Baby Swimming Lessons: Tricks You’ll Need to Survive

by Ellie Thompson

As a new parent, I was really excited at the prospect of Maddie’s first-ever swimming lesson as a 4-month-old baby. The reality of baby swimming lessons, however, turned out to be something quite different.

The post-swim change was an experience I will never forget. It is etched in my memory for the rest of my days. 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. 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 was my baby that lost the plot in the changing room. Baby swimming lessons have scarred me for life.

The changing cubicles were dark, wet and small. Too small. My nose filled with chlorine as my soaks became instantly soaked. But all was OK, Maddie was highly amused by it all, even when I had to practically crowbar the Happy Nappy over her chubby thighs. The pool room was warm, the teacher was engaging, the other mums were lovely. 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 sod, these babies are slippery AF once they’re in the water.

All was going swimmingly well (no excuses for the pun) until we exited the pool room.

On climbing out of the pool I marvelled at how well we’d both done. We’d achieved something pretty special. We had accomplished our first baby swim! In a cloud of elation, I walked confidently and completely obliviously into hell.

It’s those screams she does that make 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. The entire changing fell silent as they listened and imagined what on earth was going in our cubicle. It sounded as though I was torturing my child with a blunt chain saw. “What a shit mum.” I imagined them all saying to themselves. “The worst.”

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Inside our cubicle, I was busy flapping about wondering if we’d be stuck in there forever. Baby swimming lessons are the work of the devil.

Maddie was wrapped in a hooded towel but it wasn’t enough. All of a sudden she was freezing, she was hungry, and she was ANGRY. Really fucking angry. With hindsight, I had come badly prepared – both mentally and practically. And I crumbled.

Ten minutes crawled by like two decades before we emerged from the changing rooms. I grabbed my bag, stuffed my shoes on my feet and made the most awkward exit to the car, which was parked some way away.

Four years on, I’m here to help you avoid this situ. Here are some tips on what you’ll need to ensure you avoid baby swimming trauma so you’re not scarred forever.

Baby Swimming Lessons – 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.
  • 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 complete shit tip in the aftermath of a baby swimming lesson. I couldn’t locate a bloody thing with a screaming baby in my arm. Organise it better.
  • Give your baby a small feed before you travel to the lesson. Staves off hunger, and any hangry melt-downs.
  • Hot water bottle in bag – makes sense! Nice warm towels, nice warm clothes for baby and you.
  • 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.
  • Swaddle baby in one or two big towels until they are warm and dry before attempting to change, feed, or even breathe.
  • Babygrow – 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.
  • Take your dressing gown. Of course. I love this tip.
  • 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, a random 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 somebody with you, be cheeky and ask others for help.
  • Take your buggy or car seat into the changing area, if you can. I can’t, but I would if I could! (Sarah)
  • Take a dummy to soothe your baby.

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.

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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.

To sum up:

When it comes to baby swimming lessons here are some fab tips from my Jellie Diary followers that are also worth considering to make the post-swim change a bearable experience:


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Written by

Ellie Thompson

Blogger, Editor and Mum of One
I’m an anxious but sometimes positive 39-year old mama to two children, a hectic three-year-old named Madison (Maddie), and our nearly two-year-old William (Billy). We live in Surrey with my Tesco bargain wine-in-a-box loving husband (lasts six weeks once open – the wine that is!) and our beloved black cat Delilah, and new rescue cat Ralph. I am the editor of popular UK parenting and lifestyle website My Baba, and author of The Jellie Diaries, a vlog that details our journey to family life via IVF. I run fertility, pregnancy and parenting support groups from our Facebook page and continue to write daily diary entries about our lives as a family, shared primarily through Instagram and Facebook. A lifetime over-sharer, I’m here to blog our experiences from the point of view of a relatively normal (!) family… Enjoy!

Articles on YourBabyClub.co.uk are a mixture of informative pieces, anecdotal accounts and professional advice from our panel of Bloggers, Writers and Experts. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official view of Your Baby Club UK

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