Take a deep breath and...
Children are perceptive. They pick up on how we are feeling using our tone of voice and body language - they notice more than we do as adults, because they can't always rely on being able to understand our words.
Swimming lessons have plenty of potential for anxiety! Getting changed can be a challenge in itself. There are risks at the pool that don't exist in the rest of our lives - taking a little one swimming can feel like a big responsibility. Not every child enjoys every part of every lesson, and you may find out only after getting both of you changed and into the water that for whatever the reason, your baby just isn't in the mood for a swim. The sound of your own baby crying can leave you feeling stressed at home...and more stressed when you're out in public...and even more stressed again when their screams are echoing around a swimming pool, and you know you're a few hurdles away from being warm and changed and ready to address whatever is making them upset!
We can help our babies relax, and help ourselves to feel relaxed, with a few simple steps.
Preparation is key. Get your bag packed ahead of time, and leave plenty of time for getting ready before your lesson.
Observe your baby. If they're teething or poorly, swimming might be best avoided.
Consider the tone of your voice. The key is to try and remain unruffled - keep your voice soft and low, maintain eye contact with your little one and try to relax your body and enjoy the water.
Choose whichever hold you feel most comfortable with when you are in the water with your baby. Your instructor might want you to handle your baby in a certain way. If you don't feel happy with their suggestions, ask for a modification, or find a way to support your baby that feels right for you. As long as their heads are clear of the water, and you've got as much of the rest of their bodies submerged as you can manage, they'll stay warm and safe!
Don't push too far too soon. You've got plenty of time to teach your little one to swim - they don't need to excel at every skill introduced in the lesson in order to be a good swimmer further down the line. The most vital thing is that they pick up a relaxed and confident vibe from you during their early experiences in and around the pool - that will help them feel more at ease around the water, and help them form those important early memories and associations.
If in doubt, cuddle and bounce! If your baby's upset, or you're not sure what to do next, cuddle your baby close to your chest, like you would do on land, and gently bounce up and down in the water. This will keep you both warm, and help you to relax.
Be water confident - or at least pretend! If you want to keep your hair dry, your little one will want to do the same. If you flinch when the water goes on your face, your little one wil do the same. If your eyes grow wide with panic when you're moving in the water, your baby will pick up on that tension. If you're not a big fan of the water, accept your limitations for now, and don't expect your baby to do things you wouldn't do yourself. Relax, and modify skills in the water so you feel comfortable. In time, you will gain confidence and so will they!
In my eyes, water confidence is more important in early experiences of swimming than mastering a set of skills. Take a deep breath and focus on you and your baby, the rest will follow.