Musical bumps

The Ritmo sound system

There is an incredible industry out there, peddling “stuff” to new mums. Stuff you didn’t even know you needed. Never have I read anything scarier than the Mothercare catalogue – so much choice, so much potential expense.

Take, for example, the sound system that fits snugly around your bump. Apparently, the Ritmo (RRP £139) is hot in the USA due to the Mozart Effect ™: the belief that exposure to the works of the Austrian wunderkind while in the womb will elevate your baby to super-brain status.

In 1993, psychologists found that listening to Mozart increased spatial-temporal reasoning. I did look up exactly what this meant, but was none the wiser after ingesting the science speak. In any case, some people have dismissed these claims as justification for marketing yet more expensive, branded “stuff” in my direction.

I forwarded images of said sonic contraption to friends. “No, no, no, no, no, NO!” said one mum-of-two, adding: “You’ll be sectioned if anyone catches you wearing that in public.” Another replied: “I want one, and I’m not even pregnant.”

I’m not sure I’d sport such a gizmo, but I do hope our unborn child loves music as much as we do. Not that our tastes are limited to Mozart; she is just as likely to depart my womb like a bat out of hell, singing along to Meat Loaf. Or jolly young Mika, at whose Eden Session I’ll be celebrating the start of my maternity leave. I must remember not to bounce around too much to “Big Girl, You Are Beautiful”, lest Daughter make an unplanned appearance a month early.

It’s clear that sound in utero is important. We are often reminded at ante-natal classes that our babies can already hear our voices, and will recognize them the minute they pop out. Dads are encouraged to talk to the bump; OH looks rather perplexed by this suggestion, and has so far mustered up “Hello, bump.” I, on the other hand, have spent many years talking to myself (motto: “It’s the only way to guarantee a sensible answer”), and will happily have lengthy conversations with my current extension.

I’ve also been encouraged to sing to the bump. This is relatively easy, as I sing a lot. Current choirs include Resonet, a classical ensemble performing early religious music in Latin; and at the other end of the spectrum, a Ministry of Song project focusing on dance music from the early 1990s. Hence my child’s first words will be either “Kyrie eleison” or “Wooh! Yeah!”

At pregnancy yoga, we often give our babies a “sonic massage” with a humming breath. I think of this on the occasions I slip down to bolster male vocal parts, skimming bass notes and wondering whether my testicles are about to drop. Does baby wonder: “I thought babies came out of mummies, not daddies”?

I was once asked to conjure a happy image of family life, and came up with car journeys to a soundtrack of compilation CDs compiled by yours truly to stimulate and amuse our jolly brood. Never would the words “Are we nearly there yet?” be uttered on such a trip.

Such vital skills will be put into practice very soon as we choose our favourite child-friendly music. Our baby will drift off to sleep to the lullaby softeness of Vashti Bunyan, or the peaceful rhythms of Gregorian chant. Should we need a wakeful presence, it will be back to Mika, or perhaps some jaunty folk-rock Steeleye Span. But not the ones about dear, sweet children being murdered and flung down wells by wicked step-parents; and not the ones purportedly about birds in the bush or bonny black hares, both double entendres of indescribable filth. Actually, once you take those out, that doesn’t leave much.

In the meantime, I have a policy of waiting until, post-baby, I identify a specific need before actually parting with any cash. As for the sound system – I think I’ll just turn the stereo up to 11.

* The Ministry of Song Project debuts at the Eden Project Arts Café on Friday, June 4.
*  Resonet performs at Blisland Church on Sunday, June 13.
* Mika plays the Eden Sessions on Sunday, June 27.
* To buy the Ritmo, visit


About kirstienewton

Editor of Cornwall Today magazine, and excited new mum
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4 Responses to Musical bumps

  1. Pete Cross says:

    You’re sounding well grounded Kirstie. Personally I’ve been amazed at the stuff you can do without. And, more importantly, useful stuff that you can borrow for a bit, then hand it back, or on. I’m talking immaculate, barely-used cots, car seats, trikes, high chairs, walkers, all sorts of learning toys, shape sorters etc. Of course, you’ve always got to weigh this up against the fact that it’s also lovely to have new stuff and baby should have the best! But, as you say, some of the unnecessary crap on the market is just ludicrous and cynical.
    PS Bruce Springsteen’s Racing in the Street will teach anyone all they need to equip them for life. In my opinion.

  2. Pete, I’ve been lucky enough to be given a whole ton of stuff by generous friends, from maternity wear, birthing balls and slings to whole sacks full of clothes and toys. Quite apart from the money, we’re thinking of the environment – think of the CO2 creating all that crap must pump into the atmosphere.

  3. JAN SCOTT says:

    Agree completely, there is so much out there that is not even needed, the sound of a mothers voice will soothe a child far better than any mood music, all terain buggies are on the whole cumbersome and expensive, a backpack is much more versatile. you will soon learn what is needed. and as pete says recycle recyle recycle. there is a great national web org called freecycle whereby you give away things you dont need anymore and you reevie things you need. This way way I got loads of stuff free, which saved money, energy and kept it outof landfill.

  4. I should never say it; considering my “on-the-fringe” involvement with the Mother & Baby Awards, but ditto – Pete Cross, you’ll never really need to buy anything new – if you can bear not to (except for perhaps nappies and then I remembered the number of reusable reusables on the 2nd hand market!) Children only start to wear out their clothes when the start climbing tress so there must be an enormous baby gro mountain out there somewhere.
    I only sang to my children after they were born and that was just to stop myself from screaming.

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