Our Baby Swimming Philosophy
We use a middle-road approach to baby swimming. The Swiss method, a conservative method that we were taught, is to introduce the baby to the water utilizing various holds and always with the head above the water. That is, the baby never goes under the water in the general Swiss baby swimming classes (there are a few baby classes around Switzerland that do encourage underwater exercises.)
Conversely, there is the other spectrum used in baby survival swimming. That is the baby is reinforced with a practice of stomach-back rotations whereas if the baby possibly fell into water, he/she could rotate onto his/her back and either stay afloat or kick towards the edge of the pool. This is somewhat difficult for a parent to watch as the baby sometimes cries and is apparently in distress while attempting this exercise.
We do not use this extreme method of survival swimming because generally, parents who have private backyard pools are more apt to go with this method. This is understandable and we understand the responsibility one has with private swimming pools and children. The mix can be hazardous. Also, accidents happen in a blink of an eye. Turn your head, look out the window, anything can happen with children. There has to be a middle road. Where is the middle road? We might have fewer backyard swimming pools here in Switzerland, however, we have loads of beautiful, spotless, indoor swimming pools here!
That’s why we take the middle road. We want our infants to have the feeling of going underwater, but with fun and at their own pace. Our baby courses start off with very gentle introduction exercises to the swimming pool. They enjoy the head-above-the-water exercises, water sprinkled onto their heads, singing, and all the fun of being in a wet, relaxing environment. We gradually add cues and repetitive exercises of mom blowing bubbles, mom going under the water, and then mom and baby going under the water together. Another exercise introduced to the baby is the back float and the feeling of balancing in the water on the back while water is in the ears. At first, the parent supports the baby in this position and gradually, the parent lets the baby support himself/herself more and more. The key is to let the baby take it at his/her own pace. If she doesn’t like it, we change the exercise. We experiment as to how the baby adapts at various exercises and we do find that repetition is the bottom line. They adapt to the water.
Why do we do this? Why is it encouraged that a baby learns to feel the water, the splashing on the face, the underwater experience? We have seen time and time again these factors with our own students in the swimming school to form our conclusions. We teach babies, kids from all ages, and adults with various levels. Those children who have had some type of baby swimming or who have been introduced to the swimming pool at an early age (baby age!) and were regularly in the water, are by far more at ease with the water and by far more advanced in swimming skills at an earlier age.
A Note to Moms and Dads:
Please be aware that you will be in the water with your baby. This means baby will get wet and so will you. Please wear a bathing cap if you are opposed to getting your hair wet.
You are establishing a mirror-effect with your child. If you are sad, your baby will be sad. If you are nervous, your baby will be nervous. If you are happy, your baby will be happy. Throughout the class, it is paramount that you remain in a calm and happy mood while in the water as your baby will imitate this behavior in the water as well. Above all, enjoy this time you and baby are having together as this loving enjoyment of being in the water will reduce your baby’s fears and quicken the learning process.