Singing to connect with new mothers

Dr Charulatha Mani with co-facilitator and composer Lynette Lancini and her pink guitar. Photo: Dr Mani.

Singers, musicians, researchers and midwives have banded together to deliver a musical mum and bub group for migrant and refugee women in Logan City.

‘Sing to Connect’ combines midwifery check-ups and antenatal classes from Metro South Health with a singing program from the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre (QCRC). Access Community Services support staff help with child minding of older siblings.

QCRC singer-researcher Dr Charulatha Mani, a recent migrant from Chennai, India, coordinates the 12-week pilot program. She says the focus is on encouraging the diverse women who attend to sing lullabies in their traditional languages and to share their stories.

“During the singing, the children and mums join forces with the midwives and the room comes alive with musically spurred energy and a sense of connective vitality.”

Dr Charulatha Mani is a music researcher and an acclaimed singer of Southern Indian classical music. Photo: Dr Mani.

“We are observing, even at this early stage in the project, that the receptivity of the women to the key midwifery messages — from safe sleeping to breastfeeding — is enhanced when accompanied by singing.”

While the music program also includes popular playgroup songs, the lullabies focus on connecting with and drawing out the women who attend. The group is currently learning to sing the Indigenous children’s song ‘Inanay’ popularised by the Tiddas band.

About 20 women have participated so far with languages including Chin Zomi, Burmese, Kirundi, Swahili, Persian, Somali, Urdu, Tamil and Maori being represented.

Dr Mani hopes the pilot study will help researchers better understand how music can enhance social wellbeing and health outcomes in disadvantaged communities.

“Professor Brydie-Leigh Bartleet has been a source of great support for the research design of this project, and music facilitators Lynette Lancini and Daisy Nussey have played a key role in uplifting the spirits of those in attendance.

“We’re already seeing the ways singing contributes to social cohesion and the collected data will shine much-needed light on how music could enhance public health outreach.”

The ‘Sing to Connect’ project is a collaboration between the Queensland Conservatorium Research Centre, Midwifery at Metro South Health and Access Community Services. It is funded through the 2020 Logan City Council Community Projects Grant.