I won’t lie when the lovely team at Waterbabies originally got in touch kindly inviting Elsie and I along to try out their Lisburn class I was a little hesitant. Three things ran through my mind. First off getting into a swimsuit 10 weeks after having a baby was truly terrifying. Secondly I was a little dubious at how such a little baby could learn anything worthwhile at such a young age and if it would just be a bit of a waste of time. Thirdly…. how the hell do I get me and a newborn, organised, out of the house on time, changed into swimwear, into pool, out of a pool, dried and dressed without a full on meltdown.
Turns out it is possible and I can honestly report that starting our journey with Waterbabies has genuinely been one of, if not thee best thing I’ve done with Elsie to date and I am so glad I got out of my own head and took the plunge (literally).
So like I mentioned above I started with Waterbabies when Elsie was just 10weeks old however there were younger babies in the class so you don’t have to wait even that long! I was admittedly a little nervous heading to the first class (even though Zara who I had been in touch with to book and organise everything was absolutely lovely and couldn’t have been more helpful!). I think I was more anxious as to how Elsie would respond to the water and if I would be able to get her and me dressed and in the pool in time without one or both of us in tears. I have to say though it all went really smoothly and from the moment I met one of the smiley water babies team at the pool reception on our first day with our welcome pack and pre-ordered happy nappy, I sort of knew it would be ok.
Better than ok Elsie absolutely loved it and Jenny our instructor is possibly one of the nicest and most chilled people I’ve ever met (definitely essential criteria for a class of newborns and nervous mums). Lisburn pool have these big family changing rooms so getting the pair of us ready was actually pretty painless … Elsie even giggled.
The lovely thing about the classes is that most of the mummies (or daddies) are in the same boat so there’s nearly an instantaneous bonding over the nervous ‘what do we do’ smiles, the tight grips on our babas and the overload of cuteness. Jenny made everyone feel at ease straightaway and we even managed some ‘swimming’ from week 1. Needless to say I left buzzing and Elsie was zonked before we even got to the car. A massive bonus that Water babies don’t actually advertise (though imo they really should) is that the classes result in a tired sleeping baby all that afternoon…. I mean when you’ve got a newborn that’s a win in itself.
If your worried about the temperature of the water the pool is heated to be above 30 degrees though I also put Elsie in a little full body warm suit because like her mama she likes to be warm and I wasn’t risking her being put off!
We got a class photo taken in the pool on the first day which was a lovely little touch and a nice memory to be able to add to our Water Babies journey book which everyone receives in their welcome pack. I made sure to note down all the wee babies names as I thought it would also be nice to be able to tell Elsie in years to come that these were her first little swimming buddies. You can also use the book to record what little milestones and activities you both get up to each week in class (a bonus with baby brain leaving my memory capabilities in mush currently).
What I like about Water babies is that there is a continuous progression for your baby to follow right up until they are 4years old. The Water Babies journey is organised into chapters so you can start from birth with chapter 1 continuing right up to chapter 17. I’m a bit of a stickler for routine and a proper program, so personally I love that we can remain within a familiar framework for such an extended period (if we chose to do so and Elsie continues to enjoy it).
The whole idea is that your little baby will learn life long skills as they go along from confidence and safety in the water to eventually managing to swim 10 metres unaided when little ones graduate.
Truthfully I was extremely sceptical that Elsie at her age could really learn anything of value. To my surprise however before we finished chapter one she not only was kicking her wee legs when I held her in the swim position but she had also learned to close her eyes on cue before water was splashed in her face. I swear it’s so amazing to watch… I even bathed her in my mummy’s house just to show off her new skills. Proud mama alert!
Now it hasn’t all been plain sailing. As we started chapter 2 (actually at the underwater photoshoot at the end of chapter 1), Elsie suddenly decided she didn’t want to go under the water anymore. Literally out of the blue. I was bamboozled and a little worried. Jenny was brilliant though and reassured me that it is quite common (can often be associated with teething) and the best thing to do was just not force it or get her annoyed and let her enjoy the bits she did like. Surely enough it took a couple of weeks but she’s now getting back into the swing of things.
