Here you'll find a list of useful resources in France to help you navigate the early days, weeks and months with a newborn.
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Protection Maternelle et Infantile (PMI)
In Paris there are 59 maternal and child health drop-in centres for mothers and children from newborn age up to 6 years old. A multidisciplinary team (doctor, nurse, midwife, childcare assistant and psychologist) is available to provide support. Workshops and group activities are also available (www.paris.fr/pages/sante-de-l-enfant-2298).
You may be surprised to learn that in France, all people who have given birth are entitled to at least 10 sessions with a specialist physical therapist of la rééducation périnéale - therapy designed to retrain the pelvic floor muscles. This is paid for by the French social security.
Two methods are normally used: manual and feedback, and many therapists (le kinésthérapeute) will use a combination of the two. With the manual method, the therapist inserts two fingers into your vagina and guides you through a series of exercises designed to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. The feedback method involves the insertion of a 'sonde' which is a little electronic vaginal probe that connects to a computer and records the strength of your internal contractions as you go through a series of exercises.
Generally these sessions are welcomed by birthing people in France, and have very high success rates. They can result in significant reductions in incontinence and pelvic pain. Sessions for 'abdominal re-education' are also available for people who experience muscle weakness or diastatic recti (separation of the abdominal muscles) following pregnancy and birth.
Due to its popularity, there are many therapists offering la rééducation périnéale throughout France; speak to your general doctor, gynaecologist or obstetrician to obtain a referral. If you are based in Paris, I highly recommend the following English-speaking kinésthérapeute: Lesley Anne Noël (kinésithérapeute-noel.fr, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Many birthing people find that practicing yoga during the postnatal period is invaluable in helping you regain physical strength after pregnancy and birth, reconnect with your body and provide rest and relaxation at a time when you may be feeling tired and emotionally vulnerable. Often classes are designed to be attended by parents with their babies in tow, and offer a very relaxing and safe environment for you and your little one.
Sharon Bales (sharonbalesyoga.com) is a pre and postnatal yoga teacher based in Paris, with a large online following. She is a specialist in pelvic floor health and offers fertility yoga, peri and menopause yoga, and hormone yoga therapy. She offers virtual and in-studio classes, workshops and teacher training. She is also a certified hypnobirthing practitioner should you be interested in learning to use hypnobirthing techniques in preparation for your baby's birth.
Depending on where you give birth, the level of breastfeeding support available associated with the hospital will vary. France has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world, and in many hospitals, new parents find they have to actively refuse the default of assumed bottle feeding, if they wish to breastfeed. As a result the right support can be difficult to find. Below you will find a list of reputable and knowledgeable support.
- La Leche League International (llli.org and lllfrance.org)
LLL International is a non-profit organisation that distributes information on and promotes breastfeeding, present in 68 countries. Monthly informal meetings discussing and sharing information on breastfeeding and early parenthood are offered.
- Message (messageparis.org)
Message is a community of English-speaking families living in and around Paris. A key element of its support for new parents is its Breastfeeding Support service. Message Breastfeeding Supporters are a group of volunteer Message mothers who have breastfed their own babies for at least 6 months, and have committed to an ongoing, intensive training programme provided by a qualified International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) (see paragraph below for more information). The initial training takes up to 10 months to complete and requires the trainee to attend a study day once a month. It also contains various elements of academic work. Each year the BFS must attend one further study day to keep up to date with the very latest information. Ongoing free breastfeeding support is available to all Message members (there is a joining fee).
- International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs)
For more complex feeding issues, it may be necessary to seek the support of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). In order to obtain the credential, IBCLCs have to take a minimum of 14 health science courses at an accredited university or college, study at least 90 hours of lactation specific education, and complete between 300-1000 supervised clinical hours. After completion of these criteria and verification by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, Inc. (iblce.org), the IBCLC candidate is eligible to sit the IBCLC certification examination of four hours duration. Attainment of the IBCLC credential signifies that the practitioner has demonstrated the clinical knowledge to provide holistic, evidence-based and family-centred care. IBCLCs work together with families to develop and implement individualised feeding plans to prevent and solve breastfeeding problems.
IBCLCs must take 75 continuing education credits every 5 years or retake the accreditation exam. All IBCLCs wishing to maintain the credential must re-sit the IBCLC exam every 10 years. The following IBCLCs are based in France.
Diana Powell (sagefemmechevreuse.com)
Diana is an Irish independent midwife and lactation consultant working in Paris and Ile de France. She offers postnatal visits at home and breastfeeding support. She cares for pregnant period as primary carer or shared care with other midwives or obstetricians, supporting both straight-forward and complex pregnancies. As a lactation consultant she offers antenatal breastfeeding education visits and postnatal support in family homes.
Carole Hervé (questiondallaitement.com)
Carole is an IBCLC lactation consultant, Biological nurturing certified lactation consultant, professional trainer (breastfeeding and baby sleep) and author (Mon allaitement sur mesure, ed. Albin Michel). She offers support in French or English at her cabinet in Paris, within the family home, and virtually online. She provides trouble-shooting solutions and develops personalised breastfeeding plans. She's also skilled in sensory food aversion.
Veronique Darmangeat (allaiteraparis.fr)
Vernoique is a lactation consultant and author based in Paris. She offers one-to-one sessions and facilitates breastfeeding support groups. Via her 'Centre Allaitement', you can also access an osteopath for your baby, a psychologist, a dietician, an ORL (ear, nose and throat specialist) and a general doctor.
Nourish and Bloom (nourishparis.fr)
Large corporate delivery services such as Hello Fresh (hellofresh.fr) and Les Commis (lescommis.com)(which provide ingredients for meals to prepare at home) are available in France, however if you are based in the Paris area and are interested in meals that are pre-prepared and delivered, I recommend Nourish and Bloom, who provide a meal delivery service to mothers and families during the postnatal period. Ingredients are sourced locally, with a focus on the nutritional needs of new mothers, and the meals are designed to be eaten with one hand.
Charlotte Debeugny (charlottedebeugny.com)
Charlotte is a registered nutritionist and author based in Paris. She offers consultations which focus on changing daily habits to help you and your family enjoy a balanced and healthy diet. She will discuss your nutrition objectives with you and create a series of menu plans to meet your personal requirements and goals. As a mother herself, she is a source of practical information on the diets of children. If you live in France you can book consultations with Charlotte via Doctolib.fr. If you live outside of France, consultations can be arranged via Zoom or Skype.
Depending where you live in France, there is a large community of young English-speaking families and ex-pats that you can tap into, both in person and virtually. Angloinfo.com is a good starting point.
If you live in Paris, you will probably have heard of Message (messageparis.org)
A great place to start is Message (messageparis.org). Message is a diverse and supportive community of English-speaking families living in and around Paris. They organise events, both online and in person, and facilitate discussion forums where tips about all aspects of parenting and ex-pat living are discussed.
Facebook also hosts a number of English-speaking groups geared towards families living in France. These groups are a great source of local recommendations and up-coming events. You can search for these within Facebook and submit a request to join. Some of the most popular are:
- Living in France
- Life in France for Expats
- Mums Space France
- British Expats in France
- Americans in France
- Americans in Paris
- Expats in France
- Expats in Paris
- Expats in Brittany, France
- Expatriates in Paris and Suburbs
- English speakers in Paris / Île-de-France
- English-Speaking Mums/Moms living in Paris
- English Speakers in PARIS
- English Speakers Living in Paris
- English Speaking Parents & Babysitters in Paris
- English Speaking Community SW France
- English Speakers in Aix en Provence