I took Little Miss swimming for the first time when she was 12 weeks old. And we’ve probably been most weeks since then (except when she’s been ill or we’ve been on holiday). I’d like to say that she was a real water baby and took to it straight away, but she didn’t. I think it would be fair to say she hated it to start with. But I stuck with it, as it was getting me out of the house and socialising with other adults!
Swimming with a baby
I’m a confident swimmer, but the thought of taking Little Miss to a public pool by myself was a bit too much in those early days, so we went to Calmababy in Peterborough. And it was one of the best things I did. The sessions themselves were great at building up both mine and Little Miss’s confidence, but I also met some wonderful Mums, who have become some of my best friends.
Calmababy has a custom-built pool, designed with babies and young children in mind. The water is chlorine-free and much warmer than a normal public pool, which you don’t appreciate until you take a baby swimming in a public pool! Even the changing rooms and corridors are heated, so you don’t get cold getting in and out of the pool.
It’s not a public pool, so you can’t just turn up and swim. Most classes are booked in 10-week blocks. There are lots of classes each day for different ages, so you have plenty of choice to when you want to swim. We always swam in the morning after nap-time, and then stayed afterwards to have lunch in Calmababy’s Selina’s Tea Room. It was a complete day out! And Little Miss would always fall asleep on the way home – bliss.
Babies can start swimming at Calmababy from birth, as long as they are 7lbs. There’s no need for them to have had their injections. Policies at other pools can differ, so it pays to check before you go.
We started in the 3 – 6 month class, where I did spend a good portion of each session sitting on the steps of the pool feeding Little Miss! But by the end of our first 10-week block, she was enjoying it, so I signed on for another, then another, then another!
The 30-minute sessions were loosely structured, with lots of singing, movement and splashing about. But you never felt bad if your little one was having an off- day and just wanted to chew on the seal sticks (this would happen to me, especially when new teeth came through).
We swam at Calmababy until just after Little Miss’s first birthday when I went back to work. By the time we finished, she was very confident in the water. She enjoyed going under water, jumping off the side, floating on woggles and generally just being in the pool.
Swimming with a toddler
Once I went back to work, my routine changed, and we started swimming as a family in the weekends at our local pool at the Deepings Leisure Centre. I did find it very cold, especially when we first started, as I spent most of the time holding Little Miss, and not moving around much myself. Little Miss found it cold as well, and after about 20 minutes was shivering so much we got out. I bought a Konfidence wetsuit for Little Miss from ebay, and it was a saviour. We went from 20 minutes in the pool to about 40 minutes. Nowadays Little Miss is more active in the water, so she doesn’t wear the wetsuit, but it really did help for the first six months or so.
To start with, Little Miss wouldn’t wear arm bands, but soon after her 2nd birthday she suddenly decided she would wear them. And that has done wonders for her confidence. She will now jump off the side of the pool without holding my hands. She will ‘swim’ after her Peppa Pig toys (yes, you can buy Peppa Pig swimming toys!). And I was amazed a couple of weeks ago as she lay on her back and kicked her way across the width of the teaching pool!
We also swim at Bourne at the leisure pool, where it’s a bit more interesting with a little slide and fountains. Little Miss loves the fact that she can touch the bottom of the pool and walk around in the shallow end. We will quite happily spend an hour or so in the pool.
I’m really glad that I have persevered with the swimming. After those early weeks when Little Miss cried nearly the whole time, I could’ve easily given up. But I’m glad I didn’t. I love watching her in the water now; she is so confident and happy.
My 5 top tips for swimming with a baby
- You will need a swim nappy, such as Huggies Little Swimmers, or reusable ones, like the Bambino Mio. Then a swimming costume over top. At Calmababy you will need a Happy Nappy before you can go in the pool.
- Don’t put your baby’s swim nappy on until you get to the pool – they are not as absorbent as normal nappies (I found this out the hard way – wet car seat!)
- Take plenty of towels – at least two for your baby and one for yourself. Take the towels to the poolside so you can wrap your baby up as soon as you get out.
- If you find the pool cold, your baby or toddler will as well – invest in a baby wetsuit.
- Relax! Or try to. I think that was my problem initially. I wasn’t very relaxed, as Little Miss was so upset. And the more upset she got, the less relaxed I was. Once I got my confidence up and relaxed, she did as well.