From Tummy to Tots: An Introduction to Water
Welcome to our three-month mini-series taking you on a journey exploring the fantastic benefits of the water from pregnancy through to toddlers taking their first independent swims.
Following on from last month’s blog on Aquanatal exercises, our National Aquatics Training Lead, Lynn Goring-Crook, continues this series by looking at how to introduce your new-born bundle of joy to the water.
Baby swimming can create a beautiful bond between baby and care giver as the wonderful watery world of a swimming pool offers unique opportunities to explore, learn and relax for both little one and parent.
Introduction to the water should be gentle, supportive, and full of love so it creates positive associated memories of being in water which will last a lifetime.
One of the best first introductions to water is from the bath and, from here, a transition can be made from about 6-weeks old to the swimming pool. Parents should be mindful that the pool should be warm, around 32 degrees, and even with this warm water, the time spent in the pool should be no longer than 5-10 minutes.
From about 12-weeks old, babies have gained more weight and confidence to spend longer in the pool and this is more likely to be the age from which you introduce them. However, first introductions should be no more than 10-20 minutes.
Take your time – there is no rush – especially when carrying them cradled in your arms down into the pool. Hold your bundle of joy close in your arms but stay relaxed and, as you enter the water, become aware of your buoyancy changing. Ground yourself and whilst still cradling your baby, bring your shoulders down low into the water and allow the water to support both of you. Keep eye contact with your baby and you can sway side to side as you both relax into the water.
You may also like to try holding your baby on their front facing you. With your hands underneath their arm pits, thumbs at the front and your fingers placed on their back, again keep your shoulders low in the water and maintain eye contact. Try not to ‘grip’ your baby tightly, keeping a nice feathery touch as you communicate through your touch, feelings of support, love and confidence to your baby.
This is a great hold for you to now travel backwards, whilst baby travels forward. Sway baby side to side and show them how wonderful the water can be by blowing them bubbles. If you really want to treat them, you can hold them at the surface whilst you disappear under for a moment and reappear. All of this is showing baby: ‘It’s ok, this is a great place to be, look how happy we are’.
One of my favourite activities is partner swims. Lay back on a pool noddle or two and have baby laying on their tummy on your chest. Float or kick around the pool to show baby how much fun it is. You may need an extra pair of hands to help you with this one.
These introductions to the water leave an imprint on baby’s mind and help to form a connection with the water which will last a lifetime. As you spend more time in the water and maybe even sign up for some baby swimming lessons, this foundation will be built upon time and time again as baby becomes more confident with the water. They’ll learn to explore and discover how to move and float and, one day, take the decision to ‘have a go’ at swimming independently.