Rock a Bye Baby History



Rock a Bye Baby is a nursery rhyme and lullabye sung to children all over the world. The first known print publication of this nursery rhyme was in Mother Goose’s Melody in London in 1765. The author of this popular nursery rhyme is unknown. Since the author is unknown, people have developed multiple theories.

Meaning and Theories

Many theories exist as to the origin of this rhyme. Some say the meaning of the rhyme came from a mother who was rocking her baby to sleep as if she were swinging the baby up high and then placing the baby in a cradle. Others have said that someone coming to America wrote the rhyme after watching Native American women rock their babies in birch-bark cradles that hung from branches high in the trees, which allowed the wind to gently rock the cradles. Dandling may have been another possibility for the meaning. Dandling is when a baby or child is moved up and down in an affectionate way. Many believe that this nursery rhyme was written to teach a life lesson that the powerful will fall if too ambitious. A local legend in England has the song relating to a local character that had eight children. This mother and her children lived in a huge tree where there was a hollowed-out bough that served as a cradle. There are so many theories regarding this rhyme but none that have been verified as the original origin.

Different Versions

Rock a Bye Baby lyrics and versions have evolved over time. The first known version was Hush A By Baby which appeared in the 1765 publication. In 1805, there was a version in Songs for the Nursery beginning with the words “Rock-a-bye, baby, thy cradle is green, Father’s a nobleman, mother’s a queen.” At some point, the Lilliburlero-based tune and the 1796 lyric Hush A By Baby was replaced with Rock a Bye Baby. The modern day version of Rock a Bye Baby still exists today. Many mothers have used this lullaby to help their children fall asleep.


Rock a Bye Baby is one of many rhymes sung to children of all ages. Many preschool children come across this rhyme as a tool for reading. Children use rhymes to help with reading skills. They love rhyming and repetition. For kids, this is an important part of language development. Even young babies can learn language skills when parents sing to them. Adults can play an important role by singing songs and reading stories. This can be done at home or in a school environment. When singing this rhyme, children can sway their arms back and forth as if they are holding a baby. This helps develop social skills as well, since the kids join their peers with the motions of the song. The more children learn about rhyming, the better they begin to sound out words. This in turn makes better readers.