Monthly Parenting Magazine

How group singing is helping new mums with postnat...

How group singing is helping new mums with postnatal depression

Breathe Melodies For Mums Bw

Absolutely Mama finds out how group singing is helping new mothers recover from postnatal depression…

If you’re a new mum, you’ve probably sat on the floor of your local children’s centre singing Wheels on the Bus, babies happily rolling around on the floor in front of you. Getting out of the house in those early days can feel like a gargantuan effort though, and you’d be forgiven for wondering if your baby would really be able to tell the difference if you were just singing nursery rhymes in your living room.   

However, you might be surprised to learn that ground-breaking research from The Royal College of Music and Imperial College London has proved that singing with other mums can have an astonishing impact on the effects of postnatal depression. It’s this research that not-for-profit social enterprise Breathe Arts Health Research used to inspire their free group singing programme: Breathe Melodies for Mums. 

The weekly sessions aim to support new mums who may be experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety, and social isolation. Led by a specialist arts and health singing leader, you won’t find Wheels on the Bus or Wind the Bobbin Up here; rather, powerful and uplifting songs ranging from folk to gospel and sung in a variety of different languages, allowing participants to build connection through shared experiences and cultures.

The results have been astonishing, with one study showing that after just six weeks of singing, mums had experienced a decrease of nearly 35% in their symptoms of PND and 65% no longer had moderate-severe symptoms of PND. 

Breathe Melodies For Mums Bw

One of the mums who has taken part is Jenny, who had a complicated first birth and her son was taken into neonatal care for a week. She had to adjust to being a new parent, without being near her baby. After she took him home, she found herself struggling with progressively low moods and couldn’t understand why at a time when everybody tells you you’re supposed to be filled with joy, she felt so down.

“Asking for help is difficult,” she says. “I’d brought a new human into the world. It was a huge adjustment that affected my emotional and mental health. I constantly had the nagging feeling that something was wrong. I was wondering, what’s going on? Why am I feeling like this?”

Jenny felt like this for several months, before hearing about Breathe Melodies for Mums at a baby weigh-in clinic. “I felt so safe in the class,” says Jenny. The group leaders were so warm and welcoming. There was no stigma. We were all just there singing and trying to find ourselves through music.” She found that her mood improved as the sessions went on. “The sessions really increase your energy level and mood which is vital when you have a baby. They reminded me that as a mum, you have to count yourself as important. You can’t neglect yourself.”

Breathe Melodies For Mums Bw

Ruth had a difficult time after she gave birth too. Her son arrived during the height of Covid-19. Her husband wasn’t allowed in the hospital while she was in labour, and after giving birth she had to quarantine in the hospital as there was a Covid-19 case on her ward. When she finally went home, the winter lockdown hit.

“Normally when there is a new baby you have your friends and family around helping with cleaning and cooking, there was none of that”, says Ruth. “We had this beautiful baby we wanted to show off but couldn’t do anything about it.”

Once Ruth’s husband went back to work, she really started to feel the effects of being a new mum in the pandemic. “I was at a point where I was feeling really isolated and alone, I couldn’t speak to others about how I was feeling.”

After seeing an advert for Breathe Melodies for Mums on social media she signed up for the classes, which were online at the time due to the pandemic. She began to feel the benefits almost immediately. “Singing is an endorphin hit just like exercise,” she says. “It helps you with your mental health. I always felt better after Breathe Melodies for Mums no matter how I felt at the start. It broke up the same monotonous daily routine of changing nappies, feeding, and putting my baby to bed.”

Whilst reducing symptoms of PND, group singing through Breathe Melodies for Mums is also linked with enhanced well-being and self-esteem in mothers, as well as a greater increase in mother-baby closeness and a greater reduction in cortisol levels (the stress hormone) than other mother-baby interventions.

This effective intervention has huge potential as a treatment tool and Breathe Arts Health Research and King’s College London are in the process of conducting further research on the scaling up of Breathe Melodies for Mums with a view to embedding it in clinical pathways, strengthening the case for longer-term funding. The hope is to build a case for these singing groups to be available nationally through the NHS, so more new mothers experiencing poor mental health can benefit.

As Jenny says, “if you could reach the goal of making it standard for all women to get this kind of support that would be amazing. I would recommend it to any new mums. People don’t realise how powerful the arts can be for your mental health.”

Try Breathe Melodies for Mums to reduce symptoms of PND for yourself

If you’re affected by any of the issues in this article, and you’re based in London with a baby aged 0-9 months, you can join Breathe Melodies for Mums. Their 10-week London programme starts in October 2022. Participation is free.

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