Swim fun with the grandparents

At Christmas we went swimming as a family of four and Joel enjoyed his first swim at just 8 weeks old. One of the main ways in which I’m aware that he is getting a different experience in life as a second child compared to Andrew is that he’s not getting to go swimming every week like Andrew did from the same age. Of course I know that this is inevitable and in many ways they cannot have the same experience as each other, but this doesn’t stop me trying to make things as similar as possible for them both when it comes to fun and important things like learning to swim.

So I’ve taken every opportunity possible to get to the swimming pool with them both. This has mainly been on Saturday afternoons after Andrew wakes up from his nap and the four of us head down the road to our handily very local pool. There are only two time slots a week that we can make it when the pool is open to general public swimming rather than lessons – Saturday and Sunday afternoons from about 4pm to 6pm – and annoyingly on the morning that Tom has off work each week there are lessons on all morning. But our efforts have been hampered somewhat since the new year as two weeks in a row our local pool let us down: once there was a gala on at another pool in the city so our local pool was crowded and although they were limiting numbers, they didn’t have a time limit on sessions, so after a half hour wait with no sign of being the next to get in, we gave up and went home, trying to explain to a disappointed toddler why we couldn’t go swimming that day; the following week was the week of heavy snow and the boiler at the pool was broken, so the water was cooler than normal – Andrew and I braved a quick dip but it wasn’t suitable for Joel, who stayed in the warm poolside cafe with Daddy. Our efforts to go swimming have also been hampered by illness once, and we’re put off going too often by the price – you don’t get much change from a tenner for the four of us, and that’s even with both kids being free still until the age of 3 years. I used to be a member as this worked out cheaper if I went just twice a week to get my money’s worth, but for the time being I don’t often have chance to get swimming on my own.

Joel kicking his towel off just as I was trying to dry him and get his cool little nappy trunks off!

But this week we’ve well and truly had our fill of swimming, as we’ve managed ti go twice in the space of a few days. How? With grandparent help! First Granny and Grandad (my parents) arrived one morning, and when Joel was ready having finished feeding, we piled our swim kits and ourselves into their car and headed to the pool. Andrew was doubly excited! Not only was he going swimming, which he kept repeating “sweemming, sweemming!”, but he was going swimming with Granny and Grandad – it was like Christmas and birthday had come around again. It was so handy to have 2 extra pairs of hands for getting everyone ready and into the pool.

As we got in – or I should say jumped in with excitement in Andrew’s case – Joel wasn’t too happy. I was surprised about this as he’s loved it every other time we’ve been, but he seemed to calm down when Grandad took him for a little while, and then Granny got out for a little while and wrapped him up snuggly in her towel until he seemed much happier. When they got back in again he was fine, and started to enjoy it. I think it may have been some wind, or that he was quite tired or a bit out of sorts from his immunisations the day before, but I’ve given up trying to fathom the mind and logic of babies and toddlers!

Once I had seen that Andrew was having fun with Grandad and Joel had calmed down, I took the opportunity to have a proper swim myself, which I haven’t done since the afternoon before Joel was born in the night, in my attempts to kickstart labour with various methods that are supposed to be effective, including swimming breast stroke. It felt great to be back in the water, and I was quite surprised at how fast I could go and not get too worn out, as I thought I would be unfit after not swimming for a while – I guess my general fitness is kept up by all the walking I do pushing a buggy and wearing a baby on my front, which mounts up to an hour to two hours every day. I’m looking forward to when I’ll have a bit more opportunity to grab a regular swim for myself in the week, either in an evening or at a weekend, when Joel isn’t attached to me for quite so many hours in a day!

After we’d all had enough fun, though Andrew was less easy to convince that he’d had enough than Joel was, Granny got out with Joel and the rest of us followed a little later. A relatively easy change session later and we were good to go. Joel and I went home to feed, and Andrew got a further treat by going to the cafe in the supermarket to get a drink and cake with Granny and Grandad, after which they helpfully did the shopping. That was the end of round one of our swimming adventures for the week. Round two started a few days later when Grandma and Pop (Tom’s parents) turned up a few days later, complete with their swimming kits.

Andrew posing for the camera with his all-in-one swim costume on while Daddy was getting things ready to dry and dress him.

