Taking your baby swimming when you are terrified of the water yourself

25 March 2015

This week's blog has been written by Karina Reinhardt, who runs Turtle Tots in Edinburgh and East Lothian.

"I hate the water, I can’t possibly bring my baby swimming!" And not just the "oh my goodness, I’d need to get into a swimsuit after just having had a baby" kind of concern, but absolute unadulterated FEAR. That’s what Paula felt when Turtle Tots was recommended to her by friends, quickly followed by guilt and a feeling of selfishness that she might consider holding her baby back from something that would be so beneficial for him, because she was so afraid.

Paula had learned to swim from the age of eight, but was never a particularly confident or strong swimmer. When she was about nine years old she panicked when trying to swim in the deep end for the first time and had to be pulled from the water. It totally knocked what little confidence she had and for 16 years she never swam again. So you can imagine how she felt when after discussing with her husband (who also can’t swim) how beneficial it would be for their son, she decided to get into a pool for the first time in so long, and this time with a 15 week old baby! She was understandably very nervous for the first few lessons but then quickly discovered that babies don't have any fear of the water. Her son loved the water and his smiles made her relax.

Charlotte agrees. She also had a very bad experience as a child, and although she knew she could swim she avoided being in the water at all costs for many years, in spite of her husband being a very keen sailor. When Eilidh came along she was 100% determined that she would not pick up on her mother’s fear of the water and without really thinking about having to get in the pool herself, she booked her first Turtle Tots class. She says ‘I can't give any great suggestion of what made me able to walk into the pool for the first lesson, other than my determination that she wouldn't see my fear. I will never forget the first day our teacher offered us goggles to watch the wee ones swim towards us. While I waited my turn my heart raced but I felt really emotional when I came up afterwards. I knew if I could do that then I could now do anything!’

Although Charlotte knew she could swim, she says she genuinely doesn’t feel that it is a pre-requisite to participate in a Turtle Tots class. She feels that it's more about having fun with the babies and watching them learn the techniques of swimming, than mum or dad swimming. During her class she says there is no pressure from the teachers to make you or your baby do anything, they are happy to allow each and every parent take things at their own pace. This year Charlotte had a lovely sailing holiday where she and her daughter swam daily and loved it!

Paula has also been so inspired by seeing her son swimming each week, and the desire to be able to swim with him, that last year she took some swimming lessons, and learned to swim, all over again! Paula says that joining Turtle Tots has been the best thing for her family. ‘It's an activity that we can all take part in with Dad sitting and cheering from the poolside’ she says. Charlotte agrees, and says ‘I don't think I will ever make an Olympic swimmer, but I have high hopes for Eilidh!’

We have many mums and dads in our classes that are nervous or scared of the water, but our teachers will only ever offer support and help, and never expect anyone to do anything they’re not comfortable with, so why not give it a try? Swimming is so beneficial for your baby, and it is also an amazing way to spend genuine quality time with your child from the time they are a baby until they are grown!

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