A lovely article by Sarah Bohn on why teaching your baby to swim is not only beneficial to your little one, but also great for you.
Whose responsibility is it to teach our children to swim? Whiles 25% of parents think it is schools responsibility, Sarah Bohn of Bohn Swimwear has launched a campaign with water babies to get new mums into the water with their baby to ensure that all babies and children have the opportunity to learn how to swim from a young age.
Sarah Says: I love to swim and so I was keen to introduced my daughter to the water early on. For me, swimming with my baby was a wonderful bonding experience, I loved how I could hold her close in the water to help reassure her, and I enjoyed watching her expressions as she experienced new sensations, warm water, cold water, waves and splashes. I loved watching her learn and grow in confidence and the fact that she slept soundly afterwards was an additional bonus!
Sadly many new mums don’t get to experience these wonderful moments with their baby because they feel vulnerable about their bodies following pregnancy and child birth that stripping off in public is the very last thing they want to do, and so they avoid swimming.
Yet the consequences of this are that that many children in the UK today don’t learn to swim until they reach school age, and some will never learn to swim. Tragically, drowning is the third-biggest cause of accidental death among children under five in the UK.
Sarah’s campaign, along with Water Babies #Familyswimtime is all about bonding, boosting confidence, building strength, physical health, mental health and enhancing the wellbeing of both mother & baby.
Sarah, why is swimming so great for mothers and babies?
Swimming has so many benefits it’s difficult to know where to begin? Firstly I think the fact that swimming is one of the only activities that provides skin-to-skin contact between parents and babies is a really good place to start. When you are in the pool with your baby it is a rare moment for you to focus entirely on your baby as there are no distractions. No phone. No internet. No television. Just you, your baby in the water, skin-to-skin.
Introducing your child to the water early on can prevent a fear of water from developing later on in life and can spark a lifetime’s interest in sport. Swimming also provides a complete physical work-out for baby, strengthening baby’s heart and lungs. There are few other activities you can do with your baby that will stimulates all 5 of babies senses (taste, smell, touch, sight and sound) which is why swimming can also help aid development in the brain as well. For mums weekly swimming classes can provide a little structure to your week, gets you out of the house and offer a great opportunity for you to meet other mums, and just possibly, give you back a little sanity…!
Here are 10 top reasons to swim with your baby form Water Babies:
1. It teaches water safety
Tragically, drowning is the third-biggest cause of accidental death among children under five in the UK. Learning to get to the side, hold on, get out and/or swim could save your child’s life one day.
2. It’s great for their physical and mental health
Swimming from birth is fantastic for your baby’s health & development, and could spark a lifetime’s interest in sport. Swimming provides a complete physical work-out, strengthening baby’s heart and lungs and in turn aiding development of the brain ”” including stimulating all 5 senses (taste, smell, touch, sight and sound).
3. It promotes bonding
Skin-to-skin contact strengthens the bond between you and your child. For parents with more than one child, this may be your one chance in the week to focus purely on your infant (and will probably be the only time when your mobile phone will be out of earshot!).
4. It boosts confidence
Introducing children to water at a very young age helps prevent a fear of water developing later. Exercises that involve moving independently in water and holding on to the side are wonderful for your baby’s confidence.
5. It develops their co-ordination
Being in the water helps improve co-ordination and balance. For example, a 2009 study by the Norwegian University of Science & Technology found that babies who swim have better balance and can grasp objects more easily¹.
6. It builds their strength
Buoyancy and water-resistance mean that babies exercise more muscles, more effectively, in water than on land. Finnish research showed that swimming babies crawled later but walked earlier, thanks to their excellent muscle control.
7. It develops their learning skills
Responding to repetitive voice commands can sharpen your baby’s mental skills and increase their levels of understanding. A German study found that swimming babies had advanced motor development, social skills and intelligence².
8. It enhances their wellbeing
Warm water relaxes your baby, and swimming stimulates their appetite; for you, the good news is improved sleeping and eating patterns!
9. It provides structure
Weekly swimming classes contribute to structuring your week and your day, providing a regular fun and social activity (and, just possibly, a little sanity…)
10. You can start from birth
Even the NHS agrees! You don’t need to wait until your baby has had his or her vaccinations before they go swimming (even underwater).
Why do you think it is important to encourage new mums to take their babies swimming?
Sadly a lot of new mums avoid the pool, in fact 32% of new mums we have surveyed said that they avoid taking their little one swimming altogether, and the main reason for this was because they felt uncomfortable in skimpy swimwear.
We want all UK children to have the chance to learn to swim and we believe that this starts at home. By encouraging Mums to swim with their little ones, we believe that children in the UK will have a better chance of learning to swim and are more likely to forge a lifelong interest in swimming and sports.
What solutions do you think there are to help new mums feel more confident I the water?
Thankfully a lot of women only sessions now allow babies and small children to attend the sessions, which is a big step in the right direction. I have also thoroughly enjoyed the #ThisGirlCan campaign which sends all the right messages to women. Classes’ by organisations like Water babies are also fantastic as the sessions are very supportive and often organised into small groups of similar aged babies so new parents are surrounded by people who are in the same boat as them.
Getting back in the pool is not an easy thing for new mums to do, there is a lot to come to terms with when you become a mum. This is why I created Bohn Swimwear – a mix and match cover up swimwear brand that allows women to choose the level of coverage they want when wearing swimwear. For me it was important to create a swimwear option to get new mums swimming. I want all new mums to enjoy the benefits of swimming with their baby and to be able to create those beautiful bonding moments. The bigger picture is that maybe we can reduced the amount of adults in Britain who can’t swim. Today as many as 1 in 5 adults in the UK can’t swim and I would very much like to see that number halved.
Sarah is the founder of Bohn Swimwear, a mix and match swimwear brand that has been created to allow women to choose the level of coverage they want when swimming.