Your baby’s just spent nine months in amniotic fluid, so water’s like a second home to her. Water supports your little one’s weight, letting even the tiniest babies move their limbs freely and safely. “If babies are introduced to water outside the womb in a safe and stimulating environment they’ll swim contentedly. It’s natural for them and a nurturing of primitive reflexes into automatic movement,” explains Irene Joyce, swimming expert with the Swimming Teachers’ Association (STA).
How old does my baby have to be?
Will my tot be warm enough?
If she’s less than 12 weeks old, check that the pool is heated to 32ºC. Any older and 30ºC should be fine. The swimming provider will factor this in, but you can buy a baby wetsuit for peace of mind, it will help keep your little one warm for short periods.
Will I be involved?
Yes, you’ll be in the pool and support your baby in the water at all times (unless being handled by the instructor). You don’t necessarily have to be a swimmer yourself though, as you’ll be in shallow water. Although they don’t last long, a swimming lesson is a full workout for your baby, which can lead to improved sleep. So don’t be surprised to find that your baby needs a nap or feed shortly after a class, as her appetite can also increase significantly after a dip.
What are the benefits?
Swimming classes are usually offered as a course over a number of weeks and focus on attaining a specific goal. Benefits will vary depending on the age at which your child starts. The most obvious is that, with continued lessons, your little dipper will become confident in the water from a very early age.
On the physical side, your baby’s health and development could improve, as swimming can help to increase your tot’s strength and stamina, as well as boosting co-ordination and balance.
How much will it cost?
Choose a class to suit you – they vary from a relaxed splash about with songs, to more organised training. You will usually have to pay up front for a block. Expect to pay £8 to £15 per class on average – the exact price will depend on your location, class size and local availability of facilities and teachers.
Simple steps to a happy first swim:
With loads of skin-to-skin contact, swimming is an ideal activity for bonding with your tot. You’ll find your confidence handling your baby in the water grows when you learn the correct holding techniques and come to understand what your baby is capable of. Try these basic moves to get started:
- Swirl her around to get her used to the water
- Trickle some water gently over her face
- Sing nursery rhymes, bouncing her up and down
- Take her hand and let her splash the water around her
- Take toys or floats to keep her attention
Did you know…
Children who learn to swim at a young age have better grip, reach and balance skills than those who don’t.