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Relaxed before the bath

Swimming together starts at home in the bath. A bathtub is a wonderful place for you and your baby to first become comfortable together in the water. With your newborn, a bath offers a controlled environment that can feel safe.
In your loving arms, you and your baby can learn and enjoy to move through and experience the water in a way that will transcend your bath-time routine into something much more meaningful.

You can read more and get great tips on how in my new book - 'Happy Babies Swim'

As I promised in my last post here comes my answers to some of the frequently asked questions and concerns parents have expressed.

How much water?

As much as possible and that you feel comfortable with. Aim for that there is enough water to carry the baby’s body and allow him to be able to float while resting his head in your hand/arms. With your support, you want your baby to be able to move as freely as possible.

How do I know if I am supporting him right?

Tune in on him, he will let you know. If he feels uncomfortable he will not be able to fully relax and enjoy the sensations water gives him and the time together with you.
Often, because of insecurity, the support can be too much, if you are nervous the movements can be jerky. Put yourself in those arms and you will not be surprised if it’s hard for your baby to relax and enjoy. Give your self time, both for the bath and to learn to be comfortable. He will guide and respond to you and together you will learn and soon enjoy even more. If possible get into the tub with him

How long?

You are responsible for time, your baby have no concept of it, and will not have for a long time yet. If your baby is getting tired or hungry (he uses more energy in the water) he will express it, in his own way. By paying attention and tuning in on him you will learn to read his signs of when it’s enough. When he experience that you take responsibility and are responsive to his cues, you are growing trust and your relationship becomes more harmonic.

Should we use the seat holder?

No, not if you don’t have to due to a physical need of your own. You do not want to miss the opportunity of holding and supporting your baby. Your hands offers a dynamic support that not any static seat holder can. You learn and your hands and arms become the competent arms and hands your child’s trust and feels comfortable in. Using your hands makes it safer for your child, because you can never leave your child in and around water. He can not take responsibility of his safety, that is your responsibility. Never leave a child unattended in or around water! Drownings happens fast and are silent.

He splashes a lot, is that normal?

Water is fascinating, it’s alive, it moves, you can move it and it can move you. The fact that it gives immediate response when the child hits the surface of it is something that is very appealing for children. They are reaching out to learn about life in the world they have been born into and water is a big part of it. More than 70 % is water so to give your child opportunities and time to explore and learn well in it is of great value. For many adults water is a mystery. To spend time and play with your child in water gives you a wonderful opportunity to re-explore and learn with your child.
Share his interest and take the opportunity of exploring the laws of physics together with your baby. While doing that you are supporting the growth of important life skills and your relationship is growing stronger.
Enjoy the happy splashes!

Your baby wants to feel comfortable in your hands so he will help and guide you by responding to your actions. When you hold and support him so he can relax he will explore and enjoy the world more. He will love that you share the magic he experiences while you invite him to explore the world.

In the new book ”Happy Babies Swim” you can read more and get off into a great start and make water and swimming into a activity as beneficial for you as for your baby!

Love and splashes
Ulrika

For your new baby water is a familiar place, what is new is the experiences he gets together with you. Like in a dance you will guide and lead him into our world and he will guide you to his needs. Due to the social and emotional character of humans the quality of the relationship is what makes us trust and dance successfully in tune with each other.

During childhood a parents responsible leadership is what matters most, so to develop that is of both big interest and value to most parents of today. Get to it right away - together with your newborn in the water you might have the best arena to develop parental leadership and make bath time enjoyable and beneficial for both baby and parents.

I’ve got a new video for you, a beautiful one, you will see the magic between parent and baby getting a bath. Due to the responsible and responsive parental leadership the little baby is able to relax, enjoy and learn from the full experience.

Both baby and parents are learning together. The baby learns from the experiences he gets with his parents not only in the bath but during preparation and after too. It’s the hands, the arms, the voice, the response to his actions and needs and also the actions and expressions from his parents he learns from. The parents presence and attention allows them to learn about and respond to their baby’s needs and interests. With time they develop the competent hands that allows them and their baby to enjoy more.

One could see a baby’s bath as ”just a bath”, to get clean, but then the important magic might be missed. Because it’s more than a bath, it’s more about the parental leadership. To give a new little human the best conditions and opportunities to experience and learn about his world and how life together with you is.

Water he knows. In the warm, protected time in the womb he did somersaults to your heartbeats while he got ready for life in the world outside. Now he is re-exploring water and how it is together with you. He is also learning about how and what needs to happen before and after.

You are his guide into how it is in our world, relationships and culture. He learns from the experiences he has with you. Is mom/dad nervous, happy, present, do they see me, are they there with me or are they just rushing? How do we spend time together? What is the take away from bath time with mom and or dad? It’s about your leadership. If you feel good, can relax, tune-in and enjoy, it will be easier for him to do the same.

He needs you to make sure the time is right, conditions are safe and comfortable for him and you. He also needs your hands and your attention to keep him safe in the water but also to allow him to keep and develop that natural feel and confidence he can have in it. Here he will guide you – if you let him. When you do, and you become synchronized I can promise you that both of you will feel the magic and wonderful allover!

With the perspective on the relationship bath time can become something beyond, getting clean. It’s getting clean and at the same time developing trust, leadership and building a stronger and healthier relationships between you and your child. Because of it’s characteristics, water is probably the best arena for it when you do it mindfully together with your child.

You can read and get great tips into how in my new book - Happy Babies Swim

I’ve never done a video like this before but I thought it was good one to do as many parents have asked questions and expressed concerns about bath time with a little baby. So by guiding parents to make bath time into the best time for them and their babies, parents take those lessons into other things too, like eating, sleeping and other activities.

Next time I’ll share some of the often asked questions about bath time and my response to them.

Love
Ulrika

P.S. The video is made by my children. Victoria was behind the camera and Auguste has done the editing. They have grown a phenomenal ability to see and catch the important dynamics in a relationship. I think you will see and love it as much as I and the parents to the little boy in the bath do.

 

One of the key components in quality relationships is trust. In this post we’ll have a look at the effects of trust and how it’s formed during the early years within the close relationship between the baby and its parents or other caregiver.

Relationships is one thing, that we can have with anyone but quality relationships is what makes the difference. Quality relationships is what buffer us in times of adversity and is key to a healthy and happy life. In relationship with a child, the quality of the relationship is always the adults responsibility.

What science* tells us today is that in order to lead a healthy and happy life it is as important that we take care of our relationships as much as our bodies. So it’s both good and important to grow strong healthy relationships.

A key component in quality relationships is trust. The feeling of, that no matter what and especially when the going gets tough, that there is that someone you can trust will be there.

The ability to trust and show trust, both in yourself and others, starts to form early in life. In the close relationship between a baby and it’s parents or other caretaker. When the adult takes a responsible leadership and is dependable, predictable and caring it becomes easier for the little baby to relax, to be soothed and to grow. He learns to trust that his world is a good place and the adults can be trusted.

The experience he has with his parents or other caregiver also becomes a blueprint for him into future relