Swimming with Twins
‘Let’s go swimming!’ - the words always filled me with dread! Instead of joining in everyone’s excitement at the prospect of all the fun they would have at the pool, I would be trying to come up with excuses….because I have never learned to swim, and had no confidence in or around water. I was determined that my children would not feel the same way as me and I always said that I would teach them to swim when they were babies.
Well, that was always my plan, but on finding out that I was expecting twins (!) I wondered how I would manage with this resolve. Once my beautiful babies, Emily and Alexander were born I decided to try and put my plan into action. My first task was to find a suitable swim-school that would be happy to take us all on! I discovered that I had a local swim-school, using local pools, with an excellent reputation, so when my twins were just a few weeks old I made an initial telephone call, armed with a long list of questions!
I was lucky enough to speak to the swim-school founder, who was (and still is!) extremely enthusiastic about teaching my tiny twins to swim. She explained the ‘Baby Swim Foundation Programme’ to me, which sounded exactly what I was looking for. If my two children could develop swimming and safety skills, whilst having fun in the water, then this would be perfect for us all!
We started our swimming lessons when the twins were nine weeks old – and they loved it from the outset!! The pool we used was incredibly warm, and the teacher was confident, enthusiastic and knowledgeable. She really did make it fun for the babies….and the parents! She also spent time teaching us parents and grandparents how to hold and support our babies in the water which helped us to really enjoy the time in the water with our babies. The class was small, and it was great to be with other like-minded parents. Our lessons were scheduled at the same time on the same day each week, and my husband made a real effort to plan his work time, so that he could be there with one of the babies in the water. This meant that they could be in the same class and enjoy the experience together. If he was unable to come, then their grandparents were only too happy to take his place, and on the few occasions that I could not get another person to be with one of the twins, then the swim-school arranged for another instructor to be in the pool to help me. My husband and I would alternate which baby we were with each week, and it was amazing how their different personalities came through as they developed confidence in the water. They would always be looking and watching each other though!
The logistics of getting to and from the pool, feeding, and changing them before and after swimming (as well as ourselves!) had been a concern before we started, but once we got into the swing of things was perfectly straightforward. I made sure that both babies were fed about an hour before their lesson. We would carry them in to the pool area in their car seats, and leave them strapped in and dressed until we were changed. Then we would get them ready for swimming. The swim-school recommended we use a double nappy system, which was a regular swim nappy, covered with a ‘happy nappy’ made of stretchy neoprene fabric with closed in legs and waist. This always seemed to work effectively and we have never had any leakage! We always had cosy towels, with hoods, waiting for them at the side of the pool and would get them changed and strapped back into their carry-car seats before we got changed ourselves. Then it was home for another feed and a bath, although there were occasions when they just couldn’t wait, and I fed them straight after their lesson, at the pool!
Emily and Alexander would be smiling and laughing throughout their lessons. We would sing songs and nursery rhymes, which incorporated lots of splashing and bouncing in the water. They also loved the interaction with the other babies. The instructor used lots of brightly coloured toys, balls, mirrors, watering cans and floats, and the time seemed to speed by. Although it was great fun, and you could visibly see the babies gaining in confidence, we knew that they were learning too. At each stage of the programme we knew what lifesaving and foundation swimming skills each child was working towards, and they were awarded an individualised certificate at each level, which were proudly displayed on their bedroom wall. We also used the same techniques when we were giving them a bath or taking them swimming ourselves.
Emily and Alexander are five years old now. They still have a weekly swimming lesson with the same instructor from the same swim-school! And they still smile and laugh throughout their lessons! They have often been described as ‘natural water babies’, and really love being in and around water. I can’t describe how proud I am, of both of them, especially when they swam their first 25m length, unaided, after just turning four years old! They are both working towards their ASA stage 3, and are enjoying adding breaststroke to their many swimming skills! They both have real upper body strength, and stamina, and are extremely agile, and I believe that swimming has helped them develop in this way. They have also developed good listening skills and are able to follow instructions, which have benefited them both, especially now they have started school.
I, and the twins, have made some great friends through swimming. Learning to swim, and the enjoyment of water is truly a great shared experience. There is no doubt that a weekly swimming lesson takes a commitment of time, attitude, and money, but I would have no hesitation in doing it all again! And me? Now that Emily and Alexander have started school I am determined to learn to swim - I want to be able to have fun and enjoy the water with them too!!