Find below blog from Tina Warnock who has been delivering music sessions as part of Our Future City’s Early Years Music Programme.
It’s great to be starting some new six-week blocks of Cottontails music sessions for Mums with Post Natal Depression (PND) and their babies. The very nature of PND means that the biggest challenge with this group is to draw people along and keep them coming – and there are so many more beneﬁts if the same group of mums and babies can come regularly. For this we are reliant on the active participation of health visitors who already have a relationship with the families concerned.
These groups are aimed as a follow on from the PND support groups run by health visitors, enabling mums to continue to meet for peer support at the same time as discovering new ways of relating to their babies through singing and music-making. The babies’ characters really blossom when they engage with the music – seeing their faces light up when we sing their name in the ‘hello’ song and their whole bodies move when I pass around the ‘ﬂying tambourine’ or sing a song they already know, is a reminder of how naturally musical we all are. When we’re making music as a group, the focus is very much on the here-and-now and this gives the mums some relief from their preoccupations and anxieties, even if just for a few moments.
When you are tired, anxious or low in mood the idea of singing out loud can feel alien and even intimidating. Mums may not like the sound of their own voice and feel distanced from the part of themselves which can sing. So, rather than launch into songs with words, I usually begin the sessions with instrument-focused activities to ease everyone in. I’ll go on to sing myself, using well-known tunes such as Row the Boat or the Grand Old Duke where people can join in with actions if they don’t want to sing with words. I’ll then repeat the song by humming the tune only, encouraging everyone to hum along if they want to, then again with a ‘la’, and may be then go back to singing with words. Its surprising how many mums are prepared to try singing with a quiet hum to start with and once they feel comfortable with this, quickly progress to singing out loud. Often one song triggers memories of others and they begin to suggest which songs we can do next – we all have so many songs stored in our brains from childhood!
As the weeks progress, we experiment with changing the words to songs such as ‘Wheels on the Bus’ to for example: ‘What are we going to play today, play today, play today?’ …’ Ryan’s playing the shaker today’ etc. Making the words personalised invites a different level of engagement from both mums and babies and brings some creative, on-the-spot interaction.
Six weeks of regular attendance really can make a difference to a mum’s general outlook and sense of positivity – the music-making often brings out the playfulness in a relationship, enabling mum and baby to really enjoy each other’s’ company. And as familiarity with the group and the repertoire grows, mums become braver and more conﬁdent in their use of the music and are much more likely to include it in their everyday activities. It was heartening to see one of the Mum’s go on to set up her own drama group for toddlers at a community centre, having re-discovered her own creativity and self-motivation through the Cottontails group earlier in the year.