Music classes for newborn babies? Really? Whatever for?
By Emma Hutchinson
The bewildering new experiences facing a new parent are constantly over-lapped by feelings of overwhelming joy. A fleeting look, a motion, a sound is made by their new baby. These moments increase rapidly over the days, weeks and months. Motion becomes more pronounced, seemingly decisive and assertive, despite their tiny size.
If, in those moments, all parents could pause and look closely, they would notice tiny patterns of musical responses emerging. Little snippets of melodic phrases surging momentarily up and down, a flick, a shift, a curl of the hand then release; a curve, a jerk, then softly relaxing.
Musical? Very. We know that ‘babies begin their journey as an innately musical/poetic being’ (Trevarthen, 2009). Imagine violins moving along, the hiccup of a drumbeat, the sonorous notes of a cello, trills from a flute, then silence again. Even in that great moment as your baby emerges, she will experience orchestral waves of booming heart beats, digestive system drum rolls, with muscles crashing out their melodious responses to accompany that last shove towards the great outdoors, and Life.
What now? Our babies are truly musical in their intrinsic experiences during pre-birth growth because of the combined experiences of motion and sound inside. If a mother can appreciate that pre-birth musical experiences were not only spontaneous, but also largely of her doing, then she might consider enjoying more of the same together. Engaging in musical activities with your new baby is a deeply personal experience, and one that should be celebrated and shared with other new parents in gentle, appropriate ways.
Understanding how babies respond to music, their allegiance to a loved one, and in particular the sort of musical offerings that they enjoy takes a very special musician. A musician that can shift and move the dynamics of a music session to suit not just one baby but several babies, and parents too. A musician who can communicate the importance of active participation, of eye contact, of reassuring touch, of enabling time for sounds to emerge knows their craft, and their beneficiaries.
A musician who can spot a baby melting into tears, be fixated on an instrument, respond to a particular sound, and change tack without hesitation is a thinking practitioner. As an early childhood specialist this musician will tease out musical utterance or ‘expressive vocalising’ (Young, 2002), whilst simultaneously deciphering any possible developmental concerns.
Why pursue musical experiences with your baby? What indeed are the benefits apart from having a lovely time and enjoying dancing, singing silly songs and experiencing a range of different instrumental sounds? That is the point. Enjoying music together is a positive and life-enriching sensation. Music makes a baby and parent feel happy, feel better about their day, their moments together, relieves stress (burping, routine and sore gums) and if compulsory, could save governments millions in health related issues.
Music opens up all those neurons that are furiously developing as they absorb every experience. Musical engagement enhances listening development, aural focus, dissemination of information, the ability to make choices… the list is endless. Regular musical experiences help a parent and baby to understand each other, and be mutually attuned (Stern et al, 1985).
Love music and love your baby. Go on, grab your coats and run for the door to the nearest music class. But, be warned, it must be the best for your baby as well as for you.
About the Author
Emma Hutchinson MA BA(hons) LTCL FRSA
Founder of The Music House for Children
Emma is a trained music practitioner, teacher, trainer and researcher. In 1994 she founded The Music House for Children, London, providing a range of music opportunities for children and young people. In 2001 she co-founded Bush Hall, an international concert platform and events space. Bush Hall hosts all training, performance, workshop and holiday opportunities for The Music House for Children’s school.
Emma trains early years practitioners in the benefits and ability to deliver music to babies and very young children. She teaches and lectures on the importance of music facilitating life learning (with particular reference to language and vocalising). Much of her practice and research looks at the intrinsic benefits music brings to children and babies with varying additional needs. She has run several mid and long term projects on music with additional needs including deafness, language and sensory disorders and profound cognitive impairment.
Emma is author and composer of Little Birdsong music books, and designer of the musical treasure basket for young children (www.littlebirdsong.co.uk)