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.