It's that time again and the new term of swimming for Grace has kicked off with a splash! We've changed swim schools and now attend Splish Splosh Swimming School. We arrived early as it was our first time at this pool and I get a bit nervous about going to new places for the first time. I needn't have worried, we were chatting with Helen, Mum to Lucas while we were getting changed and it turns out we both used to swim at the same place before Christmas... and we'd both swapped schools to save a few bucks but also to have the novelty of being able to swing a cat in the changing rooms! Grace kitted out in Huggie's Swim Nappies and a Happy Nappy over the top (a neoprene pant that's supposed to keep accidents from happening), we were dressed and ready to swim.
There were 5 of us on the class, which is a great ratio to work with, and the instructor Debbie was friendly and immediately welcoming. It was nice to see family able to watch the class on the pool side and I have to say the atmosphere felt really positive. I recognised Jacqui immediately as someone I used to work with, with her little girl Freya, now 28 weeks old. There was another Mum (I forget her name!) with Isla (I'm guessing her at around 10-12 months old) and a very brave Dad in a pool full of women with another little girl. Grace already a little tired from going to a Men Behaving Dadly play group at the local Children's Centre surprised me by not only getting through the lesson without a meltdown, she managed to splash her way through the half hour in high spirits and general amazement at the squeaky duck she was chasing in the water.
We started by singing a song to get the babies used to the water. It's about a months since Grace last donned her waterwings so it was a nice introduction to the session - she loves the Grand old Duke of York at the best of times so singing a familiar song with actions eased her in with confidence. After that we put our babies into swim position one. This is with Grace supported under the arms in a horizontal position in the water, facing away from me so as I walk she's swimming level with me. We had a few early episodes of drinking the water as I got used to walking at the right height - the water is quite shallow so all of us adults are left to modify our gait to suit.... being tall I was almost on my knees. Anyhow, when we got to the side, I asked Grace to 'hold on' to the bar (which at the moment she plops her fists on), then we 'turn around' and head back the other way. I encourage her, as instructed, to 'kick, kick, kick' although at just shy of 5 months old, her legs are trailing behind her with a cute little bobbing motion.
Debbie then had us sitting our babies on the side of the pool. Two more songs. Five Green Bottles (where each of us in turn jumps our babies into the pool with a big splash), and of course Humpty Dumpty. After a spot of swimming Grace on her back, it was time for the matter of submersion.
Grace has done this before and her response to it has generally been good, if a little bemused as she bats her eyelids in rapid succession to clear the water from her eyes. I read somewhere that it's at around 10 months onwards when babies start to lose their natural DIVE REFLEX. This bradycardic response causes babies to hold their breath and open their eyes the moment they are submerged. We get the same response by gently blowing in our babies faces, and this can be a good way of helping them catch their breath again if they do inadvertently take in a little water. The rationale of the submersion so early on in swimming lessons is that it allows baby to 'swim' before they can intentionally hold their breath. Anyway, we did 3 submersions, and all the babies in the class, included Grace did great and there was no fussing whatsoever. It can however be a little daunting for the first time parent, and if anything, the look on their faces is far more comic! Still, we all have to start somewhere.
A few more activities and songs, and the lesson was over. Time flies when you're having fun, and Grace was ready for a cuddle, some milk, and a well earned snooze. A success, we can't wait for our next lesson.
All dry, and ready to go home!