Our baby is exactly 6 months old today, and after a week off for half term we took her to her 16th swimming lesson. There are half a dozen new routines and techniques in today's article. Some variations on existing techniques, some brand new. One was a lot of fun, and one is safety related.
I guess we were lucky to get this far without a dirty swim nappy at the start of the lesson, but today it was a mad rush to change in time for the lesson. Good job we had a spare with us! There was so much new content in the lesson I'll have to skip the personal and stick to the essential elements.
I did want to mention though, that there was no crying today as this may be of interest to anyone with a baby going through a difficult patch during swimming sessions. We have had this problem and mentioned it in a few of the baby swimming articles. As with the last lesson, Clare sat a way back just in case sitting close by was causing Amélie to cry for her.
The first new technique started in side holding swim position. As you approach the side of the pool you straighten your arms until you are holding your baby out in front of you rather than at the side of you. You then instruct the baby to hold onto the side of the pool by repeating 'hold on, hold on, hold on'. If you have been following these articles you will have gone through holding onto the side with your baby a few times so they may know what to do. In today's lesson all the babies approached the side with arms outstretched ready to hold on.
The instructor said this would become something we would introduce every time we return to the side of the pool in side holding swim position. There was another routine we learned near the end of the lesson but it makes sense to go through that now, even though we didn't do it in this order. This is an 'Emergency Procedure' meant to be used in the event that your baby accidentally falls into the water.
For this you sit your baby on the side of the pool, you are in the pool gently supporting them with your hands under their armpits. I say supporting them but by this stage they are pretty much supporting themselves. We have done this before for the Humpty Dumpty routine and Name Ready Splash. In fact it starts exactly like Name Ready Splash.
You say 'Amélie (replace with your baby's name) ... Ready ... Splash' as you lift them into the water with a splash. Then immediately you turn them around and repeat 'hold on, hold on, hold on' and have them hold onto the side. The instructor said we should make this sound different to usual and have signs of stress and urgency in our voices.
With us all doing this at the same time my voice was drowned out so this is something I'll be doing at the local pool as well. I doubt Amélie will ever come into any danger with water, but as Clare and I swim regularly she is around water a lot, this is something I'd like her to learn. The instructor said that hopefully if your baby falls into water this will make then instinctively turn around and make for the side and hold on.
Another move while we are on the topic of sitting on the side was exactly the same as Humpty Dumpty but with a different rhyme. '8 Water babies sitting on a wall, 8 Water babies sitting on a wall, but if 1 Water baby should accidentally fall, there'd be no Water babies sitting on the wall '. I probably don't have to tell you the tune, but for for the sake of completeness it's '10 green bottles'.
I don't know about the maths of 8-1=0 but there you go. You can obviously change the words to whatever is apt to the situation. It was quite good though, because you start the rhyme with your baby sitting on the wall, and when they splash into the pool you still have the last line to sing to them. This allows for much more of a connection and moment with your baby than 'Humpty Dumpty'.
We did 2 underwater swims today, each one was slightly different to usual. The first was a switch around. Where the instructor usually passes your baby to you under the water check this article (which we have been doing since the very first lesson when Amélie was 6 weeks old)you switch places. You are at the side of the pool holding baby in side holding swim position, the instructor is waiting opposite you about 6 or 7 feet away. You lead your baby in with 'Amélie (replace with your babys name) ... Ready ... Go' and move them forward and under the water and then let go. The momentum carries them to the instructor who lifts them up and out of the water and passes them back to you.
This was nothing new for me, as Clare and I take Amélie to the local pool and I pass her to Clare under the water like this. The second underwater swim was almost the same as another we do. We are all moving in a big circle holding our babies in side holding swim position, we count them in with the usual 'Amélie (replace with your baby's name) ... Ready ... Go' then submerge them for a few seconds before bringing them up and out of the water. The difference being that this time you let go of them when they are under the water and allow them so swim for a little bit before you pick them up again.
When the instructor showed us a demo using one of the other babies I was struck by the amount of time the baby was underwater. It was about 5 or 6 seconds, which seems like a very long time when you are watching a baby under the water. I had a natural urge to pick her out of the water myself.
