My daughter, India, had her first swimming lesson at five months old. Ok, she wouldn’t remember it if you asked her about it, but somehow, parts of it I remember as if it was yesterday instead of nearly thirteen years ago. Don’t get me wrong, taking your baby swimming for the first time can be an extremely rewarding experience, but can also feel like a baptism by fire at the same time. In my case (and it happened with one of my boys’ first swimming lessons too), India decided to fill her nappy literally a couple of minutes before the start of the swimming lesson, fortunately not in one of those swimming nappies! Luckily for me, there was a nanny there who took pity on me and helped me with the necessary (it’s amazing how women can take other people’s children swimming without batting an eyelid). That would be enough to put anyone off for life, standing around half naked whilst having to deal with a small child and up against the clock too.
There are a lot of potential problems about taking your baby swimming for the first time: Who gets changed first, you or the baby? Where do you put the baby (after all, they don’t have the tendency to stay still and you don’t want them rolling onto a hard floor)? What should the baby wear? From what I can remember (and it isn’t a lot), I used to take the car seat in, get changed first and then get India changed. That way, India spent less time in a swim nappy (they don’t hold much) and didn’t get cold, as the room temperature was a little unpredictable at the best of times. In terms of swimming costumes, India used to wear a tiny little pink frilly thing, but when the boys started swimming lessons, I was required to put them into a baby wrap warmer as the pool’s temperature was a little cool. Then comes the easy bit, the actual swimming lesson, there will be an instructor who should advise you on how to hold your baby etc. and there will be other parents in exactly the same boat. It doesn’t matter if your child decides to scream blue murder, they won’t be the first and certainly won’t be last and as long as that nappy holds, you will be fine!
Getting out of the swimming pool is probably the most challenging part. Firstly you’ll forget how heavy your baby weighs (water has a habit of doing that with all bodies) and then you will realise how bloody cold it is. This raises the question who gets dressed first? With a baby, I used to dry them off first and put on a fresh nappy and vest, strap into the car seat, warm and dry. If the showers are in the changing room and there are enough mothers around, I used to have a shower to get rid of the chlorine, get dressed and then finish dressing the baby. Once we got to toddler stage, the kids stayed in the showers to keep warm, whilst the mums got dry first. It does take practice, but it does get easier and at some point you will probably have to deal with an exploding nappy, but by that stage you will be such a pro, that you will just laugh it off.
Tips For That All Important First Swimming Lesson
- Go and visit the swimming pool before committing to the swimming lessons, it will help you plan in advance and you will know what to expect.
- Does your swimming costume still fit after pregnancy?
- Ask the instructor what equipment you will need to buy. Try these websites: www.swimshop.co.uk www.splashabout.com www.twobarefeet.co.uk
- Is your swim bag going to be big enough? Your baby's belongings will probably take up more room than yours!
- Even on the day, don't leave things to the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time to pack (and double check your swim bag) and travel to the swimming pool.