The Birthlight Trust is a non-profit organisation dedicated to enhance the health and wellbeing of women and their families from conception through to the third year. We use simple bodybased practices inspired from yoga and traditional modes of parenting. Some of our practices are land-based and others are in water. Our aim is to enhance the wellbeing of women and their partners through the journey of pregnancy and birth, and to help parents and infants relax in shared enjoyment of their new life together.
Spirals of joy and wellbeing
Our overall approach is integrated and holistic, in partnership with mainstream health care. In today’s fast paced world, despite medical advances, ensuring the physical and emotional nurturing of pregnant women and new families remains a priority so simple that it can be forgotten. There is increasing research evidence that positive experiences of pregnancy, birth and early parenting have numerous and lasting health benefits. From conception to the third year, parents can join birthlight classes at any point to create what we call an ‘expanding spiral of joy and wellbeing’.
Birth as a fulfilling experience
The name ‘Birthlight’ expresses our conviction that birth can be a ‘light’ and fulfilling experience when women are given adequate preparation, care and support. We cannot ignore the spiritual dimension of birth. William Blake’s poem ‘Visions of Infant Joy’ inspires our vision of all babies given a gentle and loving welcome and cherished as conscious and sensitive beings.
Supporting new mothers
In the absence of extended family networks and previous exposure to babies, the transition to motherhood can be stressful and even traumatic. Birthlight aims to ease this transition with holistic support of mothers and their new families.
Creating the best foundations
After birth, babies benefit greatly from touch and movement best suited to their developmental needs. There is abundant evidence that an early mutual enjoyment of parents and babies is crucial to healthy growth and creates the best foundation for learning and self-confidence in childhood.
Body based practices
A great deal of information is offered to pregnant women and new parents. But information does not replace experiential, body-based practices for responding to day-to-day challenges in self-care and caring for babies. Birthlight offers practical and effective ways to help each parent and baby make the most of this special time.
30 years teaching experience
We use breathing awareness, spinal alignment, adapted yoga poses and flow-movement, touch, sound and relaxation in innovative programmes supported by an extensive underpinning knowledge of anatomy, physiology and scientific research evidence. Our programme is the result of a long process of adaptation, testing and teaching experience.
Birthlight is for everyone
Birthlight practices are simple and often playful. They are accessible to all women and parent-baby pairs, irrespective of levels of fitness or backgrounds. Cutting across social and ethnic divides, birthlight facilitates community-based groups that complement or replace traditional family support networks. Our values of respect, acceptance and celebration of life inspire positive and friendly interactions at all levels in our organisation. We teach with awareness and with respect for the individual to build confidence and trust. Acceptance and tolerance are fundamental to our teaching.
Continuity of support
We welcome women and new families at any point from conception to the third year. This continuum of caring support complements the fragmented prenatal and postnatal health care facilities.
Birthlight has grown organically from small pioneering classes for groups of women and families that Françoise Barbira Freedman set up in Cambridge in the 1980’s. As an anthropologist whose research at Cambridge University involved sharing the lives of Amazonian rainforest people in Peru, Françoise was profoundly influenced by the care and support she received from them while she was pregnant with her first child and as a new mother. Using her skills in swimming and yoga, she developed new practices to translate what she had learnt in the Amazon for the benefit of Western parents. Mostly through word of mouth about positive outcomes, birthlight has grown from Cambridge homespun classes to a wide international network of trainers, teachers and parents. Many people have been influential and instrumental to this growth.
Birthlight training started with opportunities opened by Robin Monro and the Yoga Biomedical Trust in London. Early courses have served as templates for many of the trainings currently offered in the UK in Perinatal Yoga, Baby Yoga and WellWoman Yoga.
Birthlight training is supported by the publication of books and visual materials. Françoise is the author of eight books, most of which are currently translated into other languages, and has coauthored a further three books with Doriel Hall. Birthlight tutors and members have collaborated in the production of teaching materials, books and DVDs, which carry the birthlight logo. Together, birthlight training tutors are shaping the content and format of courses as birthlight grows in order to better respond to the needs of pregnant women and new parents and babies around the world. Our partners in Zurich, Moscow, Singapore and Sydney have pioneered the creation of international birthlight centres.
Françoise’s on-going academic career as a Cambridge anthropologist is closely tied with the development of Birthlight as a network that spans across worldwide midwifery organisations, interdisciplinary scientific research communities and humanitarian international associations. She is still involved with Peruvian Amazonian forest people and actively supports the conservation of a forest base essential to their way of life.