The Birthlight approach has been developed over twenty years in a direction that offers a positive response to these recent trends by promoting ‘water parenting’; emphasis is placed on nurturing the bond between parent and infant in the water, and this is done by using both specially designed movement and relaxation techniques in water in ways that are most conducive to the development of survival skills and swimming.
The original approach developed in Birthlight baby swimming was inspired by Amazonian forest people with whom Françoise Freedman was doing fieldwork in her early twenties. They had fun everyday in rivers with their babies and children and learning was easy, carefree and effective. They were rough and gentle at the same time and the babies rarely cried. Babies were trained to hold on to their parents and swim towards them, always picked up before they got distressed. This provided a useful model which can be adapted to early parenting in industrialised societies. In our sedentary and busy lives, babies need more dedicated physical activity, ideally coupled with loving attention from their favourite persons in the world. Water; as a medium in which parents and babies can relax together without distractions offers a particularly powerful affective foundation for early learning. In the water, parents can follow the emergence of their babies’ personalities and become aware of their needs in an unconditional loving and supporting way.
Birthlight’s methods are designed to create an excellent foundation for your child’s future in the water, promoting safe practices and confidence. As well as this, the classes are an ideal environment for mothers and their new babies to bond, for children to begin to socialise and for whole families to spend quality time together.
Every new born baby has the potential to become a water baby, and the sooner a child discovers the freedom of buoyancy and movement above and below water the more relaxed and independent he or she will become.
The most important factor for taking infants through to independent swimming is their enjoyment of the water as a different medium that offers different possibilities for exploration and play from the dry land. This can best be achieved through the mutual delight of parents and infants in the water.
Why is it so good
The benefits of “baby-friendly”, infant/toddler swimming are unique, uplifting and contribute to the positive development of the whole child. Through the soothing medium of water, we are able to tap into the child’s potential, both within and without. Early swim lessons set a positive foundation towards a lifetime of participation and enjoyment in a variety of water sports and aquatic venues on, in and under the water. This is often a child’s first social experience out of the home that involves their peers. They learn to relate and interact with each other and look forward to seeing their class mates. Early swimming fosters a growing sense of self-esteem, confidence and independence. As a child’s ability to freely move through the water increases so does their sense of well-being.
Some actual physical benefits are:
- It helps improve co-ordination and balance. Lack of gravity also means that babies exercise more muscles (more effectively) in water than on land. Physical benefits include a stronger heart and lungs, improved strength and stamina, improved co-ordination and agility as well as stimulating awareness and alertness.
- Learning to respond to commands can make your baby sharper mentally and increases levels of understanding
- Regular swimming in warm water both relaxes your baby and stimulates their appetite, leading to improved sleeping and eating patterns
- Skin to skin contact is excellent for strengthening the bond between your baby and you. Parents with more than one child also find it’s an excellent way to guarantee a weekly session where the focus is purely on their newborn
Your baby’s safety
Safety skills are a primary reason why many people initially enroll in lessons. But, as you now know there is much more to infant/toddler swimming than merely one aspect. However, with the acquisition of safety skills not only is early swimming life enhancing, it can be lifesaving. The younger a child can begin their swimming adventure the sooner they will be able to build a foundation for the eventual ability to perform age appropriate safety skills (never imposing techniques on a child against their will or with the use of force). We must note that it is always the parents’ responsibility to ensure the safety of their children.
Thousands of babies across the world have been taken swimming prior to being immunised with no harmful effects. The NHS immunisation website states you can take your baby swimming at any time, regardless of where they are with their inoculations
Never bring your child swimming if they have any significant illness such as an ear infection, chicken pox, conjunctivitis or a bad cold. In the case of sickness and/or diarrhoea, all symptoms must have cleared for at least 48 hours before bringing your child to the pool. (Hopefully you’ll never see the mess a liquid leak can cause – a sure-fire reason for having to cancel all lessons!)
Our courses have been developed using the Birthlight approach and are structured to consolidate on a baby’s natural swimming reflexes and gradually help them to become conscious voluntary movements. Courses are arranged in progressive blocks to accommodate the various age, experience and developmental milestones of the group.
Our lessons are conducted in a playful, stress free environment where each child is respected as an individual and encouraged to develop at their own pace. Sessions are interactive with adult, baby and the instructor all in the pool together.
Within each lesson all activities have a specific teaching aim which we make fun through a series of songs, rhymes, interactive games, individual and group activities appealing to a child’s natural sense of curiosity and play.
Each session will offer an element of continuity and repetition encouraging babies to master key techniques and develop confidence. We will encourage you to float and swim with your baby (you do not have to be able to swim yourself) and develop your own confidence in holding and moving your baby through the water. Our courses do include submersion techniques. Our structured underwater swimming activities are designed to be fun, relaxed and are only introduced when you and your baby are ready.
Costs and payment
Our classes are run in courses of between 10 – 15 weeks depending upon the length of the school term, we always take a break for Christmas, Easter, Summer and the half term holidays. Occasionally some classes may run during the summer term or we may run intensive classes over the course of one or two weeks. Each class is half an hour in length but allow an hour for your lesson in order to give yourself time to change before and after your class.
Each course is payable in advance and your place is secured with a 50% deposit with the remainder being paid during the first week of term, you may of course pay the full term fees in one payment. If you have siblings then you can also pay for your course in two or three instalments.
A re-enrolment letter is sent out within 4 weeks of the end of your current course providing you with the details on dates and fees for the upcoming course. Your place is secure for the following term once you start attending classes no need to go on a waiting list again but you will need to pay your deposit for the new course by the deadline given in your re-enrolment letter.
If you have use of a family swimming pool then we can often run private classes for either yourself on a one to one basis or with a group of your friends. These would be half hour classes.
- 1 parent and child £25.00 per person
- 2-4 parent & child £20.00 per person
- 5-7 parent and child £15.00 per person
- 8-10 parent and child £10.00 per person
Before your baby is old enough to start swimming classes (at 8 weeks) we offer an introduction to get you feeling more confident and happy about supporting your child in water. These sessions take place in the bathtub your own home; activities such as floating, singing, introduction to submersion using a watering can are just a few techniques we introduce. Most would need just one session to get you going but if you would prefer more it is up to you.
Each session would cost £15.00
If you have more than one child attending our parent & child classes then the second child will receive a 15% discount on the cost of the course. So your first child will pay full price but all further children in this type of lesson will receive the discount.
Private and at home
If you book course of six weeks then you will get six classes for the price of five
Booking your course
Please contact ABC Baby Classes using either the ‘contact us’ form or email: firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire whether there is space or to be added to a waiting list. You will then be given booking details and course information and location along with the Booking form and our T’s & C’s which can be downloaded below:
Link to Full Booking letter