Would you know how to spot a child who was drowning?

I was a much better parent before I had children. Back then, I would never entertain my children by sticking the TV on. I refused to let them get their own way just because they threw an epic tantrum. The only snacks that would pass their lips were carefully selected organic delights. I was the model parent… until my little girl came into the world. These days – and I am going to hold my hands up here – I give in to the tantrums, I let Peppa Pig babysit so that I can have five minutes peace, I bribe my little darling with a bag of Milky Buttons if we can just get round the supermarket without making a scene…

The movies totally misled me before having kids. They made it look easy, so I was sure that parenting was going to be an absolute walk in the park. Now I am a parent – a proud owner of a headstrong two year old – I sometimes feel that the only park I walk through is Jurassic Park!

How the movies show it…

It’s not the first time movies have ‘lied’ to us, and I am sure it won’t be the last. Most of the time, we know the ways things are portrayed in the movies rarely reflect the reality of our day-to-day lives. Other times, though, it’s perhaps not so obvious. Take drowning, for example; in the movies, we’d usually see lots of splashing, flailing arms, and lots of shouting – there’s no way you’d miss it. Growing up, I always assumed this is just what drowning looked like. I would know if I was ever to see somebody in trouble on the water. I would hear it. So would everybody else. Help would be on the way.

… and how it happens in reality

The reality of drowning, though, is often very different. The signs can be subtle, and thus easily missed. In sharp contrast to the movie norm, a person who is drowning:

  • Will often be silent, and therefore unable to call for help
  • May be unable to wave or signal as their natural instinct to press down on the water’s surface kicks in
  • Could be unable to control their arm movements, making it difficult to swim to safety or hold on to a lifeline
  • Will, more often than not, be vertical in the water and not showing any signs of kicking

I was a bit taken aback when I first heard this, as it’s never how I had pictured drowning before. When I became a parent, I was sure that I wanted to introduce my little girl to the water at a young age. Of course, I would always keep a very close eye on her but I always thought that, if she was to get into danger, I’d know about it.

One Nemo parent’s story

Nemo Swimming recently teamed up with Tumbles and Grumbles to share some hints and tips to help you keep your children safe in the water this summer. Following this, one parent got in touch with Tumbles and Grumbles and shared her story:

“One afternoon I was standing… in the shallow end of the pool. After chatting away to my father in law… I noticed something in the pool just behind him. On second glance, I realised that it was someone’s hat floating on the surface and then spotted two hands just flap very briefly out of the water… There was no real noise, just a bit of a gurgling sound… I rushed over to find a six or seven year old child actually drowning, with no parents in sight. The life guard would never have seen the child as there was a bush between the two of them.

I carried the child out of the pool and the life guard rushed over and thanked me. The child’s mother came rushing over, oblivious that her child was in the water by himself and could have possibly drowned on their family holiday. It just takes seconds!”

A scary story, but thankfully one with a happy ending. It just goes to show, though, how quickly children can get into trouble in the water, and how easily tragedies can happen. No splashing. No shouting. A silent tragedy that was narrowly avoided.

What can you do to keep your children in the water?

  1. Constant and active adult supervision – never leave your children unattended in the water, not even for a minute.
  2. Restrict access – place a barrier around the water to stop young children accessing it when your back is turned. If that’s not possible, place a barrier around your little one instead.
  3. Build water confidence – familiarise your baby, toddler or young child with the water, discuss water safety with them, and set rules for in and around the water.
  4. Rescue and resuscitation – make sure you are trained in basic rescue techniques, so that you know what to do in case the worst was to happen. Check out this fantastic video about the importance of learning CPR from Tumbles and Grumbles

Written by Emma, Nemo Swimming, with input from Caroline, Tumbles and Grumbles


Baby swimming lessons: what do you need to know?

The first few weeks of parenting were a total blur for me – I had no idea what I was doing, I was functioning on very little sleep, and I was (being perfectly honest) a hormonal mess! So, when somebody first mentioned taking my teeny tiny little baby swimming, I felt like my head going to explode with all the questions – when could I take her swimming? What would she need to wear? Where should I take her? What would she be learning at such a young age? Was I ready to sport a swimming costume at just a few weeks postpartum?!

