I’ve been desperate to get Phoenix in the water so last week I took him for his first trip to the swimming pool. I am a real water baby at heart and had really hoped that I had given birth to another one too. Turns out I have; Phoenix is a little water demon! He kicks away like a pro on his front and back and does breast stroke legs. I even managed to find the courage to dunk him a few times and he barely batted and eye lid. This was really scary and despite knowing that babies have that ‘breath holding reflex’ for the first 18 months, my heart was pounding putting him under! A woman kept giving me evil looks, I think she thought I was trying to torture him, but fortunately he was all smiles otherwise it could have looked a bit sinister if he’d screamed his head off. The first time I dunked him I do have to confess that it wasn’t exactly a smooth manoeuvre and he took in a bit of water. Massive note to self: don’t just dunk the baby vertically under, this isn’t fun, but dive the baby down and head forward so he goes with the motion of the water. Right, got it! Once we’d both got the hang of it he was loving it, all smiles and kicks, a proper little mermaid boy!
The swimming was the easy bit. No dramas there at all. The changing room part of thetrip was a whole other ball game. So here’s the picture: you have a shivering little baby, wet slippery floors of death, a padlock to open, bags to remove from a locker, a nappy to dispose of, one small body to dry, one large body to dry…need I go on? I mean is this some kind of sick joke?! Is there someone filming new mums at swimming pools across the country recording and laughing at our attempts to remain calm whilst wet, freezing and trying to do 3000 things at once? Surely there must be an easier way to get this done?
Phoenix was far from impressed by the coldness of the changing room. Usually when he gets out the bath the room is pre-heated and his PJ’s are warming on the radiator. Ahhh toasty. So while I looked confusedly from the changing table (placed conveniently on the opposite side of the room to our locker), the padlock; which seemed to be multiplying by the second, and double checked to confirm that yes, I only had two hands, I could see his face beginning to frown in confusion: ‘what the hell are we doing in here mum? I’m freaking freezing! Where’s the warmth? Where’s my heated clothes? Woman get a grip, sort this out!!!’ Realising that there was no such thing as a baby changing room assistant, I dragged the changing table over with one hand, while trying to keep him in his towel and warm in the other and then opted for the ‘I’m going to put you here on this changing table, keep one hand on your tummy and dash to the locker while looking at you, do not move’ approach. The changing tables were actually quite deep so there was low risk of a roll off, but still, in the slippery-ness of everything the whole place just screamed ‘accident’! By the time I’d removed the contents of the locker by dropping them all over the floor, Phoenix was screaming. Ah lovely. There goes the fun, relaxed swimming moment we just had together. I changed him as quickly as possible and got him all cosy in the pram and I literally moved the wheels about 1cm and he was totally out of it – knackered! And so it was there squeezed into my old swim suit with my hair dangerously close to turning green from the chlorine and my lips blue from not drying myself at all, I learnt another joyous benefit of swimming; it completely zonks the baby boy. And now tonight I am sitting here writing this after our second swimming trip and Phoenix has been in bed completely out of it since 6.30pm and I haven’t heard a peep! This is a great discovery and provides me with more substance as to why one day I will need to own a house with a swimming pool….with heated changing rooms of course.
So these are my tips for your first swimming trip with a baby:
1) Take someone with you (preferably of the same gender so you can utilise their hands in the changing process).
2) Even though baby is freezing don’t try and do everything at 300 mph – you will drop everything.
3) Forget yourself. You will get used to being wet and cold. Once again you are at the bottom of the priorities list, and besides, smelling of chlorine makes a change from smelling of puke.
4) Don’t be shy with taking up space; so what if you need a whole bench, the water aerobics old dears will have to relocate while your using their weekly spot.
5) Put a changing table near to your locker before going in. With any luck it’ll still be there when you get back. Take a soft changing mat with you as they’re hard as rock and not nice to lie on wet and cold!
6) If it’s taking ages to dress your wriggly baby dry their head first and put on a toasty hat on as that will keep the heat in (wow an actual sensible tip, god knows where that came from).
7) Suss out your pool before you go – has it got easy access stairs that you can walk into carrying your baby? If not then you’ll need help. Also try and go at a quiet time at first as some pools are really noisy which can be frightening (was that another sensible tip?!)
8) Sing to your baby in the pool, it’ll calm them down and make it more fun for them. You can do this while trying them out in different positions so they don’t get scared – try holding them under their tummy (if they can hold their head up), put them on their back and whoosh them from side to side!