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Supporting new families

introducing newborn baby to water

Introducing newborn babies to water in a relaxing and stimulating bath can be done at home in a bathtub or in an inflatable paddling pool: dads and older brothers and sisters can be involved too.    Photo by Perrine Alliod.

2 April 2020

So much has changed in our lives and around us, so fast, since the beginning of the UK lockdown. I hope that you are finding new sources of creativity each day with your families, rhythms for daily activities and an upbeat spirit. Uncertainty is unfamiliar to most of us, but it is part of many people’s lives and we need to be grateful for the tools of communication that connect us all, and for the supplies of food and clean water we can access. I recall being marooned with two families on a forest island during the rainy season in the Amazon while pregnant, watching the water level rise and food rations dwindle to nothing. Everyone kept calm and took turn to tell funny stories. One priority at this time is certainly to help pregnant women with reducing anxiety levels while maternity services are adjusting. NHS midwives continue to provide kind compassionate and skilled care and there are independent midwives out there. Some of you are doulas too. But there is a lot that can be done to support and help parents to be prepared for eventualities. With my daughter Mary in the 35th week of her second pregnancy, online resources for home birth are very helpful for getting our three-generation household ready. For reliable information, pregnant women can be directed to the RCM dedicated area of the website which has everything you need to know about coronavirus and pregnancy, from clear, maternity-specific clinical guidance to advice for the pregnant women you have been teaching before the lockdown.

birth pool swim

Grand-daughter Rosie missing her swimming and practising tumbles in her mum's birthing pool.

While the focus of the RCM and RCOG posts is on birth, the greatest need for support is that of new mothers and families cut off from their local support networks. Online support such as that offered by some Birthlight tutors, such as Bryony Vickers, is invaluable at this time to help with postnatal recovery both physically and mentally with a personal approach. Apps are fine, but there is nothing like a familiar face for reassuring guidance in the most vulnerable time post birth, particularly for first time parents.

While some organisations are denying their qualified teachers to create short demo videos online for baby massage and gentle yoga with babies, we trust Birthlight teachers, particularly those with pre-locked down established classes in Sure Start centres or in their communities, to reach out to families in their homes. There may be some details missed but our training quality standards will hopefully guarantee safe demos. It is necessary to offer a disclaimer with each video, reminding parents of their responsibility, and to double check that your insurance certificate is up to date. If you are insured with our Birthlight insurers BGi, your certificate carries some public liability but all precautions to ensure safe practice must be taken. You are Birthlight trained, but due to insurance restrictions we cannot take responsibility for the videos and other online teachings that you offer members of the public in your name and we are not able to list them for wider access. Thank you all for your initiatives for benefitting new families.

We are still in the process of navigating our way through the lockdown and accommodating to the inevitable financial toll on Birthlight as a small charity. Since our last newsletter to you, a restructuring of Birthlight as an organisation has become inevitable to reduce complexity and with it, expenditure. In this rapidly evolving situation, our priority is to develop our Birthlight training resources as sets of practical online practices directly accessible. For teaching members’ use, practices will be also be made available with updated information and extended links to research, analysis and commentary. Coming soon: Online guide to happy first baths for the Fourth Trimester.

Watching exercise programmes including yoga offered via the internet, some great fun but mostly done without a focus on the breath, reinforces the appeal of our Kitchen Yoga and Chair Yoga practices before and after birth, and for women’s wellness. Breathing in an aligned posture does wonders for the body-mind and for keeping endocrine glands in balance. This is what yoga’s most precious gift as a form of exercise. Within a few minutes, we can connect back to calmness and our inner light, affecting all around us. Toddlers and little children get it so well. Take time to remember one Birthlight practice that women or families participating in your classes invariably found enjoyable. The blissful wave of silence following them will come to mind. Perhaps an instant relaxation? Or one of the “funny walks”? or an Asana given flow and grace with a rebozo that delights babies?

At a time when the British Wheel of Yoga is limiting its insurance to teachers of Mother & Baby Yoga as a sub-category of Postnatal Yoga, there is a case to be made for the Baby Yoga that Birthlight has pioneered with safe and developmentally sound moves with a focus on the baby. Postnatal Yoga, that we were the first to promote, is certainly beneficial for women if taught in a gentle progression over the early months. But integrating babies safely, particularly very little ones, in postnatal yoga, cannot be left to improvisation. Sound yoga teaching is required, with an understanding of babies as they develop in a multi-faceted way and learn interactively with parents through movement, imitation and communication.

While we prepare online resources, we do want to make sure you feel supported within our Birthlight network. We value your feedback on how we’re doing, what you think we’re getting right, what we may have missed the mark on – please let us know by emailing us at  [email protected]  If you have recently attended a training course and are concerned about your coursework, please do not worry. We will extend times for submission as needed. This could be a good time to complete worksheets and essays?
Keep well,

Warmest wishes,
Françoise.

Dr Françoise Freedman
Birthlight founder/director.