Melodies for mums
Culturally diverse songs to encourage bonding with the baby and engagement with others
A ground-breaking new service for mothers with post-natal depression
Melodies for Mums draws on pioneering research carried out in 2016 by Royal College of Music and Imperial College. They found that a 10-week programme of singing and music-making for mothers with post-natal depression (PND) could be a viable alternative to traditional approaches of support.
Postnatal depression affects at least 13% of new mothers. Symptoms include persistent low mood, fatigue, insomnia, feelings of guilt and hopelessness, and anxiety about the baby. Although psychosocial and psychological interventions can be effective treatment options, there are significant problems with each. For example the compliance with taking antidepressants or concern around the stigma of disclosing mental health problems with a new baby can inhibit women from seeking help. With this in mind, we developed an alternative creative intervention model.
Research found weekly engagement in singing and music-making classes for women with PND:
- Reduces stress and enhances wellbeing.
- Helps women to meet others. This reduces social isolation and enhancing social support networks. This is significant in that most treatment pathways generally serve women individually.
- Supports mother-infant bonding, which can be adversely affected by PND. The negative impact can otherwise be detrimental long-term to the health of both mother and child.
- Increases self-esteem and confidence in mothers through learning of a new skill.
- Provides singing ‘tools’ for calming babies that help mothers feel more in control and capable.
- Results show participation in such an intervention can lead to a 41% reduction in symptoms of PND and a recovery in 73% of mothers who take part.
- The project is transformative in how care and support can be delivered to service users. A close working relationship with a range of partners such as health visitors, community midwives, Children’s Centres, GP practices and mental health and local family support services enables us to readily identify eligible mothers. Breathe Arts Health Research visits baby-weigh clinics, mother and baby groups and health teams. We share information about the project with professionals and individual mothers allowing them to self-select as potential candidates. Using established clinical screening methods, eligible we then invite women to take part. Our first pilot in Lambeth engaged 100 women who given information about the project. 28 women were identified as eligible and invited to participate in the first programme, hosted at Larkhall Children’s Centre.
What happens at the programme?
A trained music leader and a coordinator lead two hour-long weekly sessions, over 10 weeks with 14 women in each session. Sessions typically consist of learning a variety of culturally diverse songs focusing on the women. They encourage bonding with the baby, and engagement with each other. Participation is free which makes the service available to women of all socio-economic backgrounds. Music and singing also provide a culturally inclusive environment for mothers for whom English is not their first language. The weekly meetings allow mums to establish a structure to their week and have a positive experience to focus on.
Meeting new people built up my confidence.
This Lambeth-based programme was the first ever translation from research into practice, making it truly innovative. Breathe Arts Health Research’s close working relationships with teams across the borough meant that meaningful partnerships were at the heart of this programme. Because of the success of this pilot other London boroughs are now also seeking to offer the service. A new service has now been set up in the neighbouring borough of Southwark and further programmes are planned throughout 2018.
Listen to what some mums are saying about Melodies for Mums here: https://vimeo.com/252246878