Mellow Mummy: Baby Swimming – A Mothers Indulgence? : Taking life as it comes...

Thursday 26 November 2009

Baby Swimming – A Mothers Indulgence?

This morning, at five and a bit months, Lara had her first underwater photos taken. In two weeks she will have earned her first swimming badge! I'm proud of her but I'd be proud of her even if she sank! I guess I'm most pleased that she enjoys being in the water and enjoys the half hour of water activities we do a week.

I'm a water baby myself! For as long as I can remember, I've loved swimming (its about the only form of exercise I can face). Swimming with Lara seemed like the ideal way for me to ease myself back into exercise after birth and I was eagerly awaiting the all clear from my GP at 6 weeks to go swimming again (ha, like that ever happened, 4.5 months, more like); he recommended that I wait until after the 16 week vaccinations before I took Lara with me.

I hadn't originally been planning any formal lessons for Lara but as the 6-week point came and went, I began to feel more nervous about whether I would be able to properly hold and keep control of Lara in the water. Would I know what to do if something went wrong? Would I panic? I started chatting with my mummy friends about baby swimming classes and found a few local lessons.

When Lara was about 7 weeks old I met up with my NCT ladies for one of our post-natal sessions. We were chatting about baby-swimming classes when our class teacher commented that baby-swimming was currently a really trendy thing. She was quite strongly of the opinion that swimming classes for children this small were the indulgence of a mother's whim. Is it right that mummies take their babies to swimming classes more to pass the time than to teach their babies to swim? Will our babies really pick anything up at this age? Or are we ploughing money into swimming classes just to show off how advanced our baby's skills are?

Maybe so! Baby swimming is one of the highlights of my week! It gets me out of the house and gives me half an hour splashing in the pool with Lara doing something totally different to the rest of the week. But for all the fun and release that it brings to me, I can also see that Lara loves every minute of it. Her face lights up as we enter the pool room and she watches, wide-eyed as the older children in the class before us jump into the pool and swim up and down. During the lesson she splashes and shouts and laughs and listens intently to everything the instructor says. I know she can't tell me this herself but I reckon she absolutely loves swimming underwater. She'd let me know otherwise, wouldn't she? I also enjoy the afternoons after swimming, it wears Lara out and I get a nice chunk of the afternoon all to myself as she sleeps!

As to whether its worth the money to send your child to baby swimming classes – well last week I made the horrible calculation that if I were to send Lara to ever single level of the Aquatots course - until just after her 4th birthday - then I'd have forked out nearly 2k in swimming fees (and that assumes she passes each level on the first attempt): Ug. I'm in no doubt about the value for money. In a few years time maybe I'll have proved myself wrong, but as we wait for our swimming lesson and I watch the 3-year-olds who have been taking Aquatots lessons since they were Lara's age, I can see how the lessons I'm teaching my baby now have been transformed into swimming skills, lifesaving skills and confidence in the water. Some people I've spoken to seem to think that all the money spent on swimming lessons is wasted because babies swim by instinct at a this age... but in a couple of years time they will lose their floating and breath-holding instincts and you'll have to start again. I can see in some of the exercises we practice in the pool, that its important to be able to build upon those instincts now, so that when they wear off, that your baby is confident enough to go it alone and won't need to re-learn the art of swimming.

Am I a show-off? Maybe... aren't all mums? Its great to be able to tell friends and family that my little girl swam under water unaided and its nice to be able to talk to mummy friends about how our babies are all coming along in their various different swimming classes. But, whether she can swim or not, Lara is (and always will be) my superstar.
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