I’ve been taking a baby swimming class with Eva for a few weeks now and I’m starting to get the hang of how to get her ready both before and after. Before the first class I however tried googling what to expect, because to be honest I really had no idea that to do before and after being in the water. I mean where do you put your baby while you change and shower? It’s not like you can just ask her nicely to just sit still and wait patiently, when sitting is something that requires a least both of your hands. Just laying her on the ground just seems kind of wrong and now she’s started rolling it also has become kind of dangerous.
Well it turns out some places with pools for babies have both strollers you can borrow and separate changing stations for babies which is a brilliant idea. But not all places have this like for example the one where I take Eva for her baby swimming class. The solution here is instead a mat to lay the children on or for those with babies that had starting crawling, a high chair. This does work, but it’s not a great solution in my book and it also makes it even harder (for me at least) to really figure out in what sequence to do things. However this is the sequences I do it in:
Getting ready before the going in the water
If there is no separate changing station for babies I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer to do it in this order:
- take off my clothes
- take off her clothes
- lay her on the mat (or place her in the stroller/high chair) in her towel to keep her warm
- shower myself
- put on my bathing suit
- shower with her (some places have small tubs for babies, but I just bring Eva with me under the shower head, but do whatever you feel most comfortable with)
- put her in her swimming diaper.
If there is a separate changing station for babies outside the changing room then there’s really no dilemma. At least not the places I’ve been. Then you have to get ready first while the baby waits in the stroller and then enter the swimming pool area to find the separate baby changing station.
If the changing station is in the changing room then I try to keep her in her clothes for as long as possible, both before and after having been in the pool. This means I get ready first while she waits in the stroller.
Getting ready afterwards
What to do afterwards also depends on the facilities. It’s a no brainer if there’s a separate changing station outside the changing room, as you’ll have to get the baby ready first. Even if the changing station is in the changing room I get her ready first (shower, dry, diaper, clothes) and then get ready myself ready. I prefer to it in that order, so she won’t get cold (despite the towel) or risk her falling asleep in her swimming diaper. Putting clothes on a tired, cranky baby is not my idea of fun, so I try to avoid it.
When there are no separate changing facilities at all it find it a bit more tricky to figure out the best sequence to do things in afterwards as it largely depends on her mood. If she’s tired every sequence is the wrong one. I do however think I prefer to do it in this order:
- shower with her first
- dry her and tuck her into her towel (I really like those with little hoods!) to keep her nice and warm
- take shower and dry myself
- put on underwear
- get her in a diaper and her clothes
- get myself dressed
I know most prefer to get their babies completely ready before drying and putting clothes on themselves (and so do I to be honest), but I’ve not yet done this when there is no separate changing station, without getting her clothes wet and then having to change them. I’ve have no idea how other people do it, but it might work for you.
Before tucking her into her pram or baby carrier I usually try and offer her some breastmilk. Mainly because she gets really hungry after all of that exercise, but I’ve also been told it’s a really good idea if you have a baby that enjoys a few sips of pool water like my daughter and you’re not into diarrhea.
What to do in the water
What to expect when you are in the water often depends on whether you’ve signed up for a class with other parents or whether you’ve gone to the pool by yourself. If you are like me and on your own it might be a good idea to google some things to do in the water and how to hold your baby or buy / borrow a book on the subject. Otherwise you might just end up going back and forth holding your baby tight and not daring to loosen that grip. If in a class there will be someone to tell you what to do and help you figure out when your baby is ready for fx diving. So far Eva’s favourite activity is chasing the toys around in the water trying to get them in her mouth – the bigger the better.
How long to stay in the water
The first time – or maybe even the first few times – your baby might not last that long in the water. And that is completely normal. Don’t try and force it – you’re not missing out even though it might feel like that. If you insist on staying in the water you might just end up with a baby that won’t enjoy going to the pool. Usually a class is 25-30 minutes long and Eva managed the first two times without problem, but had to leave 10 minutes early the third time (when she tried diving for the first time). And I’m glad we did. She didn’t cry but began clinging to me in the water and that’s when I knew to get up. She got real fuzzy in the shower and when I started to get her dressed – the tears began. She was overstimulated and I kind of wished we had gotten up a few minutes earlier. Luckily it didn’t seem to affect her joy of going to the pool. And she still slept like a baby afterwards.
What to bring
Before starting I also googled what to bring and besides swimming diapers for your baby the recommendations are pretty much the same. I usually bring the following:
- Reusable swimming diaper for baby (all the places I know requires these)
- Disposable baby swimming diaper to use under the reusable one (not all places require these)
- Bathing suit for yourself
- Three towels (one for baby with a hood for keeping warm when getting to and from the pool and one for each of you for drying)
- An extra set of clothes for baby
- Diapers, disposable washcloths and what else you need for changing diapers
- A plastic bag for the wet towels and swimming outfits
- Drinking water for yourself (especially if you are breastfeeding)
- Hair brush for me (I keep forgetting it which is why you won’t find it in the photo below)
What we bring to the svimming pool (that and a hairbrush for me!)
- Shampoo and soap for yourself (if you don’t just use whatever they have at the pool like I do)
- If your baby use a pacifier it might be a good idea to bring that as well – Eva doesn’t so I don’t bring one
- I’m still breastfeeding, but if you’re not I would recommend formula (just check if your swimming pool has a way of heating it and where it is okay to consume it)
- Oil to rub on skin of your baby after being in the water (or whatever you prefer as moisturizer). This however could also wait to you get home. I usually wait.
All packed up and ready to go
Though I’m definitely not an expert on the subject, but I know I always appreciate other people’s experiences and thoughts before jumping into new territory with Eva. And her being our first child everything seems like new territory.
Don’t stress. One thing I find is really important is not stressing. If you’re late for a class that’s okay. It’s much better to be late and have a short, but good experience in the water, than be on time and have a bad one because you rushed it.
Enjoy it. Don’t tense up or worry. Babies will check to see how you react to know how to react themselves, so remember to smile and try and relax (even though it might be difficult the first time your baby dives). I guess it’s easier to relax the older the child, but nonetheless it’s important. And also remember if you’re in a class or talking to other parents, that going to the pool is not a competition on whose baby can do the biggest splashes or can dive the longest. Just take the time to relax and enjoy your baby experiencing the water.
A full belly is better than an empty. I’ve been advised by several people to make sure that your baby is not hungry when going into the water, so remember to make time for that as well.
Check out the facilities. This doesn’t just mean the changing room, but also where to park your pram or car (or if it might be a better idea to use a baby carrier/sling as transportation), if there’s a microwave for heating formula or some unique rules or circumstances for your swimming pool (I must admit I was a bit surprised by the laying-baby-on-the-mat solution at the retirement home). Also make sure the pool is for babies meaning that the temperature is around 34 degrees Celsius and that there’s no deep end.
When to start
I’ve heard a lot of different recommendations, but most I’ve seen say the baby has to be at least 8-12 weeks and the mom (if dad is not going of course) when she’s stopped bleeding after giving birth. But don’t take my word for this. Talk to your doctor, swimming instructor or similar. We started when Eva was 5 months old and for us it was a good time to start. I felt more confident in my role as a mother and in my abilities to soothe her if she got overwhelmed.