Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Saturday swimming with Waterbabies

 Harry and I on our third lesson in the water - I don't know who's enjoying it more - him, or me!

 M and I decided fairly early on that we wanted Harry to learn to swim. Partly inspired for one of us by a Nirvana album cover, the other as an essential life skill. Especially when you bear in mind that 51% of children aged seven to eleven – cannot swim the 25metre length of a typical swimming pool unaided(1). More scarily, in 2011, 47 included children and young people (up to the age of 19) drowned accidentally across the UK. (2)
Because Harry was premature we were limited as to where he could swim, so after some careful research we went with Waterbabies as they use local hydrotherapy pools which are warmer and therefore easy for very little babies to cope with. (General guidance is 30° minimum for no more than 30 minutes) We signed up, duly purchased swim and Happy nappies, and I wildly overpacked a bag.
The lessons with Waterbabies are lots of fun, none of the dull learning to swim I remember. We sing songs, blow bubbles and generally get the babies used to the water (and get us parents to lose our inherent fear of our newborn in the water). All too soon we're singing Twinkle Twinkle - which we've adopted as a bedtime song as all our baby groups use the same song to signal the end. As with all baby groups, parents need to leave their dignity and any stuffiness at the door. Your enthusiasm and enjoyment signals to your baby that this is a safe and fun environment.

We've already booked for the next term of classes, I love our Saturday afternoons, and not just because Harry sleeps like an angel for the rest of the day. Which he does.

I just wanted to pop our swimming essentials here for anyone else thinking of booking up with their newborn.

  • The aforementioned Happy Nappy. If your baby is very small the instructor may recommend a neoprene wetsuit
  • Two towels, one for wet and the other to wrap your baby on for warmth over the wet towel. The second towel also provides extra padding on the floor.
  • Change mat. It is recommended that you change the baby on the floor and  waterproof slightly padded layer is helpful. Huggies sell disposable ones, but I use the one from my change bag and spray it with milton when we get home.
  • Pyjamas. As Harry is prone to falling straight to sleep after his class. I always put him in pyjamas, a hat and cardi afterwards so he is warm and comfortable for the long sleep ahead. (I say this with fingers crossed. Long may it continue)
  • Swimming kit for you. Goggles will be required later in the term.
  • A drink and a snack for you for afterwards as the baby is likely to want a feed.
  • If your baby is small then there's a distinct lack of small swim nappies around - we found that the smallest Huggies ones were just about OK when Harry started - he was about 7lb 10oz at this point.
Other than these practical essentials I would say, whatever you think or feel about seeing your tiny baby in a swimming pool, don't let on - they will pick up on your tension, or if you're sat on the side declaring "my heart was in my mouth" they'll pick up on the tone of your voice. Whatever you do, be excited, encouraging and slightly overwhelmed that yes, your baby can swim.

(1) Taken from
(2) Taken from

This isn't a sponsored post, I just wanted to share how much we enjoy our swimming lessons and how exciting it is that really tiny babies can take to the water.


kateab said...

The problem with Waterbabies and similar is that they are usually VERY expensive. And I have to say, it doesn't make a huge difference. I didn't start mine until 3 because of aforementioned affordability issues and then we had 2-2.5 year with no lessons before they restarted at our gym. They are both now in classes with children of similar ages who have swum since birth. What I don't deny is it is a lovely thing to do with a baby to take you out of the home environment and do something completely different that most babies enjoy.

Also, a lot of drowning deaths, especially in the teenage years is due to swimming in cold water and not knowing the dangers of cold water shock. Some of them who drowned were in fact very strong swimmers. Look up the Doing it for Dylan campaign sometime. Dylan died in the quarry near our house a few years ago and his mother set up a campaign to inform young people about the dangers of swimming in open water.

Penny Aylwin said...

Hi Kate, it's odd because 6 months ago if someone had suggested I pay £10 a lesson for baby swimming I'd have been aghast.

I don't know if our different experiences are location based or because your family are older and you're experiencing issues I'm yet to come across! for us our alternatives were the local authority sessions which are so oversubscribed I have Brownies who've been on waiting lists since they were 3 and still don't have a place, plus having seen those lessons there was an inordinate amount of shouting at some little ones plus no parents are allowed poolside and the older kids were running amok in the changing area. We also looked at private gyms which, once you'd signed up for membership (even for 1 of us) and then added swimming lessons on top was more expensive than Waterbabies, plus there's no creche facilities so it's not like I could use it during the week.

I like that Waterbabies is a weekend session so Mark can go too and that it's about confidence with some of the practical things about what to do if you fall in etc.

Perhaps I should have included some of that in the post Kate, so thanks for pointing it out. Money is tight but for us at the moment, inexplicably this works out.

Anonymous said...

This looks like lots of fun. I wish I had done this with my two when they were little. 'Inspired by a Nirvana album..'? hehe :-)


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