As a couple , we spend our lives nurturing children in the joys and merits of music-making. As a result, Luke and I have been very curious about the effects of music on our first unborn child. Music is a huge part of both of our lives. We spend a lot of time advocating the benefits of music education on the development of children. (See my recent article Nurturing Musical Ability from Birth to Forever). So, it’s only natural that we have been keen to get started with some prenatal bonding with our own baby! (We don’t know if we are having a boy or a girl, but I shall refer to it as ‘he’ throughout this blog post, as I hate saying ‘it’)
Prenatal bonding is a hot topic at the moment. It is said to help develop an emotional connection from the moment your baby is born, and to help he/she to feel calm and at ease. Studies have shown that the fast development of this connection can even reduce the chance of postnatal depression. Taking time out of your day to talk to, massage, or think about your unborn baby, can help a mother to feel connected. Taking part in yoga classes, meeting with other new mums in the community, and taking time to relax, can all help to feel closer and more in tune with your baby.
For me, music is the key to this. Music can change how I feel in an instant. It can calm me down when I’m anxious or upset, it can evoke the most incredible memories, and it can motivate me when I’m feeling sluggish. If my baby is able to pick up on my stress levels, surely he can detect my positive moods as well? If I relax, then my baby must also relax? Before the baby is actually born, it is very difficult to asses whether or not my music tastes have any effect on him. But we are persevering, and hope to be able to report some positive results after he is born.
Here are just some of the ways we are incorporating music into our unborn baby’s daily life!
Baby’s very own playlist
We have compiled a playlist, especially for our baby, which I listen to every morning as I get ready. It is full of calming music, which all has some significance to me (and thus produces some good endorphins as I listen to it). For this reason, it is a very personal list – but I will include it here to demonstrate the type of music I mean.
- The Five Pennies – Danny Kaye
- Lullaby in Ragtime – Danny Kaye – Both of these were sung to me by my own mum when I was a baby
- Guten Abend, gut Nacht – Brahms – Otherwise known as Brahms’ lullaby
- Silent Noon – Vaughan Williams
- The Soldier – John Ireland – Both songs that I performed at University, full of uplifting words
- O Soave Fanciulla (La Boheme) – Puccini – Taken from one of my favourite operas
- I’ll Walk Beside You – (sung by) Dennis O’Neill – Sung by one of our best friends at our wedding last year. Such beautiful words
- 2nd Movement of Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto – Very soothing
- The Swan (Carnival of the Animals) – Saint-Saens – A beautiful piece taken from a collection written for children
- Lullaby (The Firebird Suite) – Stravinsky – Another University favourite of mine
Interestingly, when I started playing this at about 20 weeks pregnant, the baby used to kick like mad in response. For the last few weeks though, it seems to have the opposite effect of soothing him to sleep! We are very interested to see if this is the case after he is born.
I also sing to my baby whenever the opportunity presents itself. Although I plan to sing nursery rhymes and other children’s songs after the birth, for now I am singing music that I like. This often includes music from the above list. However, I make sure I sing along to most music that is around me. After all, it is said that babies tune into the voices of their mother’s before anything else!
Following the careful instruction of my yoga teacher, I have taken to belly dancing in pregnancy! Charlotte Holloway has been wonderful in her prenatal yoga teachings, and I would highly recommend checking out her site for further information. Belly dancing is credited with being a great way to tone your pelvic floor, and a safe way to keep active. I, however, see it as a great opportunity to dance with my baby! I usually use Top 40 music, as hearing it on the radio is a good reminder to do my daily dance. ‘Sia – Cheap Thrills’ was a favourite for a while, but I have recently been dancing to ‘Kygo – Happy Birthday’. Again, this seems to send my baby off to sleep – perhaps due to the gentle rocking and swaying.
Playing the piano
I am fortunate to be able to play music to my baby on the piano. Although this may not sound much different to a recording I could listen to, I am interested to know whether the baby can feel my deeper concentration and connection to the music. I play a whole range of music, but have recently focused on the music of Mozart and Bach. The ‘Mozart effect’ is a well-documented theory, based on the idea that baby’s respond well to music with a similar bpm to their mother’s heart rate. Although this could apply to lots of music, the simplicity and clarity of Mozart’s music is said to penetrate the amniotic fluid cleanly, creating a soothing effect, rather than an agitated one. Who knows if there is anything in this theory, but I’m having fun finding out!
Prenatal Bonding Through Relaxation
Especially as I reach the end of my pregnancy, I am trying to take some time out each day for mindfulness and relaxation. I listen to a combination of hypnobirthing music and gentle songs that I already connect with. I take the time to close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing, filling my lungs with oxygen, before slowly releasing it. My baby goes a bit crazy during these sessions, probably due to the increased space he suddenly has, and the rush of oxygen we are getting! I am hopeful that he will learn to associate this positive feelings with the music he can hear at the same time.
Although I am not yet sure about the long-term benefits of my prenatal listening on my baby, I am excited to discover whether he remembers and is soothed by it after birth. Even if there is no lasting memory, I feel that I am connecting with my baby now in a way that feels close and personal. This alone is sure to benefit us both in the long-run. Do you have any stories to tell about your little ones and the music they heard before they were born? I’d love to hear them!
Originally posted 2016-12-09 16:06:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter