The Joy of Swimming

When I saw that BritMums were hosting a  Joy of Swimming Competition, sponsored by British Gas I just knew I had to take part, so here’s my entry

swimming

One of my first ever posts on my blog was entitled Baby Swimming an Amazing and Most Valuable Life Lesson. In this post I documented the importance of taking your baby swimming from an early ages and the benefits it has.

As a child I was born (in the 1970′s) without a ball joint in my hip and a shallow socket (DDH). I was a bit of a complicated and problematic case and the doctors recommended my mum took me swimming every day as it was the best form of exercise for me and would help to strengthen my muscles and potentially help a ball joint to form, without exerting too much pressure on my joints or young body.

My mum did exactly as the doctors ordered and took me swimming most days for a year and then continued to take me several times a week after that for years. The swimming did in fact help me, it didn’t correct everything but that is a whole different story, but it helped.

I absolutely LOVED going swimming, you could say I was a true water baby! The staff at the local leisure centre knew me well and I actually took my first steps in the cafe there when I was two years old. Once I could walk, there was no stopping me, I dragged my mum from the carpark to the changing rooms every time in total excitement!

The local press were interested in my story at the time and came to take pictures of my mum and I and this is a key memory I have so I thought I would share the picture they took with you. (Wasn’t I a cutie???)

swimming

Every year we would go on holiday to the Lake District too and the complex would have a swimming pool. I would drag my parents to the pool before we had even had chance to check in and we couldn’t leave without one last trip to the pool before we headed home (even if it meant soggy swimming costumes in the back of the car and the smell of chlorine all the way)! I was lucky enough to take my daughter to the same place for her first holiday last year and the first thing I did was take her swimming in true family tradition!

Over the years I have regularly taken part in Swimathon’s to raise money for charitable causes, the most recent being back in 2008 when I raised money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. My disability has deteriorated in recent years and gym work outs and walking any distance just aren’t possible so swimming remains the one thing I can do to keep fit as the water supports my body. If I were to win the lottery my one wish would be to be able to buy a house with a swimming pool, if I could do that I would swim morning and night and encourage my children to swim with me too. In fact, I think I may have a mermaid gene in me somewhere down the line!?

Needless to say, as you can see I am unbelievably pro swimming, (as my previous post shows). I had my daughter signed up to a local WaterBabies class before she was even born and we started the lessons at 6 months! To watch my daughter swim under water for the  first time was incredible, and I was thrilled when she mastered the life-saving hold on technique whiich would enable her to hold on to the side of a pool should she fall in.

swimming

I think teaching children to have confidence in the water and overall, teaching them to swim, is one of the most valuable life lessons and skills that you can give to them and I would recommend taking your child swimming from an early age to anyone. My previous post has a lot of links to research and stats regarding the benefits of swimming, it highlights how it can help children’s development potential in later life, their balance and obviously safety and life saving aspects of reducing the chances of drowning so please do take the time to have a read.

If this wasn’t motivation enough for you, as part of their support for British Swimming British Gas are offering everyone the chance to enjoy free swims and a range of other exciting activities this summer. Just hop on over to their site to find out what activities are on offer in your area.

Baby Swimming – An Amazing and Most Valuable Life Lesson

swimmingHaving been a true water baby when I was younger, one of the key priorities for me with my little girl was to take her swimming make sure she had confidence in the water. During a visit to a baby fair I came across the Waterbabies organisation and was immediately blown away at the prospect of what I could achieve with my daughter and the benefits it would have for her.

Baby swimming is said to significantly improve a child’s development, whilst it also helps boost their confidence . Research highlighting the benefits dates back to Dr Mrytle McGraw’s study in 1939 “Swimming Behaviour in the Human Infant”. More recently a 2010 study conducted by Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson and Professor Brian Hopkins found that baby swimming improved children’s movement and balance significantly in comparison to non swimmers.

Most importantly for me however is the concept that babies who take part in swimming lessons from an early age have a reduced risk of drowning.  A case-controlled study conducted by Ruth Brenner discovered that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% among children aged one to four years. Surely that’s a good enough reason in itself to hit the swimming pool!?

I signed my daughter up to Waterbabies classes when she was 6 months old and I was thrilled at how well she took to it. The instructors are fully qualified and the idea around the class is to teach us as the parents to teach our babies to swim. There’s a range of exercises and activities that you take part in throughout the class, they include

  • Learning how to hold and guide your baby in the water (the different holds change as the course develops and babies confidence grows)
  • Control phrases to make sure your child is aware of when a specific activity is going to begin
  • Getting used to going under water (from the initial taking them under and back up to more advanced swims under the water)
  • Teaching your child to hold onto the side, move along it and climb out
  • Fun songs and props such as balls, rubber ducks / fish, tubes and floats

The first entry level was split into four terms and we completed all of them. However unfortunately my little girl suffered what they call “The Wobbles” for the last term and a half. The wobbles are said to happen when they are going through a key development period (for us it was learning to stand / walk), for whatever reason she got upset every time we used the control phrases and as a result we generally weren’t able to complete many of the under-water activities. It was probably added to by the fact that we also went through a period of repeat illnesses during this period so that will have obviously made her not particularly keen too and we did miss some lessons because of this. As a result we have decided to hold off doing the next level as we feel we have missed so much.

Despite not continuing with specific lessons at this stage I am definitely going to continue to take my daughter swimming on my own and once I am sure the wobbles have gone I will look to certainly sign her back up to lessons.

I would still recommend Waterbabies to anyone.

Positives:

  • The course covers a wide range of skills and takes things gradually
  • There are demonstrations ahead of every class member having the opportunity to try the new skill / activity and with direct support of the instructor.
  • the songs, toys, floats etc make it great fun and interactive
  • There’s a lot of support from the Waterbabies team out of the pool too

Negatives:

  • Some people may think it is going a little too slow at times but I think you have to remember that they are babies and it takes time for them to learn and develop new skills, rushing them and overloading them won’t help.
  • The rate per lesson can seem expensive
  • There is a strong non refund policy so if your child is sick (like our daughter was) you can lose out on quite a bit of money

But I still signed up for four terms so these points obviously didn’t make that much of a difference! The positives by far outweigh these negatives.

The experience and skills you can give your child are invaluable.

The International Life Saving Federation states that “The best scientific evidence has taught us that 1.2 million people around the world die by drowning every year, that is more than two persons per minute. From that more than 50 percent are children. All over the world, infants and toddlers drown more frequently than people at any other age. Inadequate supervision, an inability to swim, and lack of barriers separating toddlers from pools and other water are the main causes of drownings of small children.”

With that in mind baby swimming is one of the most invaluable things I have done with my daughter, whether she’s having or had the wobbles, she has still gained so much from it already and if I can teach her a life saving skill then I am a happy mummy.

To find out more about the benefits of baby swimming and classes why not follow some of my links below. There’s also a link to Splashabout, an essential link to a range of products to keep baby, happy and content in the water. Happy Splashing!:

International Life Saving Federation (drowning stats)

Medical News Today – Study finds benefits in teaching babies to swim

E Science News – Ruth Brenner Study

Baby World – The benefits of teaching your baby to swim

Waterbabies

Waterbabies You Tube video

Baby Swimmers

Little Fishes

Dolphin Baby Swim

Splash About – Baby Swimwear

Swimbabes