06 Jan Why Swimming
Babies have a real affinity with water. They spend nine months in the womb, and many expectant mothers choose a water birth as the most natural introduction to this world. Water is recognised as a warm, supportive environment during labour and provides a natural transition for your baby from the womb to the “outside world”.
Babies can be taken swimming from birth, they do not need to have completed their injections and very young babies love the freedom, massage and gentle exercise that the water offers.
The benefits to both parent and baby of swimming together are immense:
- Plenty of eye contact
- Plenty of skin contact – it’s a wonderful way to bond with your baby
- Helping you and your baby feel relaxed and confident in the water
- Makes swimming a fun and socially stimulating activity (for both you and your baby!)
- Even parents who can’t swim can enjoy relaxing in the water with their baby
There are further benefits too, especially if you join a fun, progressive programme:
- It is the only time your baby can be completely independent (when experiencing gentle submersions)
- Only in the water, can a baby move freely and develop actions they wouldn’t otherwise be able to in their first year of life. This gives “swimming babies” the opportunity to develop crucial higher brain functions, core muscle development and co-ordination far earlier than they would otherwise be able to
- Even though gentle, baby swimming classes provide a complete physical work-out: strengthening your baby’s heart, lungs and respiratory system, which again aids development of the brain
- Regular swimming often improves eating and sleeping patterns
- Learning to respond to key words (within a few months) can make your baby sharper mentally, increasing levels of awareness and understanding as well as improve communication between you
- Encouraging a baby to take regular exercise from such a young age is also an extremely healthy routine to instil which may prevent childhood lethargy
But most importantly of all, baby swimming should instil a love of water for the rest of your child’s life.
Baby swimming is an entirely safe and gentle activity, but coming to classes often provides a parent with the necessary support to enable them to relax and enjoy the experience. Good baby swimming teachers are trained to understand the needs of both parent and baby, and are also qualified in lifesaving and resuscitation skills.
Classes can vary, so take time to find a class that will give you the experiences that you want – whether this is just water familiarity or a more progressive approach; and whether the style of the class is relaxed and fun, or more formal and regimented.
Specialist baby swimming classes follow a clear and progressive structure and will usually involve some underwater swimming for your baby. However, the emphasis should be on parents and their babies having fun, with no baby being forced to do anything against his or her wishes.
The best baby swimming classes are full of carefully designed but simple activities, gentle submersions and are packed full of songs. These songs and rhymes provide gentle stimulation and are the most effective way to communicate with your baby. Repetition is fun, reassuring and promotes learning.