PARENTS
24/06/2015 09:58 BST | Updated 24/06/2015 10:59 BST

This Mum Records Foetal Heartbeats And Newborn Babbles To Help Babies Sleep

When you are pregnant with your first baby, many parents keep mementos such as scan photos, a diary detailing the baby's first kick or a birth video...

But when Emma Ridley's daughter was born in December 2012, she and her husband decided to capture Eva's entrance into the world differently: through sound.

"We recorded Eva's foetal heartbeat when I was 36 weeks pregnant using a basic foetal heart Doppler called angelsounds," Ridley, 35, from South Yorkshire told HuffPost UK Parents.

"We then recorded her babbles after she was born.

"Others might go out and get photos taken by a professional photographer, but nobody preserves sounds so that's what we decided to do."

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Emma, Ben, Eva, two and Oakley, four months

Ridley's husband, Ben, 32, collated these one-off sounds into a track as a comforter for their newborn and named it "Eva's Song".

"My husband is from a musical background," Ridley told HuffPost UK Parents.

"He plays all instruments and works in music production but the song was purely for us.

"We wanted to save her sounds ourselves because her language was changing every week with the sounds she was doing."

At that point, Ridley was completely unaware this would form the basis of a full-time business she would soon set up - My First Beats- a company that creates CD albums with six tracks of foetal heartbeats and baby babbles mixed in with instrumental music to help young children sleep, relax and engage.

She said: "We didn’t want to lose our memory of what our daughter’s early laughter, babbles and first words sounded like.

"The funny little way she mispronounced things as she was trying to learn a new word made us smile so much."

Ridley was already aware babies remember melodies heard in the womb, which is why she decided to see if listening to her foetal heartbeat would settle Eva.

A Finnish study found that the brain activity of babies whose mothers had regularly listened to a lullaby during pregnancy was stronger when similar music was played after birth and at four months, than for babies who had only heard the lullaby after they were born.

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When hearing the song for the first time, Ridley said Eva stopped crying and numerous plays after that, the song helped her calm down, settle in the car, and become more engaged by babbling in reply to the track.

It was only when Eva was seven months old that Ridley began to notice the effect the track had on other children who came to play with Eva.

"They too would settle, babble back or calm down. That's when I asked myself, why don't we do this for other parents?" she said.

"We had an idea to make a few different tracks - upbeat and soothing ones - so parents could choose a track that most suited them."

Ridley was used to doing research as a medical laboratory technician before she went on maternity leave, so she decided to look into the science behind how this music could benefit babies.

"I looked at heartbeats in music and what it does," she said.

"One piece of research said babies remember things in the womb and there was other research on what makes people relaxed."

Ridley also found that playing recording music can help communication skills develop and have a calming effect on children, according to the Journal of Infancy.

She came up with four theories about why her tracks could benefit young children:

1) Rhythm of the maternal heart

A mother’s heartbeat provides a constant, soothing reminder of their presence, both before and after birth. Close skin to skin contact soon after birth allows infants to recognise the heartbeats of both parents, and this may calm them unlike anything else.

2) Babies remember music played to them in the womb

Out of the five senses hearing is the one that is most developed before birth. So it is no surprise recent studies have found that babies remember sounds and melodies played to them whilst in the womb and up to four months after being born.

3) Familiar songs act as a security blanket

Playing and associating a specific song as part of an infant's bedtime routine can help them relax. A familiar melody can help a baby feel safe and secure, even in unfamiliar setting.

4) Babbling babies

Babbling is a very important part of learning language and listening to babbling can help a child start to create complex sounds.

But while her business idea was booming, Ridley was faced with the decision of whether to return back to her old job or go self-employed and put her all into her new business.

She chose the latter.

"I was all set to go back to work because my year of maternity leave was up, but I was just getting this up and running, so I handed in my notice and went for my own business," Ridley explained.

"It's bizarre because my husband has always been self-employed and his family have always been self-employed too, so they are used to it. It was exciting and gave me lot of freedom.

"I learned so much, but it was really frightening too."

Ridley chose a website designer to help her build My First Beats and said conveying exactly what she wanted into words was hard but a "massive learning curve".

"The music side of it my husband wrote, played, and produced. The research was done by me," she explained.

"I think the two first hurdles for me were knowledge and confidence, but with a limited budget to set the business up I had to either pay someone to do things for me or learn what I can and do it myself.

"So I learned myself."

Ridley saved over £600 by learning how to form a limited company on her own after research on the internet and she said this gave her the confidence to carry on.

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Emma Ridley

"Other people I approached to help on this journey included the Chamber of Commerce, the D100 Doncaster Councils mentoring scheme, the Association of Independent Music (AIM) and also their start-up programme," said Ridley.

"It was difficult at times but very rewarding. Seeing things come together that you’ve worked for is very satisfying."

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The result of her hard work was a six-track CD album called: EVA Sensory Soundscapes.

EVA Sensory Soundscapes

Two 'soothing' tracks - more soothing with heartbeats on but slowed down slightly, these are more likely to help a baby sleep and calm down.

Eva's song - half way between them both. The heartbeat is quite prominent and it's got babbles in too.

Two 'upbeat' tracks - they still have heartbeats but they are a lot faster and they are recommended to be used during sensory play such as engaging children and letting them babble back.

Bonus track - called beat box baby and is just made up of babbles.

You can receive the EP on a disk for £5, or buy the tracks on iTunes for 99p.

Before launch on 27 April 2015, Ridley sent the tracks out to other parents to conduct case studies to see how babies responded to the tracks and music.

"The general reaction was really positive with some quite funny comments - one parent said her kid never settled in the car and the girl was asleep before the song was finished!" Ridley explained.

"A couple of others emailed me saying their children had been distressed and upset, but with the music they came over all cuddly.

"One mother said her son came and cuddled up with a blanket on her lap. It has successfully helped children fall asleep and calm down."

Having launched the website to the public only two months ago, Ridley said she is pleased with the reaction so far.

"Music, especially children’s music, is an extremely competitive market, so the fact we are getting our name around is saying something," she explained.

"I’m working hard to connect my business with the right partners and working hard to get it trialled in the right places.

"The fact everyone has been positive about our music, has been great news and shows we are doing something right."

Although currently aiming at children aged five and under, Ridley said parents of older children and parents of children with autism had told her they'd also found the music beneficial.

So what's next for Ridley?

"I want to look into learning difficulties in adults and how music can help people with dementia," she added.

"But we are also hoping to do bespoke tracks, to see if babies react to their own voice a lot more.

"We would get parents to record them, send us the recording, choose a track that they want and we will make it for them."

Another positive part of the business Ridley is passionate about is making sure 5% of every order goes to Children’s Hospice South West.

When discussing expansion plans, Ridley said she is hoping to partner with more charities so parents are able to choose which one receives their donation when purchasing.

Ridley gave birth to her second child, Oakley, earlier this year, and of course she has been recording his heartbeats during pregnancy and his babbles now.

"We've got loads of recordings to play with," she says. "We're already working on the next EP!"

HuffPost UK Lifestyle are running a month-long campaign called Celebrating Parents throughout June, to highlight the great things parents do every day, as well as the times they've gone above and beyond the call of duty.

If you would like to contribute, either with a special message of thanks to your mum and/or dad, or if you know of a parent (your own or someone else's) with an inspiring story to share, then please email us here with "Celebrating Parents" in your email's subject line.

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