Submersion...the cornerstone of baby swimming?
Many baby swimming lessons focus on the importance of submerging you little one under the water. They claim it is vital for water safety and water confidence, and that it will help your baby learn to swim more quickly.
I definitely agree that submersion can be an important part of swimming. It can help a baby get used to the feel of moving in the water and plenty of babies really enjoy it. If going under the water is all your little one has ever known, they are likely to feel more confident in the water than they might be if they had to learn to put their face in at a later stage. But I feel very strongly that it's only worth attempting when the baby and parent feel ready - it's all about small, progressive steps and tuning in to your child. If you are relaxed about putting your baby under, you'll convey that in the tone of your voice, the way you hold the baby and the way you receive them when you bring them up from under the water. If you feel any anxiety, your baby will pick up on it straight away and will worry that there is something to fear.
Submersion can become a bit of a gimmick!
Submerging a child under the water is a great opportunity for a dramatic looking under water photograph, but the likelihood of it genuinely improving your baby's swimming skills is slim. We eventually swim on the surface of the water - until we evolve gills, that will be the best place for us to swim. It's a great skill to be able to sink under the water, and a fear of getting the face wet will hinder swimming in the long term without a doubt, but the way we introduce submersion will affect our child's experience of being in the pool.
In my classes I don't condition babies and I don't submerge them. I do make sure getting the face wet is a key, normal, enjoyable part of every lesson. We may do a little dive or splash into the water, building up gradually over time to a short swim. The difference is, we're not pushing the baby deep beneath the water - a little dive happens right at the surface. Here are some things to consider if you feel your baby is ready for some independence in the water:
Model what you expect - have you put your face in the water? Has your baby seen you swim?
Relax, relax, relax. Relax your shoulders and your grip on your baby, relax the tone of your voice, and move smoothly and confidently receive your baby following a little swim;
Be patient - it doesn't matter what the other babies are doing - your child will get there in his own time;
Consider going under with your baby so that you can set an example and show them how fun it can be;
Teach your baby cause and effect - if they splash under the water from a seated entry, that's excellent because they've made a choice to do it themselves.
Remember, you don't need to submerge your baby, regardless of what everyone else in the class is doing! Even if it goes against the instructor's ideas, even if you're the only parent who says no, stick to what you feel is best for your child.