Lamaze and Natural Child Birthing

The Lamaze method is considered a form of natural childbirth just as the Bradley method is considered a form of natural childbirth. The ultimate goal of the Lamaze method is to empower women to control their labors and deliveries as much as they possibly can. When most people think of Lamaze they think of the specialized Lamaze breathing techniques designed to help a woman through contractions. But this philosophy of childbirth has progressed to so much more than that. Here's a brief history and description of this type of natural childbirth.

The History

Natural childbirth was the only type of birthing available to women for thousands of years. It wasn't until around the 1800s that the process of birthing became more of a medical procedure that needed to be managed by physicians. And this scientific managing of birth continues today even though there were several attempts to return to a more natural, traditional approach to having a baby.

Lamaze techniques were introduced by French obstetrician Dr. Fernand Lamaze in 1951 after he observed certain types of birthing techniques in Russia. These specific birthing techniques involved educating both the father and mother in ways of relaxing through emotional support and breathing methods. These techniques were soon taught in Lamaze classes and became known as the Lamaze method, after the doctor who introduced them to the western world.

In the late 1950s American Marjorie Karmel gave birth assisted by Dr. Lamaze and his newfound techniques. She wrote about her experiences in the book, Thank you, Dr. Lamaze. It proved to be an inspiration and encouraged women to see childbirth as an even that could be shared with the father as well.

Marjorie Karmel partnered with Elisabeth Bing to introduce Lamaze to America. The popularity of the method grew and in 1960 Lamaze International was formed. This is a not-for-profit organization that sets standards for Lamaze childbirth educators and spreads the word about the technique. The organization is made up of health care providers and other health professionals, parents and childbirth educators.

More Than Just Breathing

Early Lamaze focused on a specific type of breathing to help a laboring woman through contractions. Classes taught this type of breathing and how the male partner could support the woman by breathing with her and offering emotional support. The 21st Lamaze approach to birth has changed somewhat from the early days. Early techniques focused on the breathing, but now there's a more holistic approach to birth. The mandate of Lamaze is that birth is "normal, natural and healthy." The belief that a woman's inner wisdom guides her through birth is promoted as is the belief that women have the right to a birth free from routine medical interventions like the use of forceps. Lamaze philosophy says that birth can safely take place in homes, hospitals and birth centers.

A Glance at Lamaze Practices

Lamaze takes birthing ideas from traditional childbirth techniques. In the medieval times through the 17th century women tended to give birth in an upright position. This was true for childbirth in ancient times as well. Lamaze philosophy is to avoid giving birth on your back, a practice that was started by doctors more for their ease than for the comfort of the laboring mother. Women are encouraged to push when they felt the need to push just like in traditional times. Movement during labor is encouraged since it helps move the baby down the birth canal.


It's easy to take a class or watch a Lamaze video or Lamaze DVD to find out the basics of this natural birthing technique. Lamaze International can put you in touch with an approved provider near you or help you find a Lamaze-focused childbirth education class. There are also Lamaze toys available. Lamaze baby toys are designed with Lamaze International by Yale University child development specialists Drs. Jerome and Dorothy Singer. These toys are meant to help your baby discover the world and help you enjoy your baby discovering the world around her.

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