Going swimming with your baby for the first time is a new experience for you both to savour. Excitement can give way to apprehension, but if you know what to expect then you can get the most out of swimming with your child from the word go. Here are some top tips from a qualified swimming teacher.
Feeling comfortable and confident To begin with, it should all be about making your baby feel comfortable in the environment – and that’s not likely to be the case on the very first visit. It is important not to approach baby swimming with a rulebook, or even have too much of an idea of what you want to achieve straight away.
The only thing you should focus on at first is building a relationship between you, your child and the water. It is a new sensation for them, and although it is a sensual experience, part of that is making your baby aware that you are at their side and supporting them all the way.
Staying calm A common question new mums and dads ask me is whether their baby will slip out of their hands once they are in the water. The simple answer is no. As long as you hold your baby close to your body, keeping them close to your chest to let them know they are completely safe.
There’s no need to act differently to how you would out of the water. You already have their trust, so it is a matter of holding your child the same way you would if you weren’t in the pool. Gradually, they will become more comfortable in the water, and from there you can move them into different positions as their confidence grows.
Another thing I am regularly asked by new parents is what to do if their child begins to get upset. It’s easy to get a little embarrassed, or even become concerned that something is wrong, but the most important thing to do in this situation is not to panic.
There is no need to get straight out of the pool. It is a new environment, so it is important that you make them feel safe, keeping them close and moving slowly through the water. Gradually, your baby will become more used to the sensation of the water on their body.
Keeping it simple There’s no need for you to take toys to distract your baby, or to feel the need to change the way you would normally treat them. Being close and building a bond in the water is more important than anything else. After you have both become confident in the new environment – which might take a few visits – you can think about introducing swim toys that will help them feel like the water can be a place to play and enjoy.
For your first session, don’t stay in the pool for too long – 10 to 15 minutes is plenty of time. It’s all about you both getting to know the surroundings, and even though your baby won’t be doing much swimming, they will still get tired and hungry from being in the water.
Other things to consider
1) Find a warm pool, especially for the first few sessions, as you want to be as comfortable and relaxed as possible.
2) If your baby starts to get cold, get out and make sure you wrap them up.
3) Talk to your baby when you are moving about in the pool, your voice is very soothing.