When I was pregnant with my first child I was overwhelmed by the advice given to me – “put your name down now for the best school in the area”; “play Mozart to your pregnant belly and once the baby is born you can put them down to sleep with Don Giovanni playing in the background so they sleep through the night”; “only eat organic food that has been washed with mineral water and served on a quartz crystal plate” – ok – the plate bit was made up but you know what I mean – everywhere we turn as new parents there is advice being thrown at us.
Once our babies arrive even more options come into the mix alongside having to actually look after this bundle of (screaming, pooping) joy! Rhyming and singing classes, baby yoga, baby sign language, Japanese language skills, just so much to choose from! A new baby is exhausting – parenthood is often overwhelming and whilst we are fortunate to have so many wonderful options available to us, sometimes all we need to do is give ourselves a break, slow down and connect with our little ones.
Sharing a love of water with your baby is a wonderful way to do this for both parents. Having been in water for 9 months, your baby is probably more at home in water than on land and already has many aquatic reflexes that make swimming a natural way to get to know and bond with your baby.
Make life easy for yourself! You can take babies swimming from birth (https://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1035.aspx?CategoryID=62&SubCategoryID=63) but I feel at home in the bath is the perfect way to start your aquatic journey. Recreating a womb like environment is a beautiful experience for you both. Dim lighting, warm water - 37/38 degrees is perfect, and the room temperature also needs to be warm. Ideally have a partner or family member to help pass the baby to you once you are in the bath and take care to ensure that you place towels on the floor, so you don’t slip when getting in or out.
Skin to skin contact is one of the best ways to develop a bond with your baby, cradling them to you, gently swishing in the water is a good way to start, remember that the more relaxed you are with your baby, the better the experience for you both. Imagine if someone was holding your hand really tightly – what emotions would you start to feel? Pain, anxiety, or just uncomfortable? Babies have very sensitive reflexes and if we hold them too tightly they will pick up on this. Of course, we do need to support them so be gentle but secure and always ensure that their face and mouth are not submerged in the water.
You may have to try a few different positions to find what works best for you and your baby but learning what they like and giving your baby time to relax, float or move and feel the water is all part of the bonding experience. Just take your time and enjoy being in the moment together.
Bath times remained one of my favourite things to do with both my kids throughout their baby and toddler years – although as they got older the womb like environment changed to a more wet and wild experience! As your new-born gets a little older, bath times provide the perfect way to start to build in preparation for swimming lessons. For example, being comfortable with water on their face by using toy watering cans or cups or blowing bubbles. Practicing skills learnt in lessons at home in the bath is also great fun!
The Aqualife Approach - Water Parenting
Once your baby has reached the three to four-month milestone (or whenever you feel ready!) this is a good time to start to think about coming along to classes. As with everything, you need to feel comfortable and happy in the first instance so both you and your baby get the best possible outcome.
At Aqualife we follow the STA Parent and Child & Birthlight frameworks (www.sta.co.uk / www.birthlight.com) which are based on the teaching of an amazing anthropologist, Françoise Freedman, who lived in the Amazon and observed how Amazonian forest people taught their children how to be safe, love the water and learn to swim.
This holistic approach is very much in line with the Aqualife ethos which brings together a love of all things aquatic and a life-long enjoyment of swimming. Our parent and child classes are focused as much on parents as they are on babies, giving parents the confidence and skills needed to “water parent” their children.
Our carefully structured classes, based on research developments in infant physiology and psychology, blend enjoyment, safety and the foundation skills needed for swimming through fun, interactive themed lessons.
There have been many scientific studies showing that babies who learn to swim at a young age develop and achieve not only physical milestones faster, but also scored significantly better in visual-motor skills such as cutting paper, colouring in and drawing lines and shapes, and many mathematically-related tasks. Their oral expression was also better as well as in the general areas of literacy and numeracy. (Report from Griffith University, Kids Alive Swim Program and Swim Australia).
More information on the numerous benefits to early swimming can be found on our website https://www.aqualifeswimming.com/parent-and-baby-swimming
Swimming with your baby is a wonderful way to learn about each other, build trust, bond and create life-long memories. Life is hectic, the time you spend in the pool is a shared experience where you can listen and be in the moment together, leaving all your worries in the changing room and just focussing on each other.
Top Tips for first time to the pool
Baby swimming lessons are the best way to introduce your little one to the water – you get to swim with a qualified, supportive instructor and lots of other parents too so you can share your experiences. But regardless of whether you have lessons or go it alone, there’s lots you can do to make sure that first trip to pool goes swimmingly!
Make sure the pool you’re going to is warm and shallow enough to hold your baby comfortably.
Plan swim time around your baby’s naps and feeds.
You’ll need a pack of swim nappies (check sizes and take a spare just in case!), and an over layer like a Happy Nappy. A baby wetsuit, warmer or wrap will keep your baby cosy (you’ll still need a double nappy underneath).
Practise putting the double nappy on your baby at home to check the fit.
If you’re going on your own, find out about parking, money for lockers, whether you can take in car seats or pushchairs or where you can leave them.
Wear your swimmers under your clothes for a quick change and leave expensive jewellery or watches at home.
Choose loose clothes for you and a babygro for your little one as they’re so much easier to take off and on!
When you get there
Arrive in the changing room 15 minutes before your lesson, to ensure it’s not so busy from one class finishing.
Have your changing mat to hand so you can put your baby down on it (on the floor rather than a bench) when you arrive.
Sit with your baby on poolside for a couple of minutes, so they get used to the new sights and sounds.
If the pool only has ladders, pop a towel on poolside (with your baby’s feet facing towards the water so they can’t roll in), swivel in backwards, then collect your baby.
Leave a towel on poolside so you can wrap up your baby as soon as you leave the water
Wrap your little one in a towel and get them changed first, be careful not to leave them unattended on benches.
Feed if necessary.
Bring an extra towel for yourself and a drink and snack.
Babies can sometimes be tired and cry when dressing after classes, but they’ll soon feel relaxed and sleepy after all that fun!
I hope you have been inspired to embrace an unique aquatic adventure with your baby, it has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life to share this journey with my children and I continue to be amazed, delighted and proud of them as they have continued their own journey!
Please do give us a call if you would like any information or advice.