I was really excited at the prospect of my first swimming lesson with Maddie. The lesson was fantastic but the post-swim change was something I will never forget. It’s etched in my memory for the rest of time. If I’m reincarnated in a hundred years’ time and come back as a fish with a three-second memory I’m still going to remember it.
I ended up in the car park, front passenger seat, wet, underwear-less, baby in arms, bottle in hand, sobbing, and desperately trying to slink down and disappear below window level so nobody could see us. Yes, it’s me, my name is Ellie Thompson and it my baby that lost the plot in the changing room.
All was going swimmingly well (no excuses for the pun) until we exited the pool room. The changing rooms on arrival were wet, my socks were soaked and I realised wearing fiddly shoes was an error, but Maddie was amused, she was all smiles, even when I had to practically crow bar the Happy Nappy over her chubby thighs. The pool room was warm, the teacher was engaging, the other mums were lovely. In short, the lesson was fantastic. And what’s more – I didn’t drop her, something I’d been having actual nightmares about – dropping the baby under the water in the pool. Surely it must have happened to some unlucky sods. Luckily, it didn’t to me, oh no. Success! We had made it! On climbing out of the pool I marvelled at how well we’d both done. We’d achieved something pretty special. In a cloud of elation I walked confidently and completely obliviously into what I can only describe as some sort of baby hell.
It’s those screams she does that makes everybody turn to stare. It’s the instant, sudden, flick of the switch, full pelt, no warning, full-on, full-volume cry. The sort that has everybody in a five mile radius snapping their necks to look, purely out of instinct because it sounds as though something really bloody bad has happened. It’s that fingers-shut-in-door type screaming. My heart was in my mouth.
I flapped about in the changing room not knowing what to do for the best. She was of course wrapped in a hooded towel but it wasn’t enough. She was cold regardless, she was hungry, she had zero time for whatever it was I was subjecting her to. With hindsight, I had been very badly prepared – both mentally and practically.
It’s a couple days before I’m back at our second lesson, thank the LORD for inventing half term and a two week gap for me to emotionally heal myself and maybe for Maddie to forget?! Hmm… I’m already dreading it. Buuut, I’ve paid up for the term. It wasn’t cheap. So we’re going – at least one more time before I lose the plot and end up on the changing room floor in a screaming fit next to my child. We are going in a little better prepared this time, and I wanted to share the benefit of the experiences and tips I’ve gathered courtesy of some of my Jellie Diary followers, in the hope that this experience never happens to you. What can I say? You’re welcome!
Baby Kit – what you need
- Reusable Nappy with liner
- Happy Nappy (over the top of reusable, or disposable – your choice)
- Swim wrap – good if the pool is below 33 degrees. We didn’t need the wrap at 33, it was lovely and warm. Friends advised against the traditional wet suit. Getting it on and off baby can be a pig’s ear! Make life easier for yourself by going for the wrap.
- Towels – take at least two for baby. A big hooded that fully covers their body and then some, and at least one spare as changing rooms and changers can be wet, and you may need to lie a towel down to change your baby on.
Maddie wore the super cool reusable Bambino Mio nappies, with liner. It’s worth noting that the Bambino Mio nappies don’t require an extra nappy and are a nifty all-in-one solution, but to keep in line with the rules of the class, the Happy Nappy went on very snuggly over the top.
I also got a little carried away and purchased the matching wrap. A couple of NCT friends attending another swim class and said their children got a little cold, and the wrap was good at keeping them warm (and happy) in the pool. It turns out that actually, I didn’t need to buy the wrap, the pool room and pool water were lovely and warm.
Your Kit / Tips on What to Take
Unless you have a super chilled baby like my friend Janine from NCT, (she didn’t cry once!) you can forget about having any sort of time or the right mental frame of mind to fiddle about with your bra post swim change. I was lucky enough to walk out of that changing room alive, let alone be thankful I had my jeans, jumper and trainers on. WHO needs underwear anyway? I also stupidly wore high top trainers that involved bending, pulling on and lacing up. Forget those. Slip ons / flip flops are the only sane footwear for this occasion. Also ditch your socks. Leave them at home. Mine were soaking as soon as I took my trainers off on arrival. Bloody brilliant, I thought.
These were my personal tips to myself:
- Towels – again, take one, take two, take fifty. You can’t take enough.
- Bottle – have a bottle ready. If you’re formula feeding do it in advance if you can. A good way to minimise and attempt to control any horrific screaming your baby may be doing in that cubicle.
- Organised bag – in the heat of the moment even the most organised bag can seem like a Mary Poppins’ carpet bag. I couldn’t locate a bloody thing with a screaming baby in my arm. Organise it better.
And here are some fab tips from my Jellie Diary followers that are also worth considering to make the post swim change a bearable experience:
- Give your baby a small feed before you travel to lesson. Staves off hunger, and any hangry melt-downs. (Adele)
- Hot water bottle in bag – makes sense! Nice warm towels, nice warm clothes for baby and you. (Charlotte)
- Neoprene changing mat. They’re flexible, easy to fold, your baby won’t be slipping around on a wet changer like a line- caught fish. (Emma)
- Remove wet nappies/costumes poolside before you exit (not possible at my class as it’s small, but if you can, do it. Take in a nappy and tuck it in the hood of your towel. You can manage anything ninja fast if baby is chilled. (Rose)
- Swaddle baby in one or two big towels until they are warm and dry before attempting to change, feed, or even breathe. (Jenny)
- Baby grow – the only sensible way to dress your baby before and after the swim. Anything else is just madness. (Amy)
- Talc is not just for baby, it’s also for the grown-ups – you’ll be standing there cold and wet. Talc is comforting, talc is warming, talc will get you dry. (Leeanne)
- Take your dressing gown. Of course. I love this tip. (Caroline)
- Easy throw-on clothes for mum. Even jeans are difficult to pull up when you’ve not been able to dry yourself properly. There are also buttons and zips involved in those, as I found out to my peril. Leggings and a sweater all the way. (Sharron)
- If you can, take back-up. Your mum, partner, friend, stranger off the street… They can help you with changing. Again, not possible for my particular class due to lack of space and also my own circumstances, but sod it, if you can, do it! Lessons are only half an hour anyway. If you don’t have a somebody with you, be cheeky and ask others for help. (Kirsten)
- Take your buggy or car seat in to the changing area, if you can. I can’t, but I would if I could! (Sarah)
- Take a dummy to soothe your baby. (Angela)