A few days ago I heard about something I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of before: Rebirthing. @mamapeardesigns was asking questions about it on twitter, and I was immediately intrigued, so I started reading more about it. There isn’t a huge amount of information, sadly, and I’d love to know if anyone has experience of it, but I thought I’d share what I found anyway, in the hope that it might help someone. (Please note that Rebirthing is a name applied to a form of breathing yoga and also to the questionable practice of wrapping a person in a blanket to create a womb like experience and requiring them to fight their way out – otherwise known as Attachment Therapy. This is neither of those techniques)
What is rebirthing?
Rebirthing is when a mother and baby get in a warm bath, and either the mother or a support person put the baby in the water on their back (keeping ears out the water) to sort of float in the water in a womb like experience. The mother should talk to the baby, stroke the baby and so on, and when both are relaxed, place baby on mum’s tummy, in the water. It may take a while, especially if the baby hasn’t breastfed before, but the baby may begin to work his way up to the breast, search it out, and begin to suckle.
This is known as the ‘breast crawl’ which normally occurs naturally in unmedicated births.
There seem to be two major reasons to practice rebirthing – emotional healing and bonding and breastfeeding/latch problems.
In a really in-depth and excellent article called Emotional Recovery from A Cesarean, the author, Kmom, talking about preparing for a subsequent birth after a traumatic birth experience suggests a mother can “mentally ‘rebirth’ your prior child the way you would have wanted to. This puts some closure on that birth, and helps finish that chapter in your life so that you are more ready to move on to a new one.”
Marie Davis, lactation consultant and midwife who has helped clients with rebirthing, writes, “I have also found this technique useful for some mothers. Sometimes, like following a Cesarean Section, a difficult labor and delivery and/or prolonged separation of mother and baby, I see women in a kind of “mourning” over the “loss” of the birthing experience. The rebirthing technique appears to help heal those emotional wounds.”
The second reason people attempt rebirthing is to stimulate breastfeeding, and help a baby that has previously had trouble latching on or simply refused the breast.
Marie Davis writes on this too, saying, “It works for moms after struggling for days or weeks to get their babies to latch on, (many [of] these women exclusively pump for weeks or months), and babies who have been bottle-fed as preemies in the nursery. Mom needs to become an observer. The baby knows what to do; something has interfered with the natural processes.”
One of the very few rebirth experiences I could find online was by Doula Momma, and I strongly recommend that you read her moving story. She sums up with the following, “I would recommend rebirth to anyone who has birth trauma. As soon as you get home from the hospital, get in the water. Get skin to skin. Recreate what you wanted for you and for your baby. Even if the baby didn’t have a birth trauma or injury of any kind, but you did, do it. If your milk is taking a while to come in, do it. It will help your body to relax and produce the hormones necessary for milk production. I truly believe in this process and it’s healing powers and hope that more moms can learn about the benefits of rebirth after birth trauma.”
I particularly liked how she described the experience, saying “His entire body went limp. We were completely amazed at this point. We had successfully recreated the womb and he remembered it! This was the most relaxed this baby had been since he was born.”
I think the really exciting thing about this as far as breastfeeding is concerned, is that we sometimes think we’ve missed the ‘window’ for breastfeeding and that there’s no going back, but it sounds like there might well be. It might not always work, and it might take a while, but if a mother really wants to establish that relationship, or mourns the loss of it, rebirthing, or “co-bathing” as it was originally known, certainly seems worth a try.
Safely rebirthing guidelines
The process for rebirthing is described on Lactationconsultant.info as follows:
- Done in a warm bathtub.
- Fill the tub with warm (not hot) water. The bath water should be about body temperature, WARM not tepid, to avoid chilling, so both mother and baby are comfortable.
- Have the mother undress and enter the tub.
- The support person then places the naked baby in the water on his back (Don’t worry about the cord. In Australian hospitals at day 1 and 2 babies are fully bathed with no infection problems).
- The baby should be well supported and gently submerged up to his shoulders, (keep the ears out of the water). Allow the infant to float, gently in the water for about a minute.
- Place baby nude on the mother’s belly.
- Bring water from the tub onto baby’s back every few minutes to keep him warm.
- Let the baby crawl his way up to mother’s breast.
- Before exiting the tub, the baby should be handed to the support person. The mother should not attempt standing and trying to exit the tub with the baby in her arms.
Davis adds two more points that I think are really important:
- The nurse/support person should step back and watch the process, simply allow it to happen. Do not interfere unless the infant is in danger of falling, has respiratory problems, etc.
- If done in the hospital during the neonatal period, especially if mother has been medicated or is very sleepy, it is extremely important that someone is assigned to monitor the baby at all times.
It seems such a simple procedure, but if it can aid bonding, establish a breastfeeding relationship or help mother and baby heal from a traumatic experience, I think it’s wonderful.
I would love to know if anyone else has experience with this, or something similar? What do you think? Is it just psycho-bable? And does it matter if it is, but is helping women?
- Holly at Spirited Mama shares her Rebirth story