Pregnancy, birth and the postnatal months are the foundations of wellbeing for the individual, for the family, for society. This is a time of intense physical and emotional transformation that needs the best possible care but also a time to be enjoyed and celebrated.
Our global culture is advanced medically but neglects “nurture”. Promoting greater well-being for pregnant women, new parents and their babies is a priority in today’s world.
To create and implement innovative solutions to support “new life” holistically from pregnancy to year 3.
Focus on relationship. Development is interactive from early pregnancy: babies grow “in and through relationships”.
Our role is to show new parents how babies are showing them and teaching them who they are, what they need and how to best respond to them as the development of their brains and bodies unfold in time.
Today’s global urban parents love their babies but are not sure how to express this love outside local family traditions that may no longer correspond either to what we know about babies and to changes in society, as fathers wish to take a greater role in parenting.
Continuity, integration and harmony are our priority
We accompany babies as they grow before and after they are born, and pregnant women and their husbands/partners as they become parents and discover the wonder of nurturing their babies. It takes a village to bring up a baby: the practices we share “create community” at the grassroots through local “circles of friendship” of pregnant women. Each circle is part of a vast network of real and virtual connections and exchange. Birthlight comes into being in this worldwide network that is more than the sum of our parts and helps us to constantly evolve and adapt to different situations and cultures of maternity and child care.
Practical applications of scientific research
A lot of research since doctors believed that fetuses and newborns did not feel pain and did not remember their experiences. But cultural change of baby care is slow to adapt to this knowledge. The information can be accessed easily but it is often overwhelming and confusing for parents to be and new parents facing day to day challenges. Birthlight offers practices that translate research findings as every day applications for babies and their parents or carers, matching windows of infant development from conception to the third year.
Best of tradition, best of innovation
In today’s world, technology offers new opportunities for enjoying maternity and enhancing baby development: aquanatal and baby swimming in warm pools, for example. But technology also has detrimental impacts: pregnant women need to slow down and have appropriate forms of exercise; medicalized maternity care can prioritize safety over the quality of experience of women, couples and babies; car seats and nursery furniture can limit babies’ opportunities to “move and grow”: baby yoga helps babies enjoy their natural movements through interactive play while promoting better feeding and sleeping in short sessions that even the busiest parents can make time for.
Integration of health care and community support before and after birth
Flexible models based on “circles of friendship”. Birthlight collaborates with doctors, midwives and nurses in public or private hospitals (prenatal “centring” in maternity hospitals, postnatal staff-led classes in mother & baby centres or children’s centres). We also have models for creating peer-groups led by either volunteers or professional trainers in their their local communities.
Birthlight’s global outreach springs from a small non-profit organization based in Cambridge, UK. Birthlight’s founder Francoise Freedman PhD, has lectured at Cambridge University for most of her working life. Her vision for Birthlight has stemmed from her field research with rainforest indigenous people in South America, her teaching as a medical anthropologist and her exploration of innovative body-based practices to support motherhood as a trained yoga teacher/therapist and a swimmer. Birthlight’s initial core was formed by Cambridge peer groups while Francoise raised her four children. Members of these groups then became leaders and trainers as demand grew in other parts of the UK and then in other countries through word of mouth and publications.
Our model is shaped by our intent to best respond to the unmet needs of new families with practical applications that are simple but grounded in research and delivered with excellence. Each baby and each parent/baby pair are unique. We respect difference as enriching at all levels from parent to trainer. Each trainer is distinguishingly a Birthlight trainer while retaining their unique personalities.
As Birthlight expands, we have addressed the need to consolidate our structure while retaining the advantages of fluidity and self-transformation. Birthlight’s partners play a main role in organizing trainings in their countries. We encourage the emergence of local trainers who wish to work with our organization through the Birthlight training structure. We now have three generations of trainers working together and participating in the overall development of the Birthlight network on five continents. In this way, we constitute a lineage in maternity health education independently from any franchise, corporation or commercial interests.
Our expansion has been funded entirely from small profits made in training courses that we pride ourselves in making accessible to families with moderate incomes. We accept donations and raise funding from sponsors and grant-giving organizations to support our conferences and activities with less privileged families as well as offer assisted places in our trainings for motivated applicants who cannot afford the fees, particularly single mothers.
We offer a vast array of distinctive practices that work simultaneously with the body and the mind to enhance wellbeing during pregnancy, during labour and after birth.
- They are easy to perform, with progressive variations that make them accessible and enjoyable to all, from the unfit to the extremely fit
- They promote a relaxed way of being
- They focus on nurturing interaction: mother fetus, pregnant couples, birth partners, mother-baby/father-baby/new family unit whichever form it has, parents and grand-parents.
Birthlight practices are original innovations corresponding to our vision and our mission of translating research into simple practices for the benefit of pregnant women, parents to be, new parents and centrally for the benefit of babies in their unique journeys into the world. Main streams of inspiration are easily visible: local cultural traditions of birth and parenting, yoga as both an ancient philosophy and an array of techniques, the human attraction to water for wellbeing.
Yet what is unique to Birthlight is the capacity of creative adaptation based on knowledge. First and foremost, anatomy and physiology, the science of infant development, including neurobiology; working with midwives and doctors, with health professionals specialized in maternity or baby care, there is a confirmation of certain traditional practices or innovations tested in local groups. We abide by the Hippocratic principle of first Do No Harm.
Many practices pioneered by Birthlight have become mainstream: baby relaxed holds both on land and in water (“safety hold”, “little harbor”); aqua yoga walks for pregnant women;
Fluid adaptations of yoga poses in easy sequences; use of supports such as chairs or floating aids for facilitating micro-movements of the pelvis.
Birthlight teaching style
Birthlight is distinctive not just by its original set of practices but also by the way of imparting them. The teaching groups are always in circles, whether on land and in water. At all levels, group leaders and trainers express our principles of acting as supporting facilitators rather than as “teachers”.
Our distinctive training mode, combining theory and experiential knowledge rather than presenting them separately in teacher-training courses, supports the integration of information and body-based practices at all levels.
Awareness, mindfulness, self and other nurture through positive mindsets are integral to Birthlight, through practices that are both imparted formally and mirrored informally during trainings and local classes. We aim at following the yoga principles of total respect for the person (Namaste) and non-violence (Ahimsa) to support parents in truly welcoming their babies into the world.
- No doctor bashing
- Our nuggets of wisdom
- Raising women’s awareness of their inner wisdom and self-confidence as they become mothers, feeling they are the experts as far as their babies are concerned.