My name is Andy Hailey, husband to Natalie Hailey, and I’m the Head of Aquatics at Tanglin Trust School, Singapore. In September 2019 I experienced amazing joy, seeing my son Michael enter the world! Naturally, due to my profession, I was keen to get my boy in the water as soon as I was able. He’s my first child, and although I am experienced in the water, teaching your child how to swim is a new challenge altogether and it has already been somewhat of a steep learning curve.
I see first hand how swimming can benefit someone’s development and luckily for me my baby loved being in the water from the first bath. I want Michael to appreciate being in the water and be safe around water considering there are swimming pools at most condos and establishments in Singapore. On top of this, I am often asked if I want my son to swim and go to the Olympics. It’s a lovely question but in the end, if he can surf with me one day, I will be content...although representing GB at the Olympics would be cool too. So here are my three top tips that helped my get my baby comfortable in water.
As soon as I could, I started bathing with him. One day I decided to take our small baby tub out of the bath and run one for myself. By doing so, I was able to hold him flat in the water (face up to keep eye contact), let his ears go under, pour water on him and clean him at the same time. The new sensation of having their ears underwater is important. Make little splashes and you’ll see the reaction.
I am a swimming coach but I still had to do some research into how to teach him to hold his breath. A great tactic I used was, when you’ve done some head wetting in the bath, use cue words that end with you pouring water on him (and not always on just their face). Starting with the cue words, I progressed to blowing air in his face so that he screwed up his face and close his eyes and mouth. This is followed by a cup of water over the head.
After a period of teaching him to hold his breath on cue, I introduced a slight swoosh through the water (not submerged yet). I’d blow air, he held his breath, and then I’d swoosh. After I saw that he was comfortable with being swooshed, I would submerge him (horizontally) and made sure I smiled and praised him when he resurfaced.
Keep in mind, if you’re in a similar situation to me and living in a condominium in Singapore, most condo pools are cold for babies and they can’t stay in for long. I’d suggest doing 3-10mins, max. And don’t rush the swimming – it was a couple of months before I did his first submerged dunk but he’s loved it ever since.