Again getting ready was a doddle compared to when there’s a ratio of 1 adult to 1 child. We then jumped into the pool, some of us more literally than others, and this time Joel was happy straight away, which confirmed my suspicion that the previous occasion’s unhappiness was due to some external factor not the swimming itself. There was splashing, splishing and general fun had by all, particularly by Andrew and his male grandparent as there had been a few days before. He was particularly fascinated by a rocket toy (he loves watching rocket launches on youtube!) that was heavy so sank to the bottom if he dropped it – and Andrew was keen on this too 😉

I too got to have a quick swim myself in the colder, sorry I mean bigger pool. Joel even got a few dunkings this time, and mostly came out of the water looking pretty happy if somewhat bemused, except once when he swallowed some water and didn’t look too pleased. Oh well, it all turned out fine after a few coughs and splutters. The pool seemed even warmer than usual, and its usually pretty warm, so we were able to stay in quite a while with Joel. But eventually it was time to get out, and again convince Andrew it was time to get out. We were soon ready to head home and enjoy a good meal having worked up an appetite swimming.

So that’s a round up of this past week’s swimming activity in our family. We’ve all really enjoyed ourselves, and can’t wait to get back in the pool soon – maybe this weekend if we get chance when we go to my parents’ for a family gathering on the Sunday.

Swimming with a baby

Happy New Year! As much as I love writing, it was lovely to have a good break from it over the past week or so, and spend time relaxing at my parents’ house where Andrew was well entertained and pretty much all I did was feed Joel, chat with family and friends and get as much sleep as possible. This was exactly what I needed after looking after two under 2s for the best part of 6 weeks.

My little boys in their matching Christmas pyjamas 🙂

There was one more thing that I did though, and that was take Joel swimming for the first time. At 8 weeks old, I decided that it was definitely time to hit the water with him, given that I went even earlier, at 6 weeks, with Andrew – this is one of a few things that I feel bad about Joel getting a different experience from Andrew due to the fact that he’s a second child and I can’t take both of them on my own. Since Tom wasn’t working and we had a rather wet and miserable morning to ourselves, we headed down to the pool in the centre of Coventry. This took me back to days gone by when I used to spend quite a bit of time training there as a member of the City of Coventry swim club. It hadn’t changed much, although we went in the family splash pool instead of the Olympic pool where I used to train.

To begin with I took charge of Joel and Tom took charge of Andrew. There is a nice shallow bit in the family pool, which meant I could sit down on the floor of the pool and the water came just to my waist. I then held Joel out in front of me, lying him on his back on my forearms stretched out away from my body. I swooshed him gently from side to side and let him feel the flow of the water around him. He definitely liked it, and gave me some big smiles to prove it; he’s always liked the bath and never cried getting into it, so I was hoping for the same reaction here and that’s what I got! After about 10 minutes, Andrew asked if I could take him swimming, so Daddy and I swapped roles, and Andrew and I made our way into the big bit of the pool so that we could go round and round in the gentle rapids together, which he loved.

Blue eyed boy

Joel lasted another 10 minutes or so, until he was clearly wanting a feed again – it’s hungry work this swimming thing! So I got out with him and my other boys carried on in the pool, or, to be precise, on the children’s slide in the shallow bit of the pool. Apparently Andrew spent most of the next half an hour going up and down that slide continuously! It was a successful trip all round, and I’m glad that Joel has had his first dunking in one of his Mummy’s favourite places to be. We’re going to go at weekends to our local pool, the four of us, so that Joel can experience swimming as a baby as similarly as possible to how Andrew did as a baby.

We couldn't get any photos pf Joel's first swim because we were too busy looking after one boy each, but here's one of Andrew swimming when he was 9 months old (the first time I had photos of him swimming as I'd always been on my own until then).

