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A postnatal water birth

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Imagine lifting your baby out of the water into your arms. For some women that is how birth works out, but for others it was only a dream that didn't become reality. The birth pool remains unused, the fairy lights still strung up, and affirmations posted up, creating their birth cave, but it was never used. This can be really disappointing for women who had been planning a home water birth that never happened, to come home to see the reminders of hopes and plans unfulfilled.

There is a loss of those hopes, whether or not the actual birth was traumatic or not. Missing out on that experience, because of the importance of the immediate skin to skin, the calm, the closeness, to both baby and mum, for oxytocin, and bonding, and feeding. But there is something you can do. You can still use your birth pool, or bath to recreate the moment of birth, and reset the first moments of your baby's life.

Rebirthing is a special bath you take with your baby to recreate the moment of birth.  This is often done after a difficult or traumatic birth, or even a birth that just didn't go as planned.  

Perhaps you planned a water birth and ended up with a caesarean; a home birth that ended up in hospital; had a rushed birth; or your baby was whisked away and you didn't have that time of meeting your baby, of skin to skin.  It is normal to grieve for the birth that you had planned but didn't happen; to feel sad if your baby's first moments on this earth weren't as calm and close as you had imagined.  Rebirthing gives you a chance to replay this moment, to have some healing.
Rebirthing can also be useful if breastfeeding isn't going well.  Bathing with your baby actually triggers their newborn reflexes.  This can really help a baby who is having difficultly latching.  Babies having a rebirthing bath are known to do the 'breast crawl', and move themselves over to the breast and latch on. You can see their feet move, their hands grasp, their mouth open and close, their head move side to side, and then they coordinate all those instinctive actions to move themselves over to the breast. It is amazing.

Rebirthing can take place in your own home, either in your bath or in a birth pool.  If you have a birth pool that you didn't get to use then we can use that for the rebirthing, or borrow one from a local doula/home birth group. You can have soft lighting, calm music, candles and aromatherapy of your choosing, creating a calm and oxytocin filled space.

You do need at least one other person with you. You could have your partner, doula, mum, friend. You could ask them to give you a massage of your hands, feet, face or read a relaxation script.  If you did hypnobirthing you can use one of those scripts, read by your partner or on MP3.  Your partner or friend can rub/stroke your back, or just hold you.  When you are ready you would get in the water.  Your partner or doula/friend can pour water on your back/shoulders and you can read another relaxation script or listen to some music. The idea is to feel relaxed, safe and loved.

You can be leaning back, or on hands and knees. When you are ready your partner would place the baby in the water between your legs (but not under the water). In your own time you reach down and lift your baby and place them on your chest. Welcome your baby, talk to them. You then relax back, spend time skin to skin. Keeping the baby warm by ensuring the water level is high enough to cover, pouring water over the baby's body if needed. Talk to your baby, reassure your baby, stroke their body. Watch them. Let the baby feed from you, breast or bottle. Plan to stay in the water 30-60 minutes so have someone in charge of topping up the warm water if you are in a bath.
After the rebirthing it is a good idea for you and your baby and partner to get tucked up in bed with some lovely treats.  It is recommended that you stay in bed for the rest of the day. Rebirthing can be emotional and tiring.

I would love to hear your stories of rebirthing with your baby. If you would like to discuss any of this with me please message or email me.

I am a doula and antenatal teacher. I love helping birthing people and parents to find their own path. I have a wonderful community in my facebook group Chilled Mama's Lounge. I live in Bedfordshire with four of my five children and do what I can to avoid ironing.
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