I had been looking forward for ages to taking Amelia to the swimming pool for the first time. We did it by the book, and waited until she had had all her jabs (some say you should, some say you shouldn’t.)
Regardless of this, I also had to wait until I’d lost enough weight to try not to look scary in my swimsuit.
Anyway, last Saturday we went. It was enjoyable, and although Amelia took a while to get used to it, I think she enjoyed it too. There are lots of websites that have advice about taking your baby for their first swim, and they are all very helpful. I found what was important/challenging for me personally was specific to me, but here’s my list of 10 things I learned about taking your baby swimming…
1. Don’t go on your own. Take your husband/wife/partner/friend with you. It’s a little bit scary when you realise you’ve to go in the water and you have awful visions of slipping on the tiles when you’re carrying the baby etc.
2. Choose a time of day that you are sure the pool will be fairly quiet and not too busy. We noticed that although we went as soon as the pool opened (10am) in order to avoid the crowds, the noise of just four or five other kids was almost too much for her. It’s a lot for them to take in. Also a good idea to go on a weekday rather than a Saturday, I would imagine.
3. Wear your own swimsuit underneath your clothes before you go to the pool. This way, you only have to strip off your outer layers and have more time spare to get the baby ready.
4. By the same token, put the baby in their swim nappy and swimsuit underneath their clothes too, before you leave the house. **This only works if you know and I mean KNOW that they have poo’ed already that morning, and aren’t likely to again** Otherwise you’ll be changing them again before they go in and will have a mess on your hands. Worst case scenario, the swimsuit will be ruined too.
And you won’t have a spare.
5. Go gently. It’s tempting to start splashing lots and messing around in the pool straight away. This might be totally okay for some babies, but Amelia was a bit freaked out by it so we had to just sit with her on our knee, hold her close, and slowly let the water move up her body. We splashed gently a little towards the end and she began to enjoy it more.
6. Bring a bath toy. I read this somewhere else online, and wasn’t sure that there was actually any point to it. But it was a good idea because it gave Amelia something familiar to focus on in order to stop her being overwhelmed by all the other stimulus in the pool.
7. Have a bottle ready immediately after you’ve got them dried and dressed. You might make it to the cafe to have a sit down to give it to them, or you may have to give it to them in the dressing room, but either way, they will be HUNGRY and tired so don’t make plans for immediately after your swim, take your time afterwards and make sure you feed them. Amelia only had about 2oz and fell quickly asleep, but she got something at least.
8. If you are going alone, use an inflatable swim seat – if for some reason you do need to keep your hands free, then you can put them in this and they will float happily – obviously follow the instructions on the packaging for whichever brand you buy. The one we used is great, except she is very small in it, and she was sitting down very low in it, we could just about see her head! She looked like a weird fluorescent pink doughnut! I imagine it will be very useful when she is bigger.
9. Use a towel poncho. They are great because you can put one on the baby and the hood covers their head the way a baby towel normally does, but you don’t have to cuddle them up in it while you’re getting yourself dried and changed. Also use a nappy bag for your wet swimsuits – I actually felt like a complete genius when I figured this out 🙂
10. Don’t stay in the water any longer than about 15 mins, and if the baby starts to shiver, take them out immediately and wrap them in a towel. Amelia lasted about that length of time, but each baby is different.