I said aaaaaages ago (here) that I would write a post with tips for going swimming with a baby – not so much the actual swimming, but more the practicalities of getting into and out of the pool, as I covered the swimming itself in a previous post. But with one thing and another (mainly being pregnant again and having another baby!) I didn’t get round to it. So I thought I’d share some thoughts here on the matter. I have to say that we’re very lucky that we live so near the local pool (those of you who know me well won’t be surprised to know that proximity to a swimming pool was high on the list of what made our flat’s location so attractive that we bought it). This in itself makes going swimming with a baby much easier than if we didn’t live so near, and the pool is very baby- and family-friendly in general, with quite a few big changing cubicles with baby change pull-down tables and chairs to strap them in whilst you’re getting changed yourself. Also, the water in the small pool is always just the right temperature, nice and warm for little bodies (though sometimes I’ve found it a little too warm for me, but then I’m used to the colder water of the big pool!) Obviously you might not be quite so lucky in location, but here are some tips for a fun and hopefully not too stressful swim….

  • Find a leisure centre with a warm water pool – babies are sensitive to temperature even more than we are, and they are more likely to enjoy it if they are nice and warm.
  • Make sure there are big changing cubicles, which have a place to put your baby, such as a change table (if they’re not rolling yet), a chair (if they are rolling) or a playpen – you’ll need somewhere to put them whilst you’re changing yourself.
  • Pack your bag well in advance of when you go, whenever you get a spare 5 minutes, maybe the night before, especially if your baby feeds a lot during the day (like mine both have); that way you can more easily get up and go whenever they are ready.
  • Wait for a short while after feeding to get in the water, although some baby sick in the pool is inevitable and these days chlorination is tough on germs without being too tough on baby skin, so don’t be too concerned about timings here.
  • Pack your bag strategically, with things easy to get at – I put costumes and swim nappies at the top, towels in the middle, and clean nappies for afterwards at the bottom. I don’t take my usual change bag but instead have a small bag inside my swim bag that has nappies/wipes etc. which always stays in that bag so I don’t forget to take both a swim bag and a change bag.
  • Make sure you have a coin for the locker easily accessible, maybe in a side pocket on your bag – juggling a baby, a bag and a purse whilst getting out a coin stood in front of a locker is not an advisable sport!
  • Don’t forget swim nappies and clean nappies for afterwards – I take 2 of each kind in case of disasters! We have reusable swim nappies, but I take a spare disposable as well in case anything goes wrong before we get in the pool.
  • Take your baby’s towel through to the poolside so you can put it on them immediately after getting out the pool, otherwise they may well protest at being removed from warm water into colder air.
  • Don’t worry about having a shower at the pool – I find it much easier to dry off there and then come back home for a proper bath and shower later. If you’re worried about chlorine on the skin (though it’s much milder than once upon a time), you can always have a rinse in a poolside shower before getting changed.
  • Try to relax as much as possible, even if you find the first few times rather stressful until you get well practised at it, because your baby is likely to pick up on stress and let you know about it, making for a potentially not very fun swim.

Well there you go, my thoughts on making going swimming with a baby fun and enjoyable. If you have any further ideas, why not comment below – I’ve probably forgotten something, and I’d love to hear other people’s tips too.

Pregnancy diary: week 23 – swimming

I’ve been meaning to write a post on swimming in pregnancy for ages: in fact since before I was pregnant with this baby, because I was so impressed with how it helped me in pregnancy with Andrew that I wanted to share it with others who are (or will be) pregnant. This week isn’t particularly special in terms of how much I’ve swum, it’s more that I’m writing it now because nothing else has sprung to mind, and swimming is such a normal part of my weekly routine that I often forget about it. So here’s what I have to say about swimming in pregnancy.

Between about weeks 6 and 18, I can’t deny that I did less swimming than usual, because the sickness took over my life and forced me to take things a lot more easy than normal in terms of exercise. Before I had Andrew, I used to swim 3 times a week for about half an hour (60 lengths or 1 roughly mile). Obviously I had a gap of about 2.5 months after he was born when I didn’t swim, but since then I’d been managing to fit in about 2 half hour swims a week (not including the once a week I go with Andrew), which was as much as I could fit in around the times our local pool is available for public swimming and Tom is around to look after Andrew. This dropped to once a week when I started being sick with pregnancy; instead of half an hour of 60 lengths front crawl, I managed to do about half this and just breaststroke. I used to go in evenings, but as this was the worst time of day for the sickness, the only time I could make was a Saturday in the late morning. I didn’t enjoy it as much when feeling sick, but it was the form of exercise that made me feel the least sick – walking and cycling were worse, though I still had to do one of them most days. And it did make me feel refreshed for a short time afterwards, I guess because I always feel refreshed when I’ve been for a swim.

