Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Boston Baby Mama Takes Baby to the Pool

by Mama K

I spent my whole life in and out of the pool.  My mom started me on swimming lessons when I was 6 months old and every summer we'd look forward to at least 2 weeks of lessons and a couple of weeks at Lake George and frolicking on the beaches at Cape Cod.  She wanted to make sure I was a confident water lover.  I started helping to teach swimming lessons to 5+ year olds when I was 13, then became a lifeguard, and then a WSI (Water Safety Instructor aka Red Cross Swimming Teacher) when I was 18.  After 15 years of teaching swimming I am chomping at the bit to get my son in the water.  Here is what I have learned that I plan to pass on to my little one.

Teaching the 6-18 month babies was so much fun for the parents and babies (and me) in the water babies classes.  You won't go in the deep end (unless you want to and both you and baby can get a flotation device if that makes it easier), so if you aren't a strong swimmer don't worry about it.  You just have to feel comfortable standing in the shallow end holding baby.  They do lots of songs and splashing and kicking, eventually blowing bubbles and going under water (if you are up for it).  It's a big transition for baby from bath tub to pool, so don't be surprised if your little one who LOVES the bath, is a sea of tears in the pool at first.  It's the same with all things baby if mom/dad are making it fun, happy, laughing and smiling baby will like it, if parents were ever tense, scared, nervous or unhappy baby HATED it. 

Start swimming lessons at 6 months don't wait until your kids are 2 years old to put them in the pool, the earlier you start the more confident swimmers they will be in the long run.  It's not a good idea to put babies younger than 6 months in the pool.  They should only be the water for 30 minutes, but show up early for your class and sit at the waters edge to let your little one get used to the smells, the echos and take in all the sights.  Do your best to keep baby warm, pools where lessons are taught are supposed to be a certain temp (sorry don't remember what) but even that will make young babies cold.  Think about how you feel diving into a pool, kind of a shock to the system, so take it slow.  It probably wouldn't hurt to put a t-shirt or another layer of fabric of some sort over babies water diaper.  Yes, that's right you need special diapers for the pool!

Learn the songs and actions from the teacher, it will be more fun for your baby and they like your voice (however off key it may be) better than anyone else! If you are taking a once a week class, try not to miss any classes and if you can get the pool in between classes that's even better.  The more you can expose baby to the new environment the better.  As a new mom I would suggest you bring your own water toys. In all the years I taught swimming never once did I see the toys cleaned!  Sure maybe since the water is chlorinated they are somewhat disinfected...but I'm not so sure about that.  With the frequency with which items are shoved into my son's mouth, not sure I'm willing to risk it.

Other things to expect when you go to the pool with your little one:
You have to get in the water!
Sing, have fun and keep moving
Keep your head close to baby's head, that means you put your shoulders in the water and get down at eye level with them on the water
Don't splash baby too much, but expect baby to soak you!
Take two parents - one in the water and one to warm up and dress baby after class
Don't feed baby right before swimming, so be sure to sign up for a class that works well with baby's schedule
Babies learn to swim vertically before they go horizontal, think bicycle riding in the water
Don't put baby's ears in the water until they like the pool, be careful when laying them on their back
The sooner you pry baby off you the sooner they will take to the water.  You might experience a death koala grip from baby, this typically happens with older babies - so start EARLY, it will be easier on you too.

Put on your happy faces and jump right in!!!! :)