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Expert Baby Swimming Advice from Water Babies, the World's Largest Baby Swim School

Expert Baby Swimming Advice from Water Babies, the World's Largest Baby Swim School
28 November 2013 3698 Views No comments

Why is swimming so important for young children?

All swimming is fantastic for your baby, whether you want to do a specialised course or simply splash around in the pool. Taking them from as early as possible means you're introducing them to exercise and encouraging a healthy lifestyle right from the start.

A weekly swim session, such as those offered by Water Babies, will also help them to develop physically, emotionally and mentally. For instance, right from the word go they'll be learning to respond to voice commands, which is fantastic stimulation for a newborn baby's brain.

Water familiarisation is an equally important aspect. “Babies who swim on a regular basis develop a respect for water and can be taught potentially lifesaving skills, such as turning onto their backs or, following a sudden submersion, swimming to the nearest solid object,” comments Paul Thompson, who co-founded Water Babies in 2002. “And these skills kick in from remarkably early on, with children as young as two having been able to save themselves from the tragedy of drowning.”

What's the best way to build confidence in the water?

In a shallow baby bath, lay them on the bottom with a few inches of water around them, or, if your tub is deeper, support them under the shoulders and then lower them gently into the water, letting it cover their ears. Use your free hand to pour water over their body – you can also swish them gently from side to side in this position and watch them gurgle with delight! As they get older, lie them on their front, making sure you keep their face out of the water.

Blowing bubbles has an important role to play in swimming, as it helps babies to learn to control their breathing – important for later submersions and swimming strokes – so practise this from early on. Make yourself look as silly as you like and see if they imitate you!

As they get older, use beakers, toys and sponges to pour water over their bodies and, as they grow in confidence, their heads as well.

If your bath is deep enough, encourage your baby to start kicking by letting them float on their backs in the water, with you supporting just their head. Babies love this sensation as it's a freedom that they can't experience on land, so let them explore water's natural buoyancy.

Encourage them to explore underwater by putting toys on the bottom – they'll keep their eyes open as they put their faces down to see.

What can I do if my child is scared and refuses to get in the pool; how can I help them get over their fear of water?

The longer you leave it, the worse your baby's fear or dislike might become. It's best to gently introduce them to warm water in a calm, nurturing environment from as early as possible.

Often as a new parent you may well be unsure of what to do – and local pools can be a bit chilly – so joining a baby swimming class is a good alternative. Here, you'll also be able to socialise with other parents and babies, and you'll find that there's plenty of support for the two of you.

There's also plenty you can do at home to help your baby. Share a bath with them, gently lying back with them on your chest and trickling water over their tummy and limbs (but not their face at this stage). If you show your baby that you're really enjoying sharing the experience, they'll pick up on this and start enjoying it more too. Also, giving milk in the bath is a good way of allowing your baby to associate its comforting properties with that of warm water.

As they begin to grow in confidence, start trickling small amounts of water over their face, instantly wiping it away. Over time, a little watering can is a great way of increasing the amount, and they'll love playing with it too.

Finally, it's worth remembering that your baby won't have been born with a fear of water – it will be other issues that might be spooking them. Perhaps they don't like feeling enclosed in the bath, or haven't enjoyed the change in temperature. Try alternating your bath time routine a bit and see if that helps, and don't forget to wrap them up in a lovely warm towel once bath time is over to keep them nice and toasty!

What is a fun way to encourage them to get in the pool?

Make sure your first visit is a positive, gentle introduction to this multi-sensory world. If you are starting lessons, try to take your baby along to the pool before the first session. Spend time on the side getting them used to the noises, colours, splashing and general hubbub of the pool environment – these will all be much louder than at home!

When you get in the pool for the first time, smile and talk to your baby – show them by example that it's safe and fun! It's really important that you are calm and positive, as they'll take their cues from you. Get your shoulders under the water and hold your baby so that the water covers their chests.

Through the session, try alternating between holding them very close, with lots of reassuring skin-to-skin contact, then at arm's length so that they can move freely and feel a bit more independent.

Babies tire easily in the water, so keep your first visit to around 20 to 30 minutes and keep them warm. Afterwards, they may be hungry and ready for a relaxing sleep – definitely an added bonus to a successful trip!

Having fun and enjoying the water is our primary aim – we never want our Water Babies to actually feel like they're in a lesson. Most will happily be swimming distances underwater by about 30 months, and then naturally start swimming on the surface as their strength increases.

Some key baby swimming tips

There's nothing to stop you taking your baby swimming on your own – classes aren't for everyone. Just make sure that the water is warm enough (32°C for babies under 12 weeks or 12 to 14 lbs; 30°Cafter this).

It may be worth investing in a little baby wetsuit if you're visiting your local pool and are unsure of the temperatures, such as the Konfidence Babywarma, which keeps your little one toasty warm in the water for longer.

Limit the first few sessions to about 20 minutes each – there are a lot of new sensations for your baby to take on board!

Always be prepared for life's little accidents by popping your little one into a disposable or reusable swim nappy – such as the Konfidence AquaNappy – with a good quality neoprene nappy – such as the Konfidence NeoNappy – over the top. This way, any accidents will stay on the inside and allow you a worry-free swim.

Don't submerge your baby, except in supervised lessons, although they'll probably unexpectedly dip their face in the water a couple of times and that's absolutely fine.

Don't hug them too closely. Look relaxed, maintain eye contact and smile and sing to them. The more relaxed you are, the happier they'll be.