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International mother-baby development congress in Beijing

Straight from the London-Beijing flight, it was good to see Judy’s warm smile in the waiting crowd. Judy Kou 郭亭嫆, Birthlight training tutor from Taiwan, travelled to Beijing to meet Sunny 单晓路 with whom she partners to coordinate aquatic courses in China. We picked up Sunny’s husband, baby son and mother-in-law from one of the rail stations since they travelled by express train (they live in Qing Dao, east of China).  It took a few hours through the Beijing traffic to reach our destination, a huge conference center on the Beijing outer belt that hosted the seventh international mother-baby development congress. Through Sunny, I was invited to participate as a speaker to present our baby swimming programme, that is currently applied in 20 schools in Beijing and growing.

Entering the main hall the next morning was daunting. With Judy’s and Sunny’s backing, as I found my seat to the right of most eminent Chinese paediatrician Jixiaocheng 籍孝诚 his warm presence and greeting in fluent English eased the challenge of getting up on the stage. I had only prepared a short address that included a rehearsed welcome in mandarin written down in pinyin Roman script by Judy. But the presenters before me were speaking for 20 minutes!  I improvised, expanding from baby swimming to talk about the vision of Birthlight and its applications for new parents in Chinese cities in adapting traditional practices inspired from the Amazon and from yoga philosophy, which has a lot in common with the values of ancient China.

As the congress unfolded, with its special importance at the dawn of the new two-children family policy, I gained a clearer awareness of how we, our tiny Birthlight team from the UK and our Chinese partners, fitted in this official event spearheaded by formidable Wu Guixian 吴桂贤. It was more than a triangulation of practitioners-researchers in maternity care and “early years” education, with representatives from what is clearly a fast growing sector of industry supported by media and venture capital brokers. As Day 1 unfolded, the preoccupation with combining science, technology and tradition to support mothers and babies in creating the best foundation for the holistic and harmonious development of families was visible. Talks given by a Shaolin monk and by the Indian founder of ‘education for peace’ were well received. I felt at home with the promotion of “mother-baby nurture” in practice and enjoyed meeting many postnatal care professionals who adapt the traditional confinement time in new mother-baby centers all over China.

Through to Day 2, a session and a workshop dedicated to baby swimming made me immensely proud of the Birthlight aquatic tutor team’s achievements in Beijing and in five regions of China: the presentations and questions revealed how much Birthlight certified parent-baby swimming teachers already knew and how keen they were on furthering their knowledge. Having the privilege to meet teachers together with Sunny and Judy, I could appreciate the foundations laid by the Birthlight tutors and office team in three years. This congress was a special confirmation that Birthlight is more than the sum of its parts and that our practices and our model resonate with deep aspects of being human and having babies in today’s world.


Françoise Freedman
Birthlight Founder / Director

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