Would your baby like swimming lessons - and, would you? One reader takes the plunge - Natalie Brown took her 12-week-old son Maximilian swimming.
The first time I set eyes on my son Maximilian he was underwater. He was born in a hospital birthing pool. I pulled him to the surface, where he nestled in the crook of my arm. So, I thought it would be great for Maxi to have his first swimming lesson at 12 weeks.
But there was a list of potential minefields, ranging from the mildly serious ‘what if he screams throughout the entire thing and ruins it for everyone?’ to the really quite-serious ‘what if he swallows too much water and is ill in the night when I’m asleep?’.
Then there were the logistics. I’m not very good at negotiating slippery floors at the best of times, never mind carrying a baby. And how would we shower afterwards?
I found a host of companies offering baby swimming lessons. I opted for Puddle Ducks (puddleducks.com), who run a 30-minute newborn ‘floaties’ class for babies from birth to six months in a private pool close to where I live.
“It hadn’t occurred to me to bring in the baby car seat”
Sensibly, I changed into my costume before we left, but Maxi still ended up lying precariously on the bench in the changing room while I stripped down. It hadn’t occurred to me to bring in the baby car seat like the other mums had. I put Maxi in a swimming nappy and a waterproof ‘over nappy’ which were provided by Puddle Ducks.
Before entering the water I was shown the default position for holding Maxi. His back was against my chest with my hand across his tummy to enable me to bob with our shoulders under the water with my feet on the bottom of the pool.
I then lay Maxi down on a non-slip mat at the side of the pool under the supervision of the instructor, Katherine. I got in the water then picked up Maxi. The water was a comfortable 32℃. Puddle Ducks allow a maximum of 10 babies with a parent per class.
“Various activities followed, including walking backwards in a circle with Maxi on his back in front of me”
Maxi loved being in the water. He kicked, splashed and beamed brightly. Various activities followed, including walking backwards in a circle with Maxi on his back in front of me, first supported by both my hands and then by just one hand, allowing his body to float freely in the water. I was worried about this because Maxi is a wriggler. But Katherine was there to help, and she demonstrated what we were going to do with the help of a doll.
Next the babies had to go underwater. With Katherine’s guidance I held Maxi firmly under his arms, tilted slightly forward so water wouldn’t rush up his nose. I counted to three and said his name as a cue, then dunked him for a count of three. None of the babies in the class cried when they went under the water. Being immersed like this means they don’t develop a fear of water.
“I hadn’t bargained on how much of a bonding experience it would be”
The lesson introduced Maxi to the swimming pool safely, so we were both confident. We spent a happy half hour in nice warm water together. I hadn’t bargained on how much of a bonding experience it would be with all the skin-to-skin contact.
Should you try baby swimming lessons? It depends on whether your baby enjoys bath time and being free to kick and splash. I’m not sure a clingier baby would enjoy it as much as Maxi did. It also depends on the size of your wallet. Thirty minutes was £13, and you pay per term, in this case a total of £156.
5 top tips before you go swimming with your baby
- Wear shoes you can slip on and off easily while holding a baby, swimming bag, nappy bag and other paraphernalia.
- Wait until you get to the pool before putting a swimming nappy on your baby, as they’re not as absorbent as regular nappies.
- Take a robe or towel that you can quickly throw on, so you’re not dripping wet and freezing while getting your baby changed after you’ve come out of the pool.
- Take a baby car seat or pram to put your little one in while you get changed in the changing room.
- Be prepared for a feed straight after the lesson – after 30 minutes of kicking and splashing, Maxi was ravenous.
Photo: Natalie Brown.