LISTEN: Baby Eva’s heartbeats inspire South Yorkshire parents’ enterprise

Forget Hickory Dickory Dock – babies are immersed in a world of music before they are born as they dance to the most basic beat of life: the heartbeat.

When South Yorkshire mum Emma Ridley was pregnant in 2012, she and her husband, Ben, recorded their unborn daughter’s racing heartbeats from 35 weeks.

Emma and Ben Ridley with their children Eva, two and a half, and Oakley, three months. Image: Rob Mank

Emma and Ben Ridley with their children Eva, two and a half, and Oakley, three months. Image: Rob Mank

And when Eva arrived on Boxing Day that year, they spent her first six months documenting her babbles, gurgles, laughter and first attempts at words.

Emma, aged 35, says: “The days and weeks began flying by in the chaos of being new parents and we almost forgot to stop and enjoy the special little moments right in front of us.

“We began recording the funny, cute little giggles and laughs our little one was gifting us.”

Emma’s imagination, coupled with 32-year-old Ben’s background in music production, soon led to the creation of a piece of music incorporating Eva’s heartbeats and first sounds.

Eva Ridley plays a Green Monk xylophone. Image: Rob Mank

Eva Ridley plays a Green Monk xylophone. Image: Rob Mank

“Photographs can caputure a moment, but it was the sounds that we wanted to preserve in music,” says Emma.

“We wanted the music to listen to and to take us back to those special, fleeting memories.”

And so Eva’s Song was born. Emma, of Lakeside, Doncaster, started playing Eva her song during playtime, on car journeys and as part of her bedtime routine. The effects were impressive.

“When she was distressed we could play it to her and it would be something familiar for her,” says Emma.

Sooty with a Green Monk xylophone

Sooty with a Green Monk xylophone

“Eva was a very colicky baby. When we put the music on we called it the Big Guns. We soon discovered that, not only could this be a cherished keepsake, but it could also have a positive influence on infants in happy play and calming sleep.”

When Eva was seven months old, Emma started setting up a company, My First Beats, so the couple could provide a new and exciting choice in baby music to a wider audience than just friends and family.

Emma, a former call centre worker and lab technician, even had to take on music powerhouse Dr Dre as his legal team felt the name was too similar to Dr Dre’s trademark, Beats by Dre.

The Ridleys won and My First Beats’ debut EP, Eva – Soothing Soundscapes, was launched last month.

Arthur Greenwood with his Green Monk toys employees

Arthur Greenwood with his Green Monk toys employees

“It’s not plinky-plonky music,” says Emma. “I have had parents say it’s chilled them out and it’s something they would listen to as well.”

The EP was even played during the birth of the couple’s second child, Oakley, now three months.

“It was like his sister was there when he was born,” Emma says. “He is such a calm baby.”

My First Beats has now partnered with Children’s Hospice South West, with 5 per cent of profits going to help terminally ill children and their families.

In addition, London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital is trialling playing the music in its respiratory ward, while Birmingham Hospital is using it in its neonatal ward.

“We had successful results from our case studies which are ongoing,” says Emma. “We will always push ourselves to provide not just sensory music but the science to back it up too.”

Emma says she is incredibly proud of what she and Ben have achieved so far, particularly as she has juggled setting up the business with being a mum to her young children.

“It has been quite difficult but it can be done,” she says. “I want to inspire other mums. I have never set up a business before but I have always been good at problem solving and that’s what this is. I figure things out.”

HISTORY OF BUSINESS ACUMEN

It turns out entrepreneurial flair runs in Emma Ridley’s family.

Emma is the great-great grand-daughter of Arthur Greenwood, who founded Green Monk Toys in the late 1940s.

Arthur, from Barnsley, wanted to produce tin toys for children as few toys were available for youngsters after the war.

He started with £100 and a workshop in his garden shed in Monk Bretton. But the business soon expanded into a factory in Darfield where Arthur mainly employed women, a forward-thinking move in that era.

International toy company Fisher Price bought components for their toys from Green Monk and Arthur shipped everything from tea sets to pea shooters to the likes of the USA and Japan.

One of the most famous toys was Arthur’s xylophone, which was a permanent feature on the Sooty Show with Harry Corbett.

Emma said: “All the family were involved which included his wife, his son and daughter, and in turn their children which were my dad and three uncles.

“I can remember walking around the factory and getting the chance to test out the toys. I had a tea set named after me too, called ‘Emma’.”

Arthur died, aged 75, in 1978 and the factory finally closed in the early 1980s during the recession.