This varies across baby swimming providers and usually fits in with the programme being offered. Some instructors will take babies from birth and before they have their immunisations with 6-12 weeks being a popular starting age. For very young babies, pools need to be warmer than usual which the baby swimming provider will factor in.
What your child will do:
Regardless of the age that your baby starts swimming at, when they first enter the water the main focus will be on getting him comfortable and confident in the water. You and your baby will also be taught certain commands and methods to prepare for underwater passing (where your baby swims a short distance under water being passed from instructor to parent or vice versa). This is achieved by teaching your baby how to breathe underwater. As the weeks progress, your baby will become familiar with the commands and more importantly, how to respond to them, which improves their developing mental agility. Your baby will also learn how to support themselves at the side of the pool – this is as much for safety as well as developing physical dexterity, muscle control and confidence.
You will accompany your baby into the pool and will be required to support your baby in the water at all times (unless being handled by the instructor). As you will be in the shallow end of a main pool (or even a toddler pool) you do not necessarily have to be a swimmer yourself.
Although short in duration, an individual baby swimming lesson represents a full workout for your baby, which can lead to improved sleep. Don’t be surprised to find that your baby needs a nap or feed shortly after a class as their appetite can also increase significantly following time in the pool.
There are no general health issues regarding taking your baby swimming before he has had his immunisations. However, if you do have any specific concerns you should contact your health visitor and swimming provider beforehand.
How will your baby benefit:
Swimming classes are usually offered as a course over a set number of weeks and focus on attaining a specific goal. Specific benefits will vary depending on the age at which your child starts formal swimming lessons. The most obvious benefit is that with continued lessons, your baby will become very confident and comfortable in the water from a very early age and are less likely to experience a fear of water. As your baby gains from awareness of the water and improved alertness, he will also be more likely to develop proper swimming skills at an early stage. By taking your baby to swimming lessons from birth, he will be strengthening his vital organs, which can boost cognitive development. Other physical benefits can include improved strength, stamina and stronger organs as your baby’s health and development is improved. Physical co-ordination can also be improved as can balance.
When swimming with your baby, you will be maintaining lots of close skin-to-skin contact, which is ideal for bonding. You could also find your own confidence in handling your baby in the water is given a boost as you learn correct holding techniques and understand what your baby is and isn’t capable of.
Baby swimming lessons are usually priced as a block of classes, averaging around the medium to high price range (approximately £8-£15 per class). This will vary depending on your location, class size and local availability of facilities and teachers.