The “Mother of Lamaze,” Elizabeth Bing, has died at the age of 100. As a pioneer of the natural childbirth movement, Bing promoted breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to ease the pain of labor without the use of medication.
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) May 17, 2015
The Lamaze method was developed in 1951 by a French Doctor named Fernand Lamaze. The natural childbirth technique, which was first observed in Russia, combines breathing exercises, childbirth classes, emotional support, and relaxation techniques.
— TorontoStar (@TorontoStar) May 18, 2015
In the 1950s, the method was specifically unique, as it encouraged fathers to participate in the childbirth process.
Lamaze.org reports the technique was popularized in the United States by Marjorie Karmel and Elizabeth Bing. As they were impressed with the success of Dr. Lamaze’s method, the women founded Lamaze International in 1960.
The non-profit organization provides assistance and support to expecting mothers and their partners. Karmel and Bing specifically strived to “help simplify the birth process with a natural approach that helps alleviate fears and manage pain.”
The organization suggests six practices to promote a positive and healthy childbirth experience.
- Letting labor begin naturally, without the aid of medication
- Moving around or walking to help labor proceed naturally
- Having a birth partner for emotional support
- Avoiding unnecessary medication or medical intervention
- Giving birth in a natural position
- Keeping the newborn infant with the mother, and encouraging breastfeeding
Although she was eventually called The Mother of Lamaze, Bing said the technique took a while to catch on in the United States.
“Acceptance did not come overnight. I remember well how I was told that, surely, this was all a fad, that women would soon forget and that ideas as strange as encouraging a woman to be awake and aware while giving birth were beyond all rational thinking.”
Indeed, the Lamaze method and natural childbirth have become so popular it is difficult to imagine a time when women preferred to be semi-conscious and fathers preferred to wait in separate room.
Although the Mother of Lamaze has died, her contributions to the natural childbirth movement will not soon be forgotten.
Interestingly, Elizabeth Bing was quite humble about her involvement in promoting the technique. As reported by the New York Times, Bing said she “never thought of [herself] as someone with a legacy of any kind.” Instead, she simply wanted to make “women aware that they have choices” in their childbirth experience.
According to her son Peter, the Mother of Lamaze died peacefully in her Manhattan home.
[Image via Shutterstock]