In our next series of blogs, we will be discussing the different types of activities that you can take your babies to; picking out the best ones for keeping both mother and baby active and occupied during maternity leave. Keeping active and attending mother & baby classes helps to break the week up as each day rolls into the next and it’s a great way to meet other mums too. Swimming is one of the best activities to begin with as you can take babies right from the start, and once you have had your 6 week medical check.
After 9 months of being submerged in water in your womb, it’s not surprising that babies tend to love splashing about in the pool. They are born with primitive reflexes that allow them to swim from birth, but these disappear at about 6 months, so it can be an advantage to start early. And, the sooner you start, the sooner you can start to build their confidence in the water. In the first few weeks, why not use bath time at home to get your baby used to the feeling of being immersed in water and splashing/playing with water.
Swimming is a great bonding experience for both mum and dad as it provides lots of opportunity for skin to skin contact. We have spoken to some of our expert friends to compile the main benefits of swimming with your baby and provided some all-important tips to help you get organised and to make the experience as stress-free as possible. Starting anything new with a baby can be a daunting experience.
You can enjoy one-to-one baby swimming at your local pool, or try a weekly baby swimming class. One key thing to note is the pool temperature, as babies get cold very easily. For baby swim classes the pool should be at least 32 degrees. During a class, they will be taught to control their breathing by responding to verbal commands, which is fantastic for their language skills. And because babies naturally hold their breath under water, some classes teach underwater swimming, too.
Whilst it can be a nerve-racking experience at the start, as your baby grows in confidence, you will probably notice that you will too. In fact. many parents pass on an uneasiness in water to their children because they themselves are not confident swimmers. You will be shown safe ways to hold your baby and before long there will be lots of smiles from mums, dads and babies alike.
Not only is swimming fun but it is also a brilliant way to aid and encourage development. Ana Torres Courses Director and resident Baby Expert. At London Baby Swim says:
“In the first few years of your baby's life, they experience a huge development as their brain grows much faster than in later years. With our swimming lessons, we are helping babies to make new brain connections and strengthen their learning through exercise and stimulation. Introducing babies to swimming aids and improves babies and children's development in many areas such as: physically, intellectually, language development, emotionally and socially.”
Strength is built through muscle development from swimming activity, which can aid early walking; co-ordination and associated motor skills are also improved through regular exercise. A weekly swim provides a good workout and improves the cardio-vascular system - heart & lungs.
Weekly classes maintain intellectual development - using building blocks of development and progressive practices.
Language development can be also improved via swimming. Babies are constantly interacting with their parent / carer throughout the sessions. The teacher also provides a verbal stimulus through instruction and the babies are interacting with other babies & children in the class.
Water is a natural environment for a baby. Babies feel safe and secure within this environment. Weekly swimming is a very special time for a baby and parent, and further develops the parental bond. Many parents state that their babies' sleeping & feeding improves when swimming regularly. Starting to swim early can also avoid traumatic experiences that toddlers /children go through when learning to swim. It familiarises children with deep water and gives them the confidence to swim below the water level.
Babies interact with adults and other babies & children in a fun and happy social environment. As such, these classes are enthusiastically anticipated each week. Baby Swim lessons are Fun; classes use lots of games, nursery rhymes, toys and large floats. They perform an integral part of all the lessons and London Baby Swim actively encourages learning through play in this safe environment.
British Mother of three, Rachel Hope, who now lives in Australia is the owner of Turtle Tots Melbourne South East. She believes that swimming is not only a wonderful experience but it is also a fantastic life skill to learn early. “Seeing your baby swim for the first time and then embark on their swimming journey is a wonderful experience for you as parents. Learning to swim is one of the most important skills you can teach your child. It has numerous physiological, social and emotional benefits and it could ultimately save their life in an unfamiliar aquatic environment. By bringing your baby or toddler swimming every week they will learn the importance of being safe in and around water,”
Swimming is a great way to encourage exercise from an early age and is the most natural form of exercise for babies before they can start to crawl, which can somtimes be up to a year. Rachel says “Swimming assists muscle strength and parents often find their babies reach developmental milestones more quickly than babies who do little or no exercise. It’s also an idea to set up good habits from the start to encourage an active and healthy lifestyle.”
One study found that the benefits of baby swimming were surprisingly long-lasting: five-year-olds who had swum two hours a week as babies had notably better balance, and superior catching and grasping skills than those who had not been swimming as babies. There is also the benefit that they are less likely to be afraid of water in their toddler years, which can be a real challenge to overcome!
Find out what facilities are available at the pool before you go out and buy lots of equipment that you don’t need. You may find that changing mats are provided so you don’t need to invest in special neoprene equipment. However, if they don’t have mats, this is a must have as slippery, wriggly babies can be hard to dress on cold, wet floors.
What should I dress my baby in?
You will definitely need a swim nappy. It is likely that your pool may have specific rules about the style of swim nappy. There are a range of different types available from disposable to reusable. Many places insist on a double system such as the Happy nappy. A hooded towel is also a good idea.
What about dressing for before and after?
People often don’t consider the importance of the clothing you dress your baby in before and after swim lessons. An all in one suit with a zip is the most sensible clothing option and will save a huge amount of time, stress and tears from mum and baby. Smart mums will opt for smart baby clothes made from smart fibres and with practical solutions.
Baby knitwear probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind post swim, but our 100% extrafine merino wool Daysuit (include link) is the perfect post-swimming choice. Not only is it practical but it looks beautifully smart too, especially if if you like the style of classic baby clothes. Knitted in beautifully soft merino wool with contrast grey tipping and front panel, it combines understated design with luxury and practicality. A concealed full length zipper runs from the neck to ankle, allowing quick and easy nappy changes. It's footless too, allowing your baby to wriggle their little toes and walk about once they are able. Wonderfully soft without being bulky, it features our distinctive Scarlet Ribbon neckline detail and embroidered logo.
Merino wool helps to regulate body temperature so it will keep your baby cosy and warm when it’s a little bit chilly post-swim and will help to prevent overheating if the room temperature is high at your local pool. Beautifully practical and versatile for your own baby, it’s also great if you’re searching for newborn baby gifts for friends.
What should we take in our bag?
Try to take only the things that you really need and avoid an overfilled change bag that weighs your pram down. The more you have with you, the trickier it can be to store your bag and to find what you need when you’re both wet. Organise your belongings you’re going to need before you get into the pool. Laundry bags can be a great way to do this, separating outfits from towels and nappies. And don’t forget nappy bags or plastic bags for wet swimmers and towels. It’s also worth choosing a body wash that is gentle enough that you can both use it, while a warm bottle of milk in a thermal cover is also a nice, comforting treat for your baby post swim, particularly in the cold,winter months...it will also keep them calm whilst you dress them.
Will my baby be cold in the water?
You need the water to be 32C for newborns and at least 30C for babies under six months so you will probably find that it feels like a bath. If you’re concerned about the pool temperature, you could invest in a baby wetsuit.
How long should we swim for?
Keep the session time to 15-20 minutes in the early days. It will be a lot of stimulation for a young baby, so best not to overwhelm them early on. Pick a quiet pool time so they don’t get frightened by the echoing noises.
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