When it came to my turn I tried to leave her underwater for 6 seconds but I think I only got to 4 before I lifted her out. This is different to when we first started the lessons and I was happy to give her a good old dunking. I think if we had 16 lessons under our belt without any crying I'd be much less protective but the crying has made me a little hesitant.
Next came something that Amélie had so much fun doing. The little rubber fish from the previous article were handed out to us all and the instructor demonstrated with Amélie. You give your baby the fish to hold, and believe me all the babies were more than happy to do this. Most of them bringing it straight up to their mouths.
You are holding your baby in side holding swim position, you take the fish off your baby which they will probably resist. Amélie certainly held on for dear life as the instructor tried to take it off her. You then throw the fish about 3 feet in front of you and move towards it in side holding swim position. Your baby will probably grab for it and pick it up.
This isn't something that would have worked at 3 months old as Amélie only started picking things up at about 4 months old so I'd say your baby should be at least 5 months old for this to work. All the babies in the lesson I could see managed to pick the fish up and they are all 6 months plus.
The instructor did this 2 or 3 times with Amélie and then it was our turn. I had to give a real tug to get the fish from Amélie, when I threw it forward I was shocked at the forward propulsion of Amélie. In side holding swim position she always kicks her legs, but now she was kicking at such a quick rate it was pulling her forward. We played this game for quite a while and eventually I was throwing the fish 7 or 8 feet forward. I was dreading taking the fish off her to move on. When I saw the instructor collecting the fish I grabbed it and hid it behind my back, I think it was a real fluke but she didn't seem to miss it.
Obviously it's unlikely you are going to have a floating rubber fish, any floating toy even the traditional rubber duck would do though. We have a little turtle she plays with in the bath which we will probably use. The set we used today I think were from the Finding Nemo movie.
Next up was surfing. We were given some red floating teddy bears, you could use any kind of swimming float though. We put our babies onto the floats on their front, chest to float and held them on near the shoulder with our fingers under the float thumbs on baby's back. It felt like the side holding swim position, only you have the addition of a float under the baby which you need to keep in place.
We then moved forward in a big circle and moved the float side to side like they were surfing or body boarding. All to the tune of Hawai Five 0, 'da da da da da da, da da da da daaaa'. It's hard to describe in words, you just pretend they are surfing and turn and tilt them and the board. I guess the movement is more akin to slalom skiing than surfing. Amélie found this fun but was managing to hold onto the board and push herself up, which I don't think she was meant to do.
The last move (I told you there was a lot going on in this lesson) was a new kind of back stroke. It doesn't sound like it would work when you hear it explained but it does. You crouch in the water with your baby facing you, standing on your bent knee/thigh. You hold your baby by both arms at the forearm, so you have their left arm held in your right hand and vice versa. I started with my first finger close to her wrist, and pinkie near her elbow.
Let's just check where we are, baby is standing on your knee, probably leaning back away from you a bit, arms outstretched in front of them held by your hands. You then move your hands towards them so they lean further and further back until they are lying on their backs. You find yourself with your baby floating on their back with their arms pointing up held by your hands. You are no longer supporting them with your knee so you can start to move forwards and your baby will move backwards on their back.
It doesn't sound possible but somehow it works out. You are not meant to fully support them by pulling their arms up, they should be floating by themselves, perhaps a little support coming from you holding their arms. Amélie had a tenancy to pull herself up by her arms rather than allowing herself to float so it was a bit tough for me not to support her as described above.
We did this to the usual twinkle twinkle little star, and then a big hurray to finish the lesson. Amélie seemed to enjoy this lesson more than most as I think she gets bored, and there was certainly no time for boredom today. She was very hungry when we got home, and went down very well for her afternoon nap.
Today I feel really glad that we started her swimming at 6 weeks old, and pleased we persisted through the difficult stages. I try to play and talk to Amélie as much as possible during the week. I spend time with her every morning and evening, and watch her feed and play on the floor but I'm often very busy with work and feel guilty sometimes that I'm not spending enough time with her. This is why I'm glad that every week we get to do the swimming together, which not only is Dad and Daughter time but I'm sure is also helping her to physical and mental development.
I'm sorry about the length of this article but there was just so much to cover. I'll close now and I hope you have fun trying out some of these baby swimming routines and techniques.