Singing lullabies to your (unborn) baby
Misa is the founder of Spirit Mama Lullabies, which assists modern moms to sing lullabies for their little ones. She has a mixed cultural background between the US and Japan, she has been living in Tokyo for the last 7 years.
Misa, please tell us more about Spirit Mama Lullabies.
My mission is to help mamas remember the joy of singing, and realize the beauty of their voice, so they can feel good and get the most out of nourishing their babies and themselves through lullabies.
We talk about the magic of lullabies, I share tips and tricks, and most importantly I help them overcome feelings of inadequacy.
It's as if I’m reminding them about this magic wand that they already have, and showing them how to use it well.
How did you arrive at this work?
It took some time to come together, but the idea came after realizing how much we’re impacted by the pressure to sing well in our society, to a point where I even had a new mama who shared that she grew up singing pop music, had a background studying classical music, had degrees in biomedical engineering and in mind-body medicine and knew about the benefits of singing to her baby, and she still hesitated to sing, because she felt like her voice wouldn’t be good enough for her baby.
And Some people have pretty rough experiences early on in childhood, being told awful things.
For me, the problem became more serious when I was in college, studying at a music school. The singers were SO good. And even though people were nice to each other, we all knew that one day we would have to compete in order to earn a living. I didn’t have that much stage fright when I first started, but it became much worse, and it completely affected the quality of my singing.
So I eventually just stopped singing for years. But then…
I had a series of dreams at night, where my heart was crying from the lack of singing, and every time I had this dream, I woke up with tears all over my face, and a clear signal inside of me, that told me if I don’t start singing, it will lead to heart problems in a physical way.
That’s what I was experiencing personally, and around that time 2 things happened that got me interested in helping moms.
One was that I was writing a paper on lullabies for graduate school, and found that there was a lot of research documenting the benefits of lullabies, and there was also research showing a significant drop in parental singing in modern times.
The other thing happened while I was singing to young children. There was this one boy. Every time I thought he might be asleep and I would slowly start to move away, I would hear him say “Don’t stop. Keep singing.” You might think that this is problematic, but for me, it was actually wonderful to feel that someone wanted to hear me sing.
Another time, I was with a 6 month old baby . I was her first non-family member taking care of her, and she just kept crying, and crying, and crying … until I started singing. It felt like magic. AND, I felt so nourished. After so many years of challenging and complicated experiences around singing, I went from feeling like my singing was not needed or wanted in this world, to feeling welcomed and appreciated. And I hope every parent who has felt bad about their singing gets to experience this with their child.
Why is it so important to sing to your baby?
There are many reasons, and rather than touch upon them all, I want to share my top 3 for why lullabies are extra important in today’s world:
The Nervous System From the perspective of soothing and calming ourselves and our children: I used to say that we live in chaotic, overstimulating, and stressful times, and our nervous systems need soothing more than ever. Now, we probably need it even more than before!
Stronger Communities Singing together brings us together. It helps us connect at a deep level. Lullabies and play songs - which are the more upbeat and active songs you sing with children - they are the foundation for a life that embraces singing as a powerful tool for connection. At the moment, in our world, anything that helps us remember what it means to love each other despite our differences is precious, in my opinion.
Deep Human Bonding This point is also about connection, but more related to technology and our busy lives. Because we spend so much time on our digital devices, mostly in a distracted way that is not being present with our children, because we are busier than ever, because we don’t have a village helping raise the child, we need more human-to-human, hands-on nurturing. Even when breastfeeding, it’s easy to spend our time focused on our phone and not as attentive to our child. I’m not saying this to make anyone feel bad if they do spend time on their phone. I’m saying this because lullaby-singing is one of the fastest ways to bond with our children. It’s also a powerful way to reconnect with ourselves, and help us be more present with our children in general, when we’re not on our phones.
Are there cultural differences between the USA and Japan when it comes to singing lullabies?
I’m less familiar with what happens in Japan among Japanese mothers, but from the little bits that I observe, I would say lullaby singing is still more common in Japan than in the US.
Here are my thoughts as to why:
In Japan, music education has been and still is, I believe, a regular part of school curriculum, whereas in the US, many current generation mothers did not necessarily receive music classes in school. Some received just one year out of the six years of grade school, and some received none at all, depending on their school. While it may seem like some kids can just know how to sing well, and indeed some people do have a much easier time learning the skill, it is a skill learned over time, and with practice. In general, kids who are raised in households and environments with a lot of music-making pick up the skill more easily. I also think that singing together with your peers in music class throughout grade school - as is done in Japan - helps mold the perception that singing can be for everybody, and a normal social activity.
Another factor is how much more common it is in Japan to live with, or live near, and spend time with extended family while child wearing. This means more child wearing influence from grandparents, who are more in touch with traditional approaches. In the US, even the grandmothers who help out in this manner often grew up with a working mother, which sometimes meant their own childhood lacked connection with traditional methods for nurturing.
Having said that, I have seen a huge surge in the amount of online articles and blog posts discussing the benefits of singing lullabies in the past few years (in English), and I would not be surprised if we see an increase of mothers who sing in the USA.
What problems do ‘your moms’ most commonly encounter when it comes to singing lullabies?
The first problem they face, although it won’t seem like a problem at the time, is the lack of awareness around singing lullabies; they never thought about it, or never considered it to have any significance
And then we have the lack of confidence in their singing voice
This can be from a general feeling of shyness and hesitancy
Or from a specific painful event that occurred
Or from a family member with strong feelings about how your singing should sound, and maybe even suggesting that you might damage your child with your singing
There are also some moms who wouldn’t mind singing but haven’t found lullabies with lyrics that they like
What if a mom doesn’t like her voice?
What tends to happen if a mom doesn’t like her voice is that:
She ends up not singing and missing out on this precious experience.
Or she sings, maybe out of a sense of duty, or from a fear of what may happen if she doesn’t sing, but the singing will be much less nourishing - if at all, for both mama and baby.
So, I invite anyone who feels that this may be her, to come and join us in the Loving Your Voice program!
It is the heart of my work in many ways, and it’s designed for anyone who wishes they could enjoy singing more, whether you are an accomplished singer or have been told you are tone deaf and haven’t sung since.
We approach finding love for your voice, specifically through the lens of lullabies. We take singing from being a technical skill that aims to satisfy some performance standard, to something you do because you are human; remembering how we sang as young children before it became complicated.
If you’re interested, please visit my website for more information, at misachristina.com. And don’t hesitate to reach out, with any questions.
And for everyone listening, my message to you is this:
Life is too short not to sing, and lullabies too sweet not to share. Your voice is good enough for you and your baby, and your voice is beautiful just as it is.
Thank you, Vicky, for having me on your show!
Check out how Misa can help you, including her Loving Your Voice Program.
Jump in while this two-week program now!
Loving Your Voice program: http://www.misachristina.com/group/
Main Site: http://www.misachristina.com