Most parents understand the importance of getting their child into the water to learn to swim, with children typically starting structured swimming lessons from age 3-5 years, but four-time Olympic medallist Becky Adlington advises that the years between birth and three are crucial in building water confidence. Some parents understandably catch themselves thinking are baby swimming lessons worth it?
Becky said: “Parents assume baby swimming is a nice-to-have, but it’s vitally important for water safety, connection and confidence. It is absolutely crucial parents know how important it is to get your baby into the water in those early years, for both physical and mental development.
“Children develop a fear of water between the ages of three to five years so if they’re water confident from an early age, you’ll see huge benefits when they begin mainstream (from three plus) lessons.”
Health visitor, Lisa Williams agrees.
“To say the benefits of baby swimming are endless is an understatement. In baby development we talk about the ‘critical 1001 days’, essentially most learning we do is done by the age of three! Getting babies into a pool early is a brilliant way to get the most out of this never more important time period, to set your child up for a good start.”
From building water confidence and encouraging muscle development through to bonding and one-on-one time - there’s a whole raft of reasons why getting little ones in the water from an early age is beneficial for both baby and parents alike.
To mark the start of National Baby Swimming Week (3rd - 9th October) Becky, one of the owners of swim! and health visitor Lisa have shared their expert advice on why baby swimming lessons are so important:
Are baby swimming lessons worth it?
Early water confidence
Becky said: “Enrolling a baby into swimming sessions from an early age will pay dividends later. One thing is for sure, when they are older, they’ll arrive at the next level bursting with confidence and ready to learn – a huge win for them and peace of mind for you. We notice children who take part in baby swimming because they turn up to mainstream swimming lessons so much more confident, without fear and ready to get going.”
Lisa agreed: ”You don’t have to wait until your child is aged four or five for lessons to make an impact, water confidence can start developing as soon as parents are ready to get into a pool with them. As newborns we haven't developed fears yet, so getting new babies into a pool early on is essential for never gaining a fear of swimming”
Bonding for dads
Lisa added: “It’s the perfect opportunity for dads to get some skin-on-skin with their baby too, creating that deep connection as they have plenty of fun together. It is often advised dads who may be struggling with postpartum depression or struggling to bond with their baby after they are born to get into a bath with their baby – and a swimming pool is just one better!”
Becky said: “Dads are often forgotten, especially in the fourth trimester when everything is so new and mums need extra support. Taking the time out to go swimming with their baby is a brilliant way for them to spend some crucial one-on-one time.”
Lisa agreed: “Having lessons with an expertly trained teacher can really stimulate brain development and build behaviours that a young baby can carry forward with them. From birth to two years of age in particular, babies’ brains are like little sponges and they learn incredibly quickly.”
Becky said: “Swimming lessons focus on using repetitive actions and simple instructions, so babies begin to show natural anticipation and reactions, all working towards building up vital skills and supporting their brain development.”
A swimming community
Becky said: “Whether it’s to compare notes on feeding or simply have a chat about lack of sleep – that feeling of community can bring with it a huge boost to mum or dad’s mental health. At swim! centres we encourage parents to come together and take a minute to chat with parents before or after baby swimming classes. Spectators are also welcome to come along and watch their baby’s love of water grow and offer support to parents and guardians in the pool. We are all in this together and community is so important – you're not alone.”
Lisa added: “Many parents, especially first-time ones, can often feel a sense of loneliness that comes with having a new baby. Having a regular opportunity to meet others in the same position can provide endless benefits. Baby swimming classes give parents a reason to get together with people who are going through the exact same thing - you're not alone in your worries so having people to talk to is vital. After all, if the parents are happy, the baby is happy.”
Becky said: “Swimming is a great way for babies to strengthen their growing muscles. Moving around their arms and legs and finding their balance in the water are brilliant ways to build up strength.”
Lisa agreed: “In the early stages of physical development, swimming will help with neck and head control, then as baby grows it will strengthen core muscles, helping them push towards their next milestone, such as sitting up unaided.”
No distractions guaranteed
Becky said: “Life is so busy, so a baby swimming session is the perfect ‘time out’ for baby and parent or caregiver. With no mobile phone, television or the noise of outside distractions, it’s simply 30 minutes for a parent or carer with their baby. Sure most parents will agree it's a rare occasion when you can just focus on one thing, I know I struggle, and baby swimming gives the perfect excuse to not think about the office, house work, the food shop etc...”
Lisa added: “This quality time together allows parent and infant to build trust, connect, and have plenty of fun whilst learning new skills.”
Lisa agreed: “Enjoying the water together requires a real closeness and trust, with babies forming attachments with us simply by looking at our faces. Spending this time together helps build brain receptors in little ones and can even stimulate the release of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for parent-infant bonding, in mums.”
Becky said: “Playing and splashing together in a pool is lots of fun, and a lovely place to make some early memories. Taking this quality time out is incredibly rewarding in terms of emotional bonding.”
Lisa added: “Little ones are concentrating, using brain powers and burning off excess energy whilst in the water. Depending on your baby they may find the water soothing or stimulating! Either way you may notice an improvement in sleep patterns once you begin regular sessions.”
Becky said: “A swimming session will certainly tire out little ones as they use their arms and legs to splash about in the pool. As well as the physical demands of swimming, babies are hugely mentally stimulated as they take in the new environment, actions and sounds, and this is tiring for them too.”
Just start early
Lisa said: “Babies can start enjoying swimming from any age, as soon as a parent or caregiver is ready to take them along. Don’t worry about them being too little, as long as they have the recommended swimming kit by your pool of choice and the water isn’t too cold (ideally 30 degrees plus) then they will be very happy.”
Becky said: “We welcome babies whenever parents feel ready to get into a pool with their little ones. Each class aims to make everyone feel welcome and supported as you start to introduce your new arrival to water and start allowing them to experience all the benefits baby swimming brings.”
For more information or to book a free swim! baby intro lesson, visit https://www.swim.co.uk/baby
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