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 is based on pioneering research carried out in 2016 by Royal College of Music and Imperial College that 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.
PND affects at least 13% of new mothers. Symptoms include: persistent low mood, fatigue, insomnia, feelings of guilt/hopelessness and anxiety about the baby. Although psychosocial and psychological interventions can be effective treatment options, there are significant problems with each, eg. compliance with taking antidepressants; or concern around stigma of disclosing mental health problems with a new baby, which can inhibit women from seeking help. With this in mind, an alternative creative intervention model was developed.
Research found weekly engagement in singing/music-making classes for women with PND:
- Reduces stress and enhances wellbeing.
- Helps women to meet others, reducing 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 be detrimental long-term to the health of both mother and child).
- Increases self-esteem and confidence in mothers through acquisition of a new skill.
- Provides singing ‘tools’ for calming babies, helping 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 terms of how care and support can be delivered to service users. Close working with a range of partners – Health Visitors, Children’s Centres and mental health and local family support services enable us to readily identify eligible mothers. Breathe visits baby-weigh clinics, mother and baby groups and health teams. Information about the project is shared with professionals and individual mothers, allowing them to self-select as potential candidates. Using established clinical screening methods, eligible women are then invited to take part. In our first pilot in Lambeth 100 women were engaged and given information about the project; with 28 women identified as eligible and invited to participate in the first programme, hosted at Larkhall Children’s Centre.
A trained music leader and coordinator lead two hour-long sessions weekly, over 10 weeks with 14 women in each session. Sessions typically consist of learning a variety of culturally diverse songs focusing on the women, encouraging bonding with the baby, and engagement with each other. Participation is free, making the service available to women of all socio-economic backgrounds, and music/singing provide a culturally inclusive environment for mothers for whom English is not their first language. Meeting weekly allows mums to establish 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 AHR’s close working relationships with teams across the borough, meant that meaningful partnerships were at the heart of this programme. The success of this pilot-service has led to the programme being sought after in other London boroughs, with a service currently being set up in neighbouring borough of Southwark and further programmes being planned for Lambeth in 2018.