I thought it would be a good idea, given the theme of this week's post, to take a photo in my swimming costume. Incidentally, this has been a very good costume, it's still going strong half way though my 2nd pregnancy. It was from Mothercare maternity range, though I'm not sure they still do it. I wish I had a photo of me in the pool, but as I go on my own, there's nobody to take it!

Since about 18 weeks, although I’ve still not been feeling great with the lingering nausea, I have managed to get in one more swim in the early evening most weeks, even if only for 20 minutes. At about 20 weeks I did find that my energy level started to slowly increase, and I’ve been able to generally do more stuff (though I’m trying to remember not to go all out with my newly re-found energy and wear myself out again – easier said than done when life is so busy!) I’ve always found that swimming is a great way to feel energised. Whenever I’m feeling a bit lethargic or tired, although it’s an effort to get to the pool when I’m like that, I know that I feel so much better with 10 times more energy when I finish the swim, so it’s worth it in the end. This has certainly been true in pregnancy, perhaps even more so than usual. So I would definitely recommend swimming as a way of boosting your energy and feeling more positive about the tiredness at times when you inevitably feel low in pregnancy.

Swimming has always been something that gives me some ‘me-time’, time to be alone and think, to calm down after a busy day or to wake myself up slowly in the morning. When I’m under water, just hearing the sound of water swooshing around my ears, I find it helps me block out all the other noise of daily life and just concentrate on what I’d like to think through, for example my day at work or what activity I’m going to do with Andrew tomorrow. This is particularly important in pregnancy I’ve found, and even more so this time when I’m so busy with all the things that I try and fit into an average week, including running around after an active toddler. I’m very grateful to Tom for letting me have this time to myself, and I really appreciate just how important it is to me.

At the moment I still don’t feel particularly heavy, but I know it’s rapidly approaching that time, if this pregnancy is anything like the last, when the bump will suddenly grow a lot very quickly. When I was pregnant with Andrew, I found that swimming was the most comfortable form of exercise after about 30 weeks, because it isn’t weight-bearing. The time I spent in the pool was amazing, as it was the only time when I could forget just how big and heavy I felt on dry land! I still did quite a bit of walking, because that’s how I got around Cambridge without a bike, but it became quite tricky towards the end of pregnancy, when I would get a sudden pain in my hips and have to stop for a while. Swimming wasn’t at all painful though, even when doing breaststroke which uses the hips a lot.

Another good point about swimming is that you don’t get all sweaty whilst exercising. Given that I generally feel so much warmer in pregnancy already, I really don’t like getting even hotter when walking or cycling. This was less of an issue last time, because I was heavily pregnant in late autumn and winter when it was cold, but this time (if we get a proper summer!) it’ll be harder on this front. Swimming will be my way of cooling off.

In general I’d say that swimming is a great way to keep fit, both aerobically and for toning muscles. In pregnancy I found, and I’m finding again this time, that it’s a particularly good way to keep fit when your body is carrying extra weight and working extra hard. In my last pregnancy I swam right up until the day before Andrew was born (I didn’t have time on the day he was born as the midwife came in the morning and by the afternoon I was starting to get contractions and he was born at 10.22pm), and I intend to do the same this time. The midwife who was with us in labour and delivery said that she could tell I was fit for a pregnant mum, and I reckon all that swimming paid off in how quickly and smoothly labour went. I’m hoping the same will happen again, though I know complications can unexpectedly happen.

If I haven’t convinced you by now that swimming in pregnancy is a great idea, I’m not sure what else I would have to say! I know I’m biased in that I’ve always loved swimming and done a lot of it, but I think it can be something for everyone, because you take take things at the pace you want. I totally understand that some people are not too keen on wearing just a swimming costume in public, and that might get even harder in pregnancy as the body changes shape. I’ve personally found that having a bump is a great conversation starter in the pool, as others are amazed to see a pregnant swimmer pacing up and down the lanes, overtaking some of the other swimmers on her way!

Next week I get to see baby again at an extra scan that we’re having, as part of doctor training (I wrote about this back at week 14 – I can’t believe how time is flying, it seemed like ages until 24 weeks back then!) So there’ll be another picture to see/try and figure out. I’m looking forward to it 🙂