
And the dreams that you dream of
Dreams really do come true-ooh-ooh
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney tops that’s where
You’ll find me, oh
Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
And the dream that you dare to
Oh why, oh why can’t I? I

Baa Baa Black Sheep

You’ll probably recognize the melody of  this English nursery rhyme instantly since it’s the same used for “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and the “Alphabet Song.” As with many of the songs on this list, origins are unclear and many theories abound, but the earliest printing of the verse appeared around 1744.

Baa Baa Black Sheep Lyrics

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.
One for the master,
One for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane

When You Wish Upon a Star

The original version of this song was written for Disney’s Pinocchio in 1938 and went on to win an Oscar. Now it’s widely known as the Walt Disney Company’s signature song. In some countries, the song is sung to commemorate the Christmas holidays. Whenever you choose to sing it, this classic is beloved for its hopeful, uplifting message.

When You Wish Upon a Star Lyrics

When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do

Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

Beatles’ Good Night

Moms and dads will no doubt appreciate incorporating some Beatles tunes into the mix, and the band produced several kid-friendly tunes over the years. Famously written by John Lennon for his 5-year old son Julian, “Good Night” features an orchestral background and simple, sweet lyrics.

Good Night Lyrics

Now it’s time to say good night
Good night sleep tight
Now the sun turns out his light
Good night sleep tight
Dream sweet dreams for me
Dream sweet dreams for you.

Close your eyes and I’ll close mine
Good night sleep tight
Now the moon begins to shine
Good night sleep tight
Dream sweet dreams for me
Dream sweet dreams for you.

Close your eyes and I’ll close mine
Good night sleep tight
Now the sun turns out his light
Good night sleep tight
Dream sweet dreams for me
Dream sweet dreams for you.

Good night good night everybody
Everybody everywhere
Good night.

Rocking baby to sleep to the sound of mom’s voice softly crooning a simple tune is a nightly ritual that’s stuck around for thousands of years—why? Because there’s a biological reason tipping off a mother’s urge to break into song.

Your Voice: The Original Lullaby Song

Although it might seem like your new arrival only eats, sleeps and poops, she’s hardly an incognizant little lump. Newborns are hardwired to take in lights, faces and sounds to boost their growing brains.

That last part is especially important for you, mamas: Scientists have known for decades that infants as young as 3 days old can recognize their mothers’ voices from the womb. Moreover, they show a strong preference for mom’s familiar voice over others. (So, remember, you’re a lot more to her than a milk-maker or diaper-changer—even if, especially during the early weeks, it feels like that’s all you do.)

From its intonations and pitches to the pace and rhythm at which you speak, your voice is unique, and it’s what your baby wants—and needs—to hear. A mama’s voice is not only soothing, but it can also boost her babe’s development.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that premature infants confined to incubators developed notably larger auditory cortexes, the hearing center of the brain, when they were exposed to the sounds of their mothers’ voices and heartbeats via speakers.

Sweet Dreams and Grooves

Even when they aren’t singing a specific song, new moms tend to talk to their little ones in a high-pitched, melodic voice (aka baby talk). It’s as if mothers are biologically programmed to sing to their offspring, and that might not be far from the truth.

Colwyn Trevarthen, a professor emeritus of child psychology at the University of Edinburgh, studies how moms and babies interact, and his research findings show that newborns are naturally fluent in the language of music. Infants have an excellent sense of rhythm, and they respond to music on an emotional and physical level.

Parents instinctively sing to their children as a way to calm them, but researchers can now back up those beliefs with hard evidence. For example, a recent study published in the journal Psychology of Music found that singing lullabies for babies helped lower their heart rates, reduce anxiety and minimize their perception of pain.

Remarkably, the results prove that it’s not merely attention that tots find comforting—because reading stories to the children didn’t produce the same effects. Singing, it seems, is special.

And before you reach for your radio or mp3 player, that same study suggests a live rendition is often more effective than recorded version of a soothing lullaby. As a mother sings, she improvises. Maybe her volume rises when baby cries out or her tempo slows as baby begins to nod off. Throughout her nightly recital, her voice changes to match her child’s disposition. Although your newborn doesn’t yet understand the words of your song, you’re communicating your love and support in other ways.

Hush Little Baby, Off to Dreamland

Studies of newborns in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) reveal that babies prefer lullaby music to other music. It’s not just a mama’s voice that makes lullabies such soothing songs. Most are written in 6/8 meter and composed of only a handful of notes. They’re simple, repetitive—almost hypnotic —and their gentle rhythm embodies a rocking or swaying that’s reminiscent of the womb.

Your little one’s brain is built to detect and remember patterns, from the repetition in a children’s song to the consistency of a bedtime routine. So it makes perfect sense that bedtime lullabies and nursery rhymes are a natural part of saying goodnight. According to Heather Turgeon, MFT, and Julie Wright, MFT, authors of The Happy Sleeper, “The consistent, soothing motions that you go through right before bed will become a potent cue for your baby to wind down and shift into sleep mode.” These modest tunes also benefit mothers by helping them connect with their babes. Performing a private concert gives moms the opportunity to share what’s in their hearts, whether it’s joy, worry or grief.

Many lullabies, particularly those that have endured generations, contain what Federico García Lorca, a 1920s poet who studied Spanish lullabies, called a “depth of sadness.” (Remember the broken bough in the familiar “Rockabye Baby”?) Lorca believed that lullabies acted as a kind of therapy for new moms. They allowed them to vocalize their hopes and fears.

With all the gadgets at our fingertips, it’s easy to search for and stream the best baby sleep music to ensure sweet dreams, but don’t be shy about belting out a few songs on your own. Based on the research, your mini-me would prefer to hear your voice anyway. So don’t worry about winning any Grammy Awards, and just sing your heart out. See our full classic lullabies playlist here.

By Chantel Newton

Share This Story!