Infant-directed singing gives sensory stimulation to newborns which helps focus their attention and adjust their arousal. According to this new research, this activity simultaneously produces a unique and mutually helpful condition for moms suffering from postpartum depression as well as a sense of empowerment as a parent.
New research sheds light on the significance of song for infants and moms. The work investigated the significance of infant-directed singing in the complex link between mother and infant.
Infant-directed singing transcends ethnic boundaries and parental practices as one of the first recordings of human music. Unlike other forms of caregiving, moms singing to their infants is a universal activity that appears to stand the test of time.
Infants have the ability to process music in a sophisticated manner
The connection between mother and kid may appear routine on the surface, but Shannon de l’Etoile, professor of Music Therapy and associate dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Miami Frost School of Music, believes there is much more to the infant-directed song than meets the eye — and ear.
“We know from previous research that infants have the innate ability to process music in a sophisticated manner,” explained de l’Etoile. “Initially, I set out to identify infant behaviours in response to live infant-directed singing compared to other common maternal interactions such as reading books and playing with toys. One of the main goals of the research was to clarify the meaning of infant-directed singing as a human behaviour and as a means to elicit unique behavioural responses from infants,” she added.
De l’Etoile also investigated the significance of infant-directed singing in the delicate link between mother and infant. She filmed 70 infants responding to six distinct interactions in an initial study: mother singing an assigned song, “stranger” singing an assigned song, mother singing song of choice, mother reading a book, mother playing with a toy, and mother and child listening to recorded music. The findings were encouraging, but they also raised new questions.
Effective engagement between mother and infant during infant-directed singing
“High cognitive scores during infant-directed singing suggested that engagement through song is just as effective as book reading or toy play in maintaining infant attention, and far more effective than listening to recorded music,” said de l’Etoile. “But what did the infant engagement tell us about the mother’s role during the interaction?” she questioned.
de l’Etoile extended the research by focusing on the caregiver’s part during infant-directed singing and measuring the song’s composition and the mother’s voice. “Findings revealed that when infants were engaged during the song, their mother’s instincts are also on high alert,” said de l’Etoile. “Intuitively, when infant engagement declined, the mother adjusted her pitch, tempo or key to stimulate and regulate infant response.”
While most of the moms thought the intuitive adjustment of the song or singing voice was natural, de l’Etoile was tempted to investigate deeper. She investigated the acoustic properties in the singing voices of moms suffering from post-partum depression in a study published in the Journal of Music Therapy.
“The extraction and analysis of vocal data revealed that mothers with post-partum depression may lack sensitivity and emotional expression in their singing,” stated de l’Etoile. “Although the infants were still engaged during the interaction, the tempo did not change and was somewhat robotic.”
Infant-directed singing gives a sense of empowerment as a parent
According to de l’Etoile, infant-directed singing produces a unique and mutually helpful condition for moms suffering from postpartum depression. The newborns receive much-needed sensory stimulation through music, which helps focus their attention and adjust their arousal. Mothers simultaneously experience a much-needed distraction from the negative emotions and ideas connected with depression, as well as a sense of empowerment as a parent.
“Mothers around the world sing to their infants in remarkably similar ways, and infants prefer these specialized songs,” she said. “The tempo and key certainly don’t need to be perfect or professional for mothers and infants to interact through song. In fact, infants may be drawn to the personalized tempo and pitch of their mother, which encourages them to direct their gaze toward and ultimately communicate through this gaze,” added de l’Etoile.
Materials provided by the University of Miami. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
The University of Miami. “Mothers and infants connect through song.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170217012453.htm>.
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Name of the Organisation: Music as Therapy,
India Music as Therapy is based in Hyderabad. Since 2015 it supports caregivers to introduce music for children with learning disabilities and autism. Most recently the institute has been considering the ways music might help local carers for people living with dementia.
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Name of the Organisation: Indla’s Child Guidance Clinics (ICGC)
Indla’s Child Guidance Clinics (ICGC) was established in Vijayawada and then was expanded to Mumbai in 2015 followed by another branch in the same city in 2017. ICGC provides assessment, remediation, and counselling all under one roof. It offers medication, parental counselling and therapies for children and adolescents. They also conduct workshops on parenting and life skills development.
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