We grow love through songs.
- Sing to their babies
- Talk to their babies
- Massage their babies
- Play and laugh with their babies
Why lullabies help
In traumatised societies
Babies are silent
Mothers are silent
Homes are silent.
Brief spurts of violent noise
Then silence again.
Without chatter and song, infant brains struggle to develop
Intellect is restricted
Emotions are blocked
The normal attachment between parent and child just doesn’t happen
A healthy bond between parents or carers and their babies is vital to the health and well-being of both parties. Lullaby Africa initiates these crucial attachments and supports the development of inter-generational relationships.
Mothers, Fathers, Grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles and the extended ‘village’ family all have a role to play in this process. Lullaby Africa provides the tools they need to support one another.
Neuroscience has consistently shown that parental attachment creates essential connections in the child’s brain – interaction with the carer actually causes physical developments in the child’s brain.
And the first year of life is the crucial time.
“The evidence shows that:
♦ Ensuring that the brain achieves its optimum development and nurturing during this peak period of growth is therefore vitally important, and enables babies to achieve the best start in life.
♦From birth to age 18 months, connections in the brain are created at a rate of one million per second! The earliest experiences shape a baby’s brain development, and have a lifelong impact on that baby’s mental and emotional health.
♦ A foetus or baby exposed to toxic stress can have their responses to stress (cortisol) distorted in later life. This early stress can come from the mother suffering from symptoms of depression or anxiety, having a bad relationship with her partner, or an external trauma such as bereavement.
♦International studies show that when a baby’s development falls behind the norm during the first year of life, it is then much more likely to fall even further behind in subsequent years, than to catch up with those who have had a better start.
♦ Attachment is the bond between a baby and its caregiver/s. There is longstanding evidence that a baby’s social and emotional development is strongly affected by the quality of their attachment.
♦Babies are disproportionately vulnerable to abuse and neglect.” – 1001 Critical Days Manifesto, 2013
Yet, in Africa, this attachment is often lacking. There are many reasons for this:
- Traumatised parents
- Poverty, hunger and a never-ending quest for survival
- Domestic violence and fear
Lullaby Africa empowers and supports parents and carers to help their children and change their long-term relationships for the better. This simple idea has a massive impact on communities; children grow up with empathetic skills and are better equipped to deal with the difficulty and trauma they may subsequently encounter in their own lives.
Delivering lullaby workshops
We have developed a culturally-sensitive method to create loving and intimate interactions between carers and very young children using their own songs. Many African communities (like those in the West) have a rich treasury of lullabies and songs passed down from one generation to the next, which has been in decline.
We work with community leaders and church communities to revive these traditions.
- We teach mothers and carers to look lovingly at their babies while signing indigenous lullabies to them
- We encourage them to respond to babies’ verbalisations to develop the relationship which prepares the way for conversation and empathy
- We practise baby massage, which has been shown to release oxytocin and stimulates the immune system
Our work is evidence-based. We measure maternal sensitivity before and after the workshops using video data when this is possible.
Video evidence shows a consistent result. Before the workshop, there is little eye contact, reciprocation, verbalisation or play. After attending the programme, the mothers are interacting with their babies more often and becoming more sensitive to them.
We need your help to offer more workshops and the resources to leave behind with pastors and community workers so they can support the families after the workshops have finished.
Read Joseph’s Story
Pastor Joseph has seven children. We met him when his 7th child Suzy Blessing was a few months old, because he had given permission for us to meet in his tin hut church. He quizzed us about what we were doing, came to our workshops about baby bonding with the mothers and learned to show his love to her. We’ve seen Suzy since then and it’s very clear that she is attached to her father.
We have always wanted a way to introduce men to the benefits of baby bonding and Pastor Joseph has started to take the training to the men in his community. We are exploring how this model may be extended to other villages.
We have found that our attachment sessions also create a bridge to reducing another prevalent issue in Kenyan society – domestic violence. This is so endemic in the culture that even a Christian minister such as Pastor Joseph believed that beating was the natural way to discipline children.
We are often asked about beating one’s children, and we have been shy to condemn it outright as we do not want to impose Western ideas on Kenyans. However, on our most recent visit to his community, Joseph told us he had considered our teaching about talking to your babies and listening to them and decided to try it with his older children. He stopped beating them but talked to them when they did wrong, and learned to listen to them. He reports that now his children are more obedient and understanding and his relationships with them are better. He and his wife have also stopped beating each other. Now they talk together and work things out.
Read Molly’s story