Types of Routines
I have always cringed when people used to ask me after I’d had a baby, “Have you found a routine yet?” I used to wonder, “Are you talking about a routine that I have imposed on the baby or a natural routine where I am following the baby’s rhythm?” Hmm… I was never one for rigid bedtime or feeding routines for a number of reasons but mainly because it just didn’t feel right. I believe and I have experienced for myself four times now that baby’s find their own natural rhythm just like any baby animal does. I learnt to let go and trust that my babies would let me know when they were hungry or tired and as they let me know I learnt to meet their needs quickly and from a loving space. Every family finds their own way through parenting and uses “routine” in different ways to different degrees. Whatever works for both parents and baby is the best. By the way, you know if it is best for baby if the s/he is content, peaceful, happy most of the time. If the baby is crying it is an indication that you, the parent needs to try something different or the baby is experiencing physical discomfort.
So how does music fit into all of this? Like I said, I never forced my kids to go to sleep or feed at certain times or play happily on their tummies for 20 mins a day…but I did use music as a tool to help them move into sleep or stay playing for longer periods so I could make dinner or wash the dishes. Every time they heard the “sleep” music they would associate this with mummy, boobies, warm, cozy, rocking, feeling relaxed…sleep! Whenever we did a nappy change I sang “Der Glumph went the little green frog one day” and they would smile and most importantly let me change their nappy without screaming their head off!. When they were playing on the mat I would put on “Mozart for Babies” by Don Campbell and they would play contently for a much longer period than if there was no music. The best example was when my last daughter screamed in the car I would put on her “sleeping” music and she would stop crying immediately and sometimes fall asleep! I wasn’t holding her and she couldn’t see me but the familiar music was enough to trigger those feelings of being safe and secure and sleepy…and she would settle down.
The “Music Method”
ANYONE can use music in this way as a tool to assist in finding that natural rhythm in your lives together. This “method” doesn’t involve crying babies, feelings of guilt or stress when babies aren’t doing what you think they “should” be doing…all it involves is playing a piece of music or singing a song as you flow through your daily activities. It’s free, it’s nurturing, it makes YOU feel good and is a way of building a connected loving relationship with your child.
However you choose to do the “routine” thing in your family, music will assist you and you baby to move through your daily lives with more grace and ease.
Types of Music
Here are some more ideas of when you can use music to assist with routines:
Bath music, go to sleep music, car music, nappy change music, playing music, cleaning-up music (older kids), feeding music.
I’d love to hear when you have used music in your families and how it has served you.
My Dad’s Heart Songs
My Dad made up a song for me when I was three called “The Mushroom Song” after we went picking mushrooms in someone’s cow paddock in the country. This song is so meaningful to me not because of the lyrics or the tune but because I know that my Dad chose to spend that moment in time thinking about me. Because of this those moments have been captured in a song that speaks to my heart every time I have heard him sing it to me… I know that even when I am 80 this song will bring tears to my eyes and remind me of the soft, caring, loving part of my Dad.
My Heart Songs
I have made up several songs for my babies…some funny and some to soothe them to sleep… My two year old will demand that I sing her special song as I feed her to sleep every time. When I sing the funny song called “Boobies are the best” I have to sing it several times of course. I know that these songs are already meaningful to her and if I continue to sing them, they will stay in her heart forever.
Heart Songs in Uganda
A similar story about how a song has the power to resonate feelings of love for a lifetime is from Don Campbell’s book Mozart Effect for Children. He writes about a tribe in Uganda where a woman when first “conceives” of the idea of having a baby with a particular father in mind goes off by herself and listens for the song of the child. Once she has heard the song she returns to the tribe and teaches the song to her lover so they can sing it together as they make love. They invite the child to join them. After the child is conceived, the mother sings it to the baby in her womb, then she teaches it to the old women and midwives of the village so that throughout the labour and at the miraculous moment of birth, the child is greeted with its song. After the birth all the villagers learn the song of their new member and sing it to the child when it falls or hurts itself. It is sung in times of triumph and in ritual and initiations. The song can become part of the marriage ceremony when the child is grown, and at the end of life, his or her loved ones will gather around the deathbed and sing this song for the last time.
Create Your Own Heart Song
I LOVE this story and will definitely do this is I ever choose to bring another baby into the world (did I say that?). In the meantime I would love to support other women in creating their own heart songs or “Family Lullabies” or even songs about a moment in time they experienced together as in my “Mushroom Song”. These songs are not only sacred but also an effective tool that can be used to soothe and reassure your child when they are tired, when they hurt themselves, when they feel insecure and when YOU feel you need to connect with them again. Singing a funny song you have made up is also a FUN thing to do to lighten up your family when things start to get stressful! I have done this many times!
Anyone can do this by the way whether you believe you are musical or not! If you feel drawn to creating a Family Lullaby before conception to bring your baby to you, during pregnancy or after your child has been born Soundbirth will assist you in this process. Together we can create the song that will stay in your hearts forever!
I will leave you now with a few songs I made up recently.
Boobies are the Best!
The Boobie Blues
Your baby was musical before he/she was even born…so were you! Here are some tips on how to nurture their natural musical gifts.
1. Acknowledge their natural musicality
Notice and imitate your baby and toddler’s sounds. If they babble, you babble back. If they bang a box with their hands squealing with delight, copy them. If they bop up and down to music, bop with them! If they want to spend time blowing raspberries on you belly – let them! Entering their sound world encourages them to express themselves, which naturally leads to speaking, singing and playing instruments.
Sing to your baby before they are born. Sing them to sleep after they are born. As they become more aware of things around them, like the moon, the dog, the cat, bananas, flowers and so on, sing nursery rhymes or made up songs about them. Sing for your own enjoyment in the kitchen, in the car, in the shower. Let them see YOU singing and loving it!
When you play your favourite music place your baby in your sling if you have one or carry him/her on your hip and GO FOR IT! Your baby will love the movement combined with the rhythms they can hear. Dancing is fun and energising and therefore a beautiful way to bond with your child. If you are feeling tired, overwhelmed, depressed or frustrated this is the perfect time to get up and dance. You and your baby will experience directly the power of music as you transform into a more present, happier state of being.
4. Play an Instrument
Choose a simple instrument such as a drum, ukulele, Gasong Drum, native american flute. dream harp or crystal singing bowl. These are ALL easy to play and great ways to express yourself musically. If you want to go a step further learn the piano – I always recommend the Simply Music program – or another instrument you may have always wanted to play. It’s NEVER too late to learn! This will have a profound impact on your child’s musical confidence as they will see YOU expressing yourself musically. Playing music will then be “normal” in their mind. By the way, there is no need to be a concert pianist or expert drummer…all that is necessary is that you play an instrument for the sheer enjoyment of creating music!
5. Listen to Music
Listen to music in the kitchen as you cook, in the loungeroom to relax, when you are putting baby to sleep, in the car. Vary the music so your child has the experience of hearing the smorgesbord of music that has been created in this world so far – classical, rock, blues, indian, country and western, new age… Make sure it is music YOU enjoy. At the same time notice what reactions your baby has to the different music. What do they like? If they are content and happy they like it. If they start to squirm and cry try something different. The main idea is that listening to music is a part of your daily life.
When YOU enjoy singing, dancing, playing and listening to music your baby will naturally grow into a child and adult who uses music to express themselves and enrich their everyday lives.
Nicole Lloyd B(Mus) is a mother of four girls and creator of SoundBirth. Here she shares her experiences using sound before, during and after the birth and anything else about sound or birth that she feels like writing about!