The wonder of swimming: Nurturing water confidence in little ones
Gemma Altarriba, Founder of Swimming Wonders (swimming lesson specialists) discusses the significance of nurturing water confidence in little ones.
Your baby was in the water for nine months since conception and is therefore more comfortable being in a swimming pool than you may think. Besides being a life skill that is sometimes overlooked, swimming can have significant health benefits, especially when you introduce your children to the sport at a young age. Gemma Altarriba, Founder of Swimming Wonders (Baby and Kiddie Swimming Specialists) explains further.
Why is it important to introduce babies to the pool within the first few months?
Why wait?! We recommend to keep them used to being in the water. You can start at home, from day one, with bath time. Pour warm water over their bodies with a soothing voice, make sure they feel safe and relaxed. Babies that have been used to bath time at home transition well to the pool.
For lessons, we recommend starting your babies as soon as possible. Babies who start early still have a lot of their natural reflexes which can be helpful in keeping them relaxed in the water. It has been proven that babies that start early become more confident and water aware. They can begin lessons once they have reached 4kgs and their belly button has healed. Mums need to wait six weeks after vaginal delivery and 12 weeks after C-Section until they can enter the pool. If you wish to get your baby started before this, it’s an ideal time for your partner to experience the magic of the water.
While it is never too late to start your swimming journey, starting early reduces fear, stress and anxiety of the water that can develop as they get older. It gives your child every opportunity to enjoy their swimming journey. It is an activity you can enjoy together with your baby and one of the only sports that can be enjoyed from 0 to 100 years old.
What are some of the benefits of infant swim time?
Teaching your baby to swim is a life skill that will stay with them forever.
There are lots of benefits and reasons why research shows baby swimming is very beneficial for the little ones inside and outside the water. It allows you to have a really precious bonding time with your little one. Whilst you are in the pool, there are no distractions like phone calls or emails. You and your baby will have 30 minutes of uninterrupted quality time. Babies do have a short learning span hence the classes should not be longer than 30 minutes.
The group classes help babies to become more confident and relaxed. This allows them to develop their social skills at an early age. Children interact with one another and with the parent/teacher, begin to learn to work in groups and feel more comfortable when in the water surrounded with other people. This, plus the fun of learning a new skill boost the baby’s self-esteem and develops their curiosity and willingness to explore. Whilst working in groups, your baby can also learn from other babies in class. Sometimes a baby may feel more reserved towards an exercise or an environment but by seeing other peers performing an exercise, they often decide to give a try and end up developing a new skill.
Swimming is the only exercise you can perform from only few days old. It is a gentle exercise that works the whole body encouraging your baby’s muscle, lung and heart development. It helps build your babies strength as well as gets the joints moving. It also improves their coordination and balance, as lessons teach the baby how to control their breathing, how to kick and move the arms one after the other and how to put it all together as they get older, to develop the strokes in swimming. This will prove to be highly beneficial in the future.
As this is the only exercise you can do from such a young age, it also helps improve the cognitive abilities of babies assisting in stimulating the brain development. A study by Griffith University in Australia led by Robyn Jorgensen, concluded that children who started swimming at an early age score significantly better than the normal population on a number of measures that are important for their transition in school – mainly those of cognitive, language and mental development.
Does swimming improve a child’s appetite and sleep routine as well?
Being in the pool uses a lot of energy for babies as they are in a new environment, with new sounds and different stimuli, along with a lot of free movement. Even if the class appears gentle and relaxing, the baby is very tired after a 30-minutes class and usually takes a long nap right after. It may not make them sleep through the night, every night (we wish right?), the extra exercise will help to make your baby sleepier and rested afterwards.
For the tiny ones, you may even see that after 20 minutes lesson they start to show signs of tiredness. We have had several babies falling sleep during class.
As we adults feel hungrier after going to the pool or beach, so do the babies. The movements created in warm water stimulates a baby appetites. All the energy they use in the pool to keep warm, move their little legs and arms burns lots of calories and they feel hungrier and eat better after class.
What should mums be aware of when taking their babies swimming?
Make sure your coach is specialised in baby swimming to make sure the right level of stimulation is provided at the right age group. Babies aged 0-3 months are highly sensitive to sensory stimulation and inappropriate stimulation can be damaging in the short or long term. Gentle and very basics exercise at the beginning will ensure a good start of your pool journey.
The pool temperature has to be no colder than 30-32 degrees and not hotter than 35-37 degrees as babies under 2-year-old cannot regulate their body temperature and they can get cold or overheated easily. If you are swimming outdoors, take a sun hat, sunscreen SPF 50+ and a UV 50+ swimsuit to protect from the sun. Babies who are not potty trained need to wear a swimming nappy and seal it with a swimsuit over it to avoid any leaks in the pool.
You can have fun at the seaside from an early age too, however it is important that you are aware of a few key points to ensure you do this safely. Babies under 12 months old should never be submerged in saltwater, their kidneys are not developed enough to handle the salt intake from reflexive swallowing. Always supervise your child and be aware of currents and sea conditions before getting in.
Any safety tips for swimming at home?
Never ever leave a child unsupervised around any source with water (pool, bathtub, fountain, paddling pool, watering can…), a child can drown in even just a couple of fingers of water. Early swimming lessons can teach your child to respect the water and be more aware of the dangers that this environment poses if you do not know how to swim.
For children under 4 years of age, it’s best to do “touch supervision.” That means that an adult should be close enough to touch them at all times. Even if your child has had swim lessons, they should still be supervised at all times while in the water. If you do have a pool, ensure you have all the layers of protection available. Have someone to regularly check your pool system, tiles, drains, have fences installed around the pool high enough for toddler not to be able to climb, enrol your little one into swimming lessons, take a first aid and CPR course to make sure you know how to react in case of an emergency.
NEED TO KNOW
Swimming Wonders are baby and toddler swimming specialists in Dubai. Their swimming lesson courses run over a six-week period at several hotels including Sofitel the Palm, Hilton Al Habtoor City, Palazzo Versace Hotel and one indoors at Victory Heights Primary School. The lesson objectives are to create a love of the water, ensure we instil the importance of water safety for parents and babies, and prepare babies and toddlers to learn how to swim. Swimming Wonders have also launched two new programs for mums – AQUABUMPS; a prenatal fitness program to prepare mums for birth and AQUAFIT, for women of all ages to challenge themselves in the water.
For more information, visit swimmingwonders.com
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