Among the cultural changes associated with the turn of the 21st century, the rise of popularity in the use of water before, during and after childbirth has happened so fast that it has gone nearly unnoticed. In many countries around the world, we now expect to find water birth facilities in maternity hospitals. Taking babies to local pools has become a ‘must do’ activity that attracts fathers in increasing numbers. Pregnant women turn to water for prenatal fitness and relaxation now more than ever before. From its local early beginnings in Cambridge, UK, in the 1980s, Birthlight has pioneered the use of water to promote continuity of support in maternity care from conception to the third year of life. As aquatic practices have become mainstream, it is time to celebrate three decades of developments shared with many friends and colleagues worldwide, and this will allow us to take stock. Yet this is also a time to explore future directions with their risks and opportunities.
This third Birthlight international conference will bring together scientists, practitioners and interested members of the public to gain a deeper understanding of what makes us turn to water at this conjuncture in our cultural evolution. How does the use of water respond to needs in current global trends of becoming parents and relating to babies? What does scientific research tell us about properties of water and about the effects of water on human physiology? How do recent advances in neuroscience and in our understanding of fetal/infant development and primal health relate to research findings on water? How does research inform best practice? Which have been the most salient technical advances disseminated among aquatic practitioners before, during and after birth? As it is likely that the use of pools rather than natural water environments will increase in the future, what is being lost, or perhaps also gained? As humans, what can we learn from water mammals?
At Birthlight we give great importance to laying solid foundations for early swimming and to imparting babies with a lifelong enjoyment of moving in water. Yet our central interest has always been with ‘connection’ and interactive communication, what we call ‘water parenting’. Gentle practice and the background knowledge that can help promote these bonding experiences, as well as facilitate ‘happy learning’, will be our main focus at the conference. We invite all those interested in a gentle interactive approach to aqua natal exercise, water birth and baby/toddler swimming to join us in order to foment greater public awareness of the ways in which water can contribute to foundations of health and wellbeing (physical, psychological and mental) for babies and their families.
Our conference will be hosted at Girton College, Cambridge University, in beautiful grounds and with a warm pool. In a two-day conferences, plenary sessions led by eminent speakers will be complemented with special focus sessions, films, practical workshops and posters. There will be opportunities to visit one of the most prestigious old European universities, that is a leading center of excellence in scientific research as well as a beautiful city. College conference facilities only allow for a limited number of places and it is advisable to book early in order to secure a place. The UK Birthlight team is based in Cambridge. We are happy to prepare a warm welcome for all conference delegates. Our conference programme is currently taking shape. Please check our conference website regularly to see confirmed speakers and make sure not to miss our early bird registration options.