In this blog, we address some of the common questions that parents have before taking their baby swimming for the first time. If you have a question that hasn’t been covered here, drop us an email at [email protected] and we’d be happy to help!

When can I take my baby swimming?

You’ll hear a lot of people say that you should wait until your baby is six or seven weeks old before taking them swimming; when I first heard this, I assumed that it was because of those first immunisations, which are given around this time. It’s not the case. Babies can actually go swimming immediately after birth (though I can honestly say that this was the last thing on my mind after welcoming my little girl into the world!). While doggy paddling across the pool is still a little way off, your baby will be born with a remarkable ability to control their breathing in the water. They also have a reflex reaction that makes them move their arms and legs in a swimming motion known as the Bradycardic response – pretty cool, huh?

So, where does this six or seven week ‘rule’ come from? Well, it’s to protect us mums. After giving birth, we are more prone to infection, which is why the NHS recommends waiting at least six weeks before going in the pool. Of course, that doesn’t stop other family members taking your little bundle of joy for a swim before this.

Be aware that babies can chill more easily than us adults, so make sure that you pick a nice, warm pool, particularly when they are very young. At Nemo Swimming, we always recommend that babies under 12 weeks or 12 pounds attend lessons at one of our hydrotherapy pools, which are the bit warmer for little bodies.

Why should I take my baby swimming?

There are many benefits to baby swimming, even if it is a slightly daunting experience for parents taking them for the first time. Your baby will have spent the last nine months or so in your womb, where it was protected by amniotic fluid. This means that being in the water isn’t a completely unfamiliar experience for them. The sound, feel and warmth of the water can re-ignite your baby’s senses, which is a truly magical thing to watch as a parent. Swimming also offers a great opportunity for skin-to-skin contact with your baby, which can really help with parent-baby bonding.

Being in the water gives your baby complete freedom of movement, and places no additional strain on their little body. At the same time, though, swimming helps to build and strengthen your baby’s muscles. It also helps to improve balance and coordination, with research showing that babies who learn to swim have better balance outside of the pool.

One of the main benefits of swimming with your baby, of course, is that it starts to build water confidence early – and this will help them enjoy the water safely as they grow up. And, in case you needed any more convincing, swimming can help improve your baby’s sleeping pattern – something that I am sure most parents will welcome with open arms!

What happens at a baby swimming class?

It depends where you go, of course, but at a Nemo Swimming class you will be in the water with a small group of parents and babies (all of whom will be of a very similar age). The instructor will be in the water with you, which I always found reassuring when my little Nemo and I were new to baby swimming.

While you’re in the water, you can expect lots of songs, which provide comfort and reassurance to young children. We always use game and repetitive play patterns to help your baby learn – even at a very young age – how to blow bubbles, hold on, kick their legs, and float. To help you understand what your baby is learning, we share details as to what they are working towards via our online booking system – so you can track your little one’s progress, and be assured that Nemo Swimming instructors are doing the same.

Find out more about Nemo Babies lessons

What will I need to take with me?

Most pools and swimming lesson providers operate a ‘double nappy’ policy. This means that you will need to dress your baby in a disposable or re-usable swim nappy and, on top of this, a neoprene nappy to keep any accidents sealed in! As well as a costume and towel for yourself, you will need to pack a soft, and preferably hooded towel for your baby. Swimming makes babies hungry, so it’s a good idea to take a bottle or a snack for after your swim, too. Of course, if you’re anything like me you’ll probably end up packing loads more things, just in case – a hat in case it’s cold, sun cream in case it’s warm, three spare outfits, a year’s supply of nappies, the kitchen sink…

Did we miss something?

If you have a question that we haven’t answered here, get in touch at [email protected], and we will get back to you as soon as we can!

Happy swimming!

Written by Emma, Nemo Swimming