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Swimming is an essential life skill for children and it’s never too early to get your little one in the water. In fact, the earlier you start, the more naturally your child’s confidence will develop and with the right instruction you’ll be surprised how quickly your baby will learn.
Since National Learn to Swim Day is coming up this weekend, we’ve been chatting with the lovely people at Water Babies to get them to share some secrets. Their instructors have been helping babies and toddlers to swim since 2002 and now teach over 43,000 little ones every week. We asked them to share some of their top swimming tips for babies. We’re also giving away a cool Water Babies and Trunki swimming bundle over on Facebook – enter here to win!
How to make your baby a Water Baby…
Babies love being in water – having spent the first nine months of their lives suspended in fluid in the womb, they generally love the liberating sensation of floating freely, as it’s such a familiar environment. But, just to make sure their first experience is as magical as possible, here are our top tips on ways to prepare them for that all important first visit to the pool.
First step – the bath!
We all love bathing our babies, and having fun in water starts with bath time. First and foremost – keep it fun! Sharing a bath with your baby is a great bonding experience and something everyone can do. Lie back with them on your chest and encourage lots of splashing by playing with toys. Constantly smile, sing and talk to them whilst maintaining lots of reassuring eye contact.
To further enhance bonding, feeding your baby in the bath will reinforce a safe and nurturing association with the water – they’ll soon learn to associate the comfort of milk with the comfort of being in warm water. And in the very rare event that your baby experiences a negative trigger in the bath, feeding and nurturing in the water can help clear any associated emotions.
Your family bath also provides you with an ideal environment to explore the water with your baby. Discovering different ways of holding your baby, watching their body language and tuning into their responses will all help you to develop an understanding of your baby’s needs in the water. And don’t forget to wrap them up in a lovely warm towel once bath time is over to keep them nice and toasty!
If you make the time to share a regular bath with your baby, you’ll both feel much more relaxed when the time comes for the next step – venturing to ….
… the swimming pool!
Whether you’re taking your baby to the pool on your own, or to structured classes, make sure your first visit is a positive, gentle introduction to this multi-sensory world.
If you’re starting lessons, try to take your baby to the pool before the first one. 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! Make sure you check the pool temperature before you go – it should be at least 32 degrees if your little one is under three months old or less than 12lbs in weight, 30 degrees if they’re older or heavier – and think about investing in a baby wetsuit if necessary.
When you get in the pool for the first time, smile and talk to your baby – show them that it’s all meant to be fun! It’s really important that you’re calm and positive as they’ll take their cues from you. Any anxiety you’re feeling will transfer to your child, so having previous experience of bathing together will help reinforce water as being a safe and comforting place to be. Get your shoulders under the water and hold your baby so the water covers their chests. Throughout the session, try alternating between holding your baby very close, with lots of reassuring skin-to-skin contact, then at arm’s length so they can move freely and feel a bit more independent.
Babies tire easily in the water, so restrict your first visit to around 20-30 minutes and make sure you have a hat and warm, cosy towel for afterwards. It’s normal for them to be hungry and tired after swimming, and not unusual for them to sleep for a couple of hours as well – definitely an added bonus to a successful trip!
Baby swimming checklist:
• Swim nappies – find out the pool’s policy, which may include an over nappy as well as a reusable swim nappy
• Changing mat – so you can change little one safely on the floor rather than a bench
• Snuggly towels – for both baby and you, to help you dry off and stay warm
• Wetsuit – if temperature requires
• Cosy hat – to keep your child warm after the lesson
Visit the Water Babies website now for more information on how to enrol your baby in a Water Babies programme near you.