We are heading to Portugal in early September so that’s been a great focus for us when it comes to Elsie’s confidence and my confidence with her in the water. Each week we both grow more at ease in the pool and little safety drills like learning to hold on to the side are reinforced. I’m hoping come September I will be able to fully enjoy taking her into the pool on holidays knowing that we both will love it minus the nervousness.
The one to one time together in the water is also really special especially as she seems to be growing up way to fast! These memories will genuinely stay with me forever. Watching her in the pool just makes me so proud. Ok so she’s not exactly swimming but she’s doing her thing and that wee sense of accomplishment in her eyes or a wee splash and a giggle is worth it all.
Overall I can’t recommend Water Babies highly enough. I know it’s not for nothing and its a commitment in itself to get out and organised once a week but I don’t know how you’d ever regret it.
There’s no pressure to do every chapter you decide yourself at the end of one whether you wish to progress or miss it out. I definitely think it’s something worth trying if only for the memory bank.
I know lots of mummies decide to just take their babies to the pool themselves which is great but personally I would have been way too uneasy to do it myself until she was a lot older. Doing Water Babies just made things feel a lot safer for me… I wasn’t even sure how to actually get into the pool with her until after our first class!
So I’ve had lots of mummies contact me on Instagram asking for advice when going to the pool for the first time so here’s my two cents.
– Make sure and bring a backpack rather than a shoulder bag (it makes life much easier when carrying a baby around a pool changing area).
– Bring a bottle (if formula feeding) as little ones tend to be very hungry after their swim and it’s a great way to let them have a contented sleep on the way home.
– Bring baby in a baby grow don’t fuss with clothes it’s easier and warmer especially for changing afterwards.
– Leggings and a tee/jumper for mama (changing needs to be quick and easy).
– Go with an open mind and enjoy it… don’t panic about the whole wearing a swimsuit thing, believe me we are all way too busy holding on to our babies and watching them explore a whole new world to even notice anyone or anything else.
– Bring a couple of £ for a coffee on the way home… with an exhausted sleeping newborn it might be your only hot cuppa of the week so savour it.
Enrolment and locations:
Water babies enrol 4 times a year and swim across 14 different venues including:
- Armagh City Hotel (Mondays)
- Dungannon LC (Mondays)
- Phoenix Clinic Newtownards (Mondays)
- Private Swims Carryduff (Mondays)
- Lagan Valley LC (Tuesdays)
- Reach Far Swim School Ards (Tuesdays)
- DW Boucher Rd (Wednesdays)
- Reach Far Swim School Ards (Wednesdays)
- Bangor Aurora (Thursdays)
- DW Boucher Rd (Thursdays)
- Clayton Hotel (Fridays)
- Campbell College Belfast (Saturdays)
- Clayton Hotel Belfast (Saturdays)
- Moss Road Carryduff (Saturdays)
- Orchard LC Armagh (Saturdays)
- DW Boucher Rd (Saturdays)
- Phoenix Clinic Ards (Saturdays)
- Clayton Hotel Belfast (Sundays)
- Campbell College Belfast (Sundays)
- Sullivan Upper Holywood (Sundays)
- DW Bangor (Sundays)
- Bangor Aurora (Sundays)
Enrolment for Summer term opens at the beginning of April but if you’re serious about joining get in touch with the team early to register your interest or be put on the waiting list. They can answer all questions regarding costs, locations, class times, info or ordering swimwear.
Contact Information for the Water Babies Team:
Facebook: Water Babies Facebook page or Water Babies Northern Ireland Splash’N Chat Facebook group
At the end of Chapter 1 you get an invite to take part in an underwater photoshoot with your little swimmer. Elsie was not on form this day at all but somehow the photographer still managed to get this cracker shot. Such a great photo to have for years to come. Note this photoshoot is at an extra cost and prints aren’t included in course price. There’s no pressure to go along either if you’d prefer to just sit it out.