baby's first swim
Health

Baby’s first swim

The earlier your child gets used to the water, the more confident they will be as they learn to swim.

Taking your baby swimming from as early as possible means you’re introducing them to exercise and encouraging a healthy lifestyle right from the beginning.

A weekly swim session can also help them develop physically, emotionally and mentally.

Baby’s first swim

Babies love being in water. Having spent the first nine months of their lives suspended in amniotic fluid in the womb, the sensation of floating is a familiar and comforting one. To ensure their first swimming experience is an entirely happy one, here are some tips on things you can do to prepare them for their first visit to the pool.

1. From the bath

Begin by lowering your baby, bottom first, into shallow, warm water. As they get older, turn them on their front. Encourage them to kick, splash and enjoy this new sense of freedom. Sharing a bath is another great way of having fun and bonding with your baby, as Carol McNally from Waterbabies suggests:

“Lie back with them on your chest and encourage lots of splashing by playing with toys. Constantly smile, sing and talk to them whilst maintaining lots of reassuring eye contact.”

Observing your baby’s response to how you hold them and submerge them in the water will help you to understand your baby’s needs in the water. Never leave your baby unattended in the bath and always make sure that you are holding her securely.

2. To the pool

According to the HSE immunisation site, www.immunisation.ie, it is perfectly safe for babies to start swimming from birth before having their immunisations. The diseases babies are vaccinated against are not carried in water. Taking your baby to visit the pool before your first swim, whether you choose to go to a class or just for a dip on your own, will help your baby get used to the sounds and sights of this new environment. Investing in a baby wetsuit can help your baby adjust to the pool temperature. If your baby is under three months old or less than 12lbs in weight, the water temperature should be at least 32°, and if your baby is older and heavier, 30°.

3. Enjoy it

From the moment you enter the pool with your baby, smile and talk to your baby. This will let them know that it’s all meant to be fun. Make sure that you remain calm and positive as your baby will read your mood and take their cues from you. This is where your previous dips in the bath should help reinforce the idea that being in the water is a safe and comforting place. Bring along their favourite bath toy with you. Babies will kick their legs and reach out their arms to chase a toy through the water and it’s a great way to get them started in the pool and help them to relax.

Keep them close Get your shoulders under the water and hold your baby so the water covers their chests. Through the session, try alternating between holding your baby very close, with lots of reassuring skinto-skin contact, then at arm’s length so they can move freely and feel a bit more independent. Do not submerge your baby except in supervised swimming lessons. They are likely to unexpectedly dip their face in the water a couple of times, which is fine.

4. Cosy up after a dip

Swimming is hard work when you’re little! Babies tire easily in the water, so limit your first visit to around 20-30 minutes and make sure you have a warm, cosy towel for afterwards. Bring a hat too, to help them warm up after their swim.

It’s normal for babies to be hungry and tired after swimming, and not unusual for them to sleep for a couple of hours also.

  • Baby Swimming Guidelines
  • Babies don’t need to have had their injections before they can go swimming.
  • Babies can begin swimming as soon as you are ready to bring them, however around six weeks is the norm.
  • Feed your baby one to two hours before swimming.
  • Investing in a baby wetsuit is always a good idea. The body can lose heat in water up to 25 times faster than on land – and babies lose heat faster than adults.
  • Water Babies recommend a double nappy system, consisting of a disposable swimming nappy worn under a snug-fitting pair of ‘leak-proof’ neoprene pants.
  • Check with your swimming pool in advance to make sure the water is warm enough (32° for babies under 12 weeks or under 12lbs; 30° for older and heavier babies)

Swimming with baby checklist

  • Baby’s wetsuit/swimsuit
  • Swimming nappies
  • Baby changing mat
  • Two fluffy towels for baby
  • Warm clothes and a hat
  • Bottle / snacks / soother, if your baby uses one After your swim
  • Bringing a changing mat along, means your baby can lie safely on the floor while you’re changing.
  • When you leave the pool, wrap your baby in one of your fluffy towels as you transport them from the pool to the shower. Keep the second towel for after their shower.
  • After you’ve dried and dressed your baby, pop their hat on straight away.
  • Give them a big feed after their swim, they’ll be ravenous!

More like this:

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Tummy time: why and how to do it

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.