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Shawn Tomlinson - My Birthlight journey and retirement

What a wonderful journey this had been.

Since becoming a birthlight teacher and tutor, I have had the opportunity to share, learn from and mentor so many amazing people worldwide.

My most profound 'learn' over these many years has been to fully understand that babies are continuously communicating with us, making choices and waiting for us to partner with them.

Babies and children, like adults have the profound right of choice, a right that we must always respect, as they are truly our best teachers.

I would like to thank all the families and friends who over the years have shared of themselves unstintingly during Teacher Training  and to all who have embraced birthlight and have continued to share this amazing way of life throughout the world.

My path now takes me on a different journey as many of you are already aware, I am a mother to a large family. My husband and I have two young daughters still at home and our big kids now have precious babies of their own.

I intend to retire from birthlight to spend more time with my family and also to dedicate myself to my theological studies.

I wish birthlight every blessings as it continues to support families from the beginning of  their precious pregnancies, to birth and beyond.



Fellow tutors and birthlight teachers have sent messages for us to share, these can be found below..


When Shawn Tomlinson joined our first residential Infant Aquatics training course at Riddlesworth Hall in Suffolk in 2001, then stayed for the Baby Yoga course and soon after enrolled on the Aqua Yoga course, the coupling of her passionate interest for developmental skills with her understanding of water body balance (as a Shaw Method teacher) was already clear. Before long, her practice led her from Birthlight teacher to trainer.

The years that followed unfolded Shawn’s insights into primitive and postural reflexes developed after training with Sally Goddard. With warm eloquence, she could show parents how their babies did not throw their arms up in excitement in popular underwater photographs, but in sheer fearful expression of their Moro reflex.

Shawn Tomlinson’s exploration of submersion in baby swimming over the last decade have recently flourished in acclaimed presentations in international conferences and during courses she taught for Birthlight in Taiwan, China, Greece, Norway, Japan, Czech Republic and recently Austria. Shawn is a leading advocate of gentle, elective submersion.  The CPD she has developed for guiding baby swimming teachers in the UK and elsewhere towards dialogue submersions furthers both the principles and the practices taught in Birthlight in a truly collaborative and generous spirit.

Thank you, Shawn, Comadre, for years of partnership and for the conversations at your beautiful farm, where you made all of us welcome in the midst of your expanding family. Very best wishes for your life ahead in all its expressions.

Françoise Freedman,
Birthlight founder and director



I remember the first time I met Shawn so very clearly. She was the tutor on the Birthlight Baby Swimming Part 1 Course that I attended in October 2006. I remember how calm, warm hearted and gentle she was.  Her smile was huge and wide and she had this aura of serenity about her. In truth, she sort of glowed!

Little did I know at that time, our meeting would signal the beginning of a decade of study, self-reflection and personal growth. Eventually leading to her mentoring me on my journey to become a tutor for Birthlight.

At the time of our first meeting, my son was 6-months old.  I am certain it is no coincidence that Shawn introduced him to his first submersion that day. Her dedication to trauma free, self-elective submersion has fundamentally changed the world of baby swimming for the better. She has worked tirelessly to spread the message of gentle baby swimming and her reputation as a Birthlight Tutor is at the forefront of baby swimming internationally.

It has been a great honour to have Shawn as a mentor. Her support, kindness and willingness to share her knowledge and wisdom have been both humbling and enlightening. I am so very thankful to have met her and had the pleasure of learning under her nurturing wing. Being trusted with her legacy to continue spreading the message of a gentle, loving approach to baby swimming and submersion is one I intend to carry with integrity and pride.  

Finally, I’d like to say Thank you! Thank you for your open heart and mind, thank you for sharing and imparting your knowledge and wisdom freely without reservation. Thank you for trusting and believing in me. Thank you for your sense of humour and cheeky, playful nature. You will always be the ‘Rebel with a Cause’ and the baby-swimming world seems smaller without you.

Alison Duff, Birthlight tutor



I've had the pleasure of meeting Shawn at numerous Birthlight events. One thing is guaranteed, Shawn always brings with her untold vibrancy and bucket loads of joy. One time stands out for me when we were hosted by Liz Doherty in County Donegal for a Birthlight Nurturing Baby Massage update. A group of us went for a dip in the nearly harbour. Dripping our way back to the accommodation, I noticed that Shawn and Francoise were missing. It seems that Shawn had discovered freshly deposited seaweed on the peaceful tiny beach and spontaneously and ingeniously decided that sharing an organic invigorating seaweed wrap was the order of the day. That sums up one of the main things I respect and admire about Shawn - just like Gandhi, her life is her message: communicable, sharing, loving and fun. Wishing Shawn all the very best for your future endeavours, may loving communication flow between all you meet.

Marion O'Connor, Birthlight tutor


Here are two farewell from students that came to a birthlight course taught by Shawn and, as they were inspired by Shawn, they felt it was important to introduce birthlight  baby swimming in their own countries and become birthlight course organisers. As both had a very close relationship with Shawn, we know that that it is hard for them to see Shawn’s leaving for another  stage of her life. Birthlight has a great pool of tutors and we look forward to inspire and train many other students in the future  in Greece and Austria.  The spiral of joy will carry on!

Sylvie Russell, Birthlight executive mananger


A tutor whose knowledge, understanding and love for what she does is second to none!!!

This is a statement that can fully describe Shawn who has managed to inspire and motivate so many people of different fields for so many years!

When I met her as my tutor in her little farm just outside Norfolk, I could never imagine that she would manage to change my life in so many ways! Her deep knowledge, the way that she sees things and speaks about them are beyond compare! Without a doubt, she is the most passionate woman that I have ever met!

Shawn instilled the team spirit in our team and all the participants were enchanted and inspired!

I am so honored that I have met her and I have been lucky enough to have her as my tutor, my mentor, my friend, my famiy!

Birthlight will definitely miss her! But, during all this years she was generous enough to give us her knowledge and this is why we will try to do our best to keep up with ethos and love for babies and water, just like she taught us!

On behalf of the Birthlight community of Greece and Cyprus, I would like to thank Shawn for everything that she has done for all of us and wish her good luck in her new venture! We will miss you!

Kiki Katsikari
Birthlight Baby Swimming & Pregnancy Instructor,
Birthlight course coordinator Greece - Cyprus

Sunshine: When Shawn enters the room/the pool Sun rises.
Heart: Shawn has a big Heart.
Awesome: I appreciate her Awesome knowledge in her field.
Wonderful: She is such a Wonderful person.
Natural: I love her Natural was she lives.
I'm thankful for everything she did for me and I want to thank her also in my mother language:
Danke Shawn für alles, was du für mich gemacht hast und was ich von dir lernen durfte. Ich wünsche dir für alles, was noch kommt, das Beste!
(Thank you Shawn for all the things you did for me and for everything I could learn from you. I wish you all the best for your future!)
The biggest hugs from Austria

Nicole Sauseng
Birthlight teacher & course organiser


Shawn's previous newsletter posts:

Crazy Aunty Shawn is Swimming for Jay
Special and additional needs swimming
Shawn Tomlinson at the STA Conference
A Tutor’s Delight
Birthlight Infant Aquatics and Aquanatal yoga in Japan
2nd Austrian Baby Swimming conference