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Birthlight baby conference in China

Second International 'Light in Water' conference held in Qingdao, China 18-20 March 2019

Since taking part as an invited speaker in the 7th national Mother and Baby Conference in Beijing in 2016, when the go ahead for two-child families was officially launched, I have gradually gained more understanding of Sunny Shan’s vision for “baby swimming” as “early aquatic education” in China. This is in sharp contrast with the many commercial franchises that have sprung up in the recent boom of the baby swimming industry in China since 2012.

This amazing event was a platform to consolidate bonds among our Birthlight aquatic team that has included tutor Judy Kou from Taiwan, tutors in training Vivian and our aquatic coordinator in China Sunny Shan, who hosted this conference from Qingdao, her home city where her swim school is located. Sunny is a visionary woman entrepreneur, talented, ambitious in the right sense of the term, a superb professional and excellent organizer, a team builder respected and liked by hundreds of baby swimming teachers, many of whom trained through Birthlight. Sunny has aligned her conviction to champion the Birthlight approach with her experience as Yanyan’s mother and with the teachings of her professors in infant psychology and development such as Profs Shao and Bao. The vision of Birthlight-Baby China, with its delightful logo, is close to our Water Parenting, conveyed in different but converging ways by Sally and now Nicole and Gill, and in past years by Shawn and Amanda.



The 2017 Birthlight conference in Beijing, convened by Sunny, established the leading role of our Birthlight methods in laying foundations for water safety and early swimming in gentle ways. Most of the main franchises in China stem from Birthlight in a more or less direct way and the time seemed ready for moving towards standards. International standards are not recognized in China and quality standards need to be developed by Chinese professionals. In the recent 2019 conference in Qingdao, Sunny’s opening address was that the time is now for quality standards: not only about methods but also to safeguard babies’ wellbeing by regulating the quality of water in warm pools. To this effect, she invited Jim Twinkles Hawkins from Water Safety Consultants Ltd.

The way to officially recognized standards is research-based evidence. I was not looking for more work but Sunny’s amazing enthusiasm and personal integrity motivated me to say YES, Let’s Go!

So, this conference and the March full moon were the birth of yet another ‘crazy project’ that will take a lot of energy to implement but is the right thing to do, right now, to promote the kind of early aquatic education we believe in, based on connection and parent-baby communication. Together with Sara Villagómez Chávez who represented Acuarela Educación Acuasomática from Mexico at the conference, and founder of Acuarela Beatriz Esesarte Pesqueir with whom the idea has been discussed since the 2017 conference, we are setting up a research consortium Mexico-China-UK-Australia. More information will follow as this research initiative takes off.

New Directions for Baby Swimming Research - Presentation>

Sunny has always supported better support and education of special babies and children in China, both on land and in water. The contribution by Brid Browne, from Institute of Technology, Tralee Ireland, opened another door for collaborative research between our Chinese friends and postgraduate students at her institute. Brid’s presentation showed the long-term benefits of early aquatic education for both children with special and additional needs, and their parents, with a focus on body-mind confidence and parent-child positive interaction.

These developments have been made possible by all of us in the Birthlight aquatic team working together and special thanks go to Sally for many happy trainings in China. Sunny uses the concept of “birthlight family” that seems to resonate well with Chinese values. Families can withhold differences, move forward together into the future and celebrate achievements.

Françoise Freedman
Birthlight Founder / Director

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