Our 7 tips for your first baby swimming session
OK. So you’ve read our last blog and are now convinced of the benefits of taking your baby swimming. So what’s next? With nearly 10 years of experience of teaching babies and young children to swim, I’d like to think that we know a thing or two of what works well for parents and what the common pitfalls are. This blog will hopefully guide your through some of the concerns and questions that you may have before taking your baby for their first swimming session, whether that be in formal lesson or just a their first trip to the pool.
1. When to start
Your baby is born with a natural ability to swim, which they will soon lose. So, as far as baby is concerned the sooner the better. You also don’t need to worry about vaccinations as, according to the NHS, they can start before or after they have had their injections. Clearly, if you have any specific health concerns then you should consult your GP or Midwife.
Ideally, you should be looking to start within their first 6 months but this is not a hard and fast rule and it is best to commence when you are ready.
2. But I’m not confident in the water…
Not to worry. I used to hate swimming before I started taking my two to their lessons. With the help of the instructor, I soon got the hang of it and ultimately enjoyed it so much I am now a qualified swimming instructor.
Clearly, this is not going to happen to everyone. The message though is give it a go. The pools will be shallow and you will spend most of your time standing up. You won’t even need to get your face or hair wet unless you want to. If you are not confident in the water, let your instructor know and if you don’t want to do something then do not feel pressurised into doing it.
3. Get your baby used to water
It often helps if you introduce your baby to the water before going to a pool. Have a play together in the bath. Gentle introduce water over their head and face – we used to use small jug or a toy watering can. Place you baby on their back and let them relax and enjoy the feeling of the water around them and the buoyancy that it brings.
4. Choosing a pool
You should try to find yourself a warm pool to start teaching your baby in. 32c is the recommended temperature for babies up to 12 months old. Most baby swimming classes will be taught in such a pool and often the local municipal pool will have a dedicated pool for babies which will be heated to this temperature.
However, if you only have access to a pool that is much cooler than this then don’t despair. There are a number of baby wetsuits available on the market which will keep your little one warm in the water. You can either go for the all in ones or a baby wrap.
5. Swim nappies
The most vital piece of equipment that you will need to take with you! The last thing anyone wants is an accident. If there are any leakages then this can not only be embarrassing for the parent but can lead to the pool being closed down for a number of hours whilst it is thoroughly cleaned.
Firstly you will need a swim nappy. You can either choose a disposable swim nappy, such as the Little Swimmer range from Huggies, or you can opt for a reusable swim nappy, such as the Konfidence Aqua Nappy. I’ve found the reusable swim nappies more cost effective over the longer term, as well as having the benefit of being more environmentally friendly.
In addition, you should also have a neoprene nappy cover, like the Happy Nappy from Splash About or the Konfidence NeoNappies. These provide that extra protection against accidents and still allow your baby free movement in the water. Over 90% of all swim schools insist on this double level of protection.
6. Feeding tips
As I learnt quickly from experience, never go swimming if your baby is hungry or approaching feed time! This will make your time in the water not very enjoyable and will probably have everyone in the pool reaching for their ear plugs!
What I found best for my two, and what my customers say also works for them, is to give them a half feed about 30 minutes before you get in the pool. You will find the swimming session will make your little one hungry so they can have the other half of their feed as soon as your session is over.
Clearly, you will have your own routine with your baby and it may take a little time to adjust the routine. It is therefore best if you can try to go to the pool at the same time each week and build this into your daily routines.
7. Getting changed
It is quite easy to get yourself worked up in the changing room. You’re often in a cramped area with not a lot of room and the air temperature is typically chilly, particularly when you’ve just got out of the pool.
The simple message here is try to relax and don’t get stressed out. These simple tips will make getting changed a much more stress free experience.
Firstly, get yourself a neoprene changing mat for the floor. These are comfy and warm. You should never place your child on a changing bench as there is always the risk that they could inadvertently roll off.
Secondly, always get yourself changed before your baby. This applies both when you’re getting ready to go in and particularly when you’re coming out of the pool.
When you’ve got out of the pool, wrap your baby up in a towel, like one of these fantastic soft bamboo towels from Cuddledry. Give them a toy or a little snack to keep them occupied whilst you get yourself changed. Once you are changed, you will then be able to concentrate on your baby and getting them changed.
All that is left now is to get home and enjoy the benefits of the session in the pool. Your child is likely to have tired themselves out and will hopefully settle down easily for a good long sleep, which will give you chance to have a well-earned rest!
Please let me know what you think of my blog and if you have any other tips that you have from your first session then please do share them.