Babies love being in water. Having spent the first nine months of their lives suspended in fluid in the womb, they love the liberating sensation of floating freely when swimming, as it’s such a familiar environment.
Here are some top tips to prepare your baby for the world of water, courtesy of Water Babies’ swimming expert Tamsin Brewis.
First step – the bath!
‘We all love bathing our babies, and having fun in the water starts with bath time,’ explains Tamsin Brewis who runs Water Babies classes. ‘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 whilst their body is also submersed in water. 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. Whilst in the bath, watch their body language, tune into their responses and relax with your baby. This will all help you understand your baby’s needs.
‘If you make the time to share a regular bath with your baby it is very easy to progress onto showering with them. You will both feel much more relaxed when the time comes for the next step.’
Next step – the swimming pool!
For your first visit to the pool, Tamsin strongly recommends you spend time on the side allowing your baby to get used to the noises, colours, splashing and general hubbub of the pool environment. You are bombarding your baby’s senses from all sides so don’t be surprised if they are a little uncertain at first.
Here is Tamsin’s handy baby swimming checklist:
- Find out the pool temperature; it should be at least 32 degrees for babies under three months old or less than 12lbs in weight, 30 degrees if they’re older or heavier – you will know if your baby is cold as their finger nails and lips go blue quickly. Warm them using your body temperature.
- Find out the pool’s policy on swim nappies – your baby will be asked to wear a paper or reusable swim nappy, and in many cases, an over nappy. Normal nappies are not acceptable in a pool and will just inflate! You may like to consider a wetsuit too, and you will need your own swimming costume too.
- Take towels for baby and you.
- Take a changing mat; it is much safer to change a small baby on the floor rather than a bench – you will be surprised how early a baby can roll. Not every swimming pool has baby changers.
- When in the pool, get low in the water, move your baby around, sing to them, talk to them and bond with them. Swishing them from side to side and around in circles, resting them against you whilst you swim and gently pouring water over their faces will all help the bonding experience.
- Have fun and be positive; your child will take their cues from you.
- Your first session should last 20-30 minutes; your baby will let you know when they have had enough.
- After swimming and when you are both dressed, get into the habit of giving baby a drink, as swimming is dehydrating. Do not feed in the changing room as it is unhygienic.
- Babies get hungry and tired after swimming so they may eat and sleep more.
- Babies lose heat through their heads very quickly so take a hat with you.
- Bathe your baby that evening to ensure all chlorine has been removed.
- Swim regularly – it is an excellent family activity and the start of a healthy lifestyle together.