I’m writing this post completely exhausted after taking Pip to his first ever swimming lesson aged 15 weeks (if you discount the ‘swimming’ lessons I’ve attempted to give him in the bath). As an ex competitive swimmer myself I think it is one of the best and most useful sports around, not to mention an absolutely necessary life skill for adults and children alike.
Back in my day there was no such thing as a swimming pool/class designed specifically for babies. The baby pools at local leisure centres were tiny and often served as a lounging area for the elderly. The first experience most of my generation had of learning to swim was at school, if you were lucky enough to go to a school with a pool. And even then it wasn’t an exciting experience. In fact, despite my mother taking me swimming as a little ‘un, when I officially started lessons I was absolutely terrified.
In later years of course I grew to love the water and no holiday video was complete without a lifesaving demonstration by myself and my sister, as well as the odd back flip and water bomb.
Nowadays you can take your little darlings to all sorts of classes. There’s ballet for babies, music for babies, art for babies – I’m sure somewhere there is even a gym for babies. But none seem as useful as teaching your child to swim and more importantly, teaching them to not be fearful of the water.
Sadly, many adults cannot swim properly. Despite his love of the sea, my Greek man is not a confident swimmer and grows anxious if we venture into deep water. This is not to be taken lightly. Without wanting to sound totally morbid, drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death – OK this is definitely morbid. Panic of course is a factor here, which is why it is so important to be confident and respect the water.
Anyway back to the babies.
There are many swim schools to choose from all over the UK and after doing some research I picked The Baby Swimming Company. The Baby Swimming Company’s philosophy is to make your baby safe in the water by providing you both with the confidence & skills you’ll need for them to progress into an independent little swimmer. Well that definitely ticked my boxes.
What also attracted me to the company was that they are London’s first purpose built Baby Swimming Centre, providing the perfect environment for babies and toddlers to learn to swim. The pool is designed specifically for babies, which means the water is kept at a delightfully warm temperature and the centre itself is nice and cosy.
“But wait!” – I hear you cry! “What about baby poo and other germs?”
Well the pool water is constantly monitored using a computerised system and filtered every 60 minutes to ensure it is kept clean and free from contaminants. Babies are required to wear waterproof nappies and a special pair of swimming trunks on top, so absolutely nothing leaks out.
The classes are small with a maximum of 6 children and all the instructors are fully trained. I felt totally confident in our trainer Magda’s hands and she put some of the more nervous parents completely at ease.
If you are worried about your baby being dunked and screaming the house down, don’t be. Magda introduced each baby slowly to the water and used a technique where she cupped water over the child’s head and face, which she asked parents to practice at home so that when the time came for baby to be dunked, they would be used to having water over their eyes and nose. Having accidentally sprayed Pip in the face with the shower head on several occasions during bath time, I felt that he had had sufficient preparation and allowed Magda to progress to the dunking stage.
Before dunking them, Magda looks the child in the eye and sort of counts them in. She then brings them forward so they do a little dive and whirls them out of the water to the sound of applause and encouragement from all the other parents and babies. Despite looking a little confused, none of the babies in Pip’s class made any fuss whatsoever. Interestingly, a reflex called the bradycardic response makes babies (up to around 6 months) hold their breath and open their eyes when submerged in water, which help the baby develop and learn voluntary muscle actions.
I thoroughly enjoyed the lesson and all the babies seemed mesmerised. Whether or not they emerge as strong swimmers later in life remains to be seen but one thing is for sure – these kids won’t be afraid of the water!
IMPORTANT: NEVER LEAVE YOUR CHILD UNSUPERVISED EVEN IF THEY ARE A GOOD SWIMMER.