22-23 SEPTEMBER 2016, Girton College, Cambridge University

The world of aquatics is changing and Birthlight is at the forefront of new research and developments. Enrich your knowledge, enlighten your practice, network with like-minded professionals.

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 brought 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.

The conference was 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 were complemented with special focus sessions, films, practical workshops and posters.


Michel Odent

One of the most influential visionaries on the impact of birth for future generations and worldwide top pioneer in water birth and the importance of water for human wellbeing. Michel has supported the foundation and development of birthlight, it’s an honour to celebrate his life’s work at Light in Water.

Beatriz Esesarte Pesqueira

The Mexican pioneer of Aquasomatic education that combines human evolution and the learning process with the naturally stimulating water environment.

Françoise Freedman

The Founder and Director of Birthlight, Françoise is a medical anthropologist at the University of Cambridge.

Dianne Garland

Dianne has been a midwife since 1983 and teaching about waterbirth since 1989.

Barbara Harper

The most passionate advocate for science based gentle birth and baby care practices including water birth all over the world especially in Taiwan, China and South America. Barbara championed the Millennium Water Birth conference and hosted the first ever international Aquanatal Yoga training course in Portland Oregon with the participation of birthright.

Wallace J. Nichols

Wallace J. Nichols is an innovative, silo-busting, entrepreneurial scientist, movement maker, renown marine biologist, voracious Earth and idea explorer, wild water advocate, bestselling author, sought after lecturer, and fun-loving Dad.

Terje Stakset

Terjeis currently manager of the Norwegian Lifesaving Federation in Oslo and Baerum.