Babies love the fun and freedom of swimming and sharing this experience with your newborn is one of the most exciting and rewarding things you can do.
Your baby can begin swimming just as soon as you are ready to take them. There is no need to wait until they have been immunised, The NHS website states you can take your baby swimming at any time with no harmful effects. Most health professionals actively support this.
So why take your baby swimming?Swimming allows babies and toddlers to move independently before they are able to crawl or walk. This contributes to a sound motor development and improves the function of skeletal muscles. It can also be therapeutic, complementing physiotherapy and osteopathy to help babies develop muscles symmetrically on both sides of the body.
Swimming is the most beneficial form of exercise and regular swimming will help to maintain and improve:
The cardiovascular system
Lung capacity and function
Muscles and their function
It will also help new mothers to recover their pre-pregnancy body weight.
Swimming is a Life SkillTeaching your baby to swim could possibly save their life one day should they ever fall into water. Sadly drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death in this country for under 5s. By teaching your baby to swim apart from all the other benefits you get, you are teaching them a core life skill straight from the word go.
Swimming is SociableParents love the fact that swimming is a really sociable activity, providing you and your baby a great opportunity to make lots of new friends.
Before you go to your first lesson, there's plenty you can do to help start making your baby comfortable in the water.
Have a bath together. They'll love sharing one with you and it's a great way for Dad to bond too (although getting the whole family in might be a bit of a squash!) Constantly smile, sing and talk to them whilst maintaining lots of reassuring eye contact.
Don't hesitate to feed your baby in the bath should they seem a bit peckish. Being able to associate the comfort of milk with the comfort of warm water is a very powerful combination.
Lie your baby back on your chest and encourage lots of splashing, playing with toys and making silly faces.
Don't think you have to wait for their first lesson to take them to the pool - just make sure the water is heated to at least 30C (32C if they are under 12 weeks or 12lbs in weight). Sit them on the side and get them used to the sounds and atmosphere. Ten minutes in the water is enough for your first visit, and don't be tempted to spend the whole time hugging them tight.
Twirl them round in front of you, talking and laughing all the time, then get your shoulders right down so your face is on a level with theirs.
What do I need to take?
1. A paper disposable swim nappy is available from most supermarkets.
2. It's also a good idea to invest in a neoprene nappy to go over the top of the disposable. This stops any embarrassing accidents from leaking out.
3. A few of your babies bath toys to play with.
4. A cosy towel to wrap your baby in as soon as they come out of the pool along with a warm hat.
5. Babies get hungry after a session in the water so make sure you have a bottle of milk to offer afterwards if you are bottle feeding, as well some snacks if your child is eating solids.
Here are some ways to help your baby enjoy the water:
Let your baby splash and enjoy the bath toys - throw one a few feet across the pool and zoom them through the water to retrieve it.
Put your mouth under water and show your baby how to blow bubbles. This is an important lesson for babies to learn as they can't inhale water if they are blowing.
Hold your baby out in front of you and bounce them up and down. Face them towards you so you can smile and talk to them. Start of with small bounces gradually getting higher.
Lay your baby on it's back with their head resting on your shoulder. Encourage them to kick their legs.
by Cheryl Tyson, Water Babies Instructor
Visit www.waterbabies.co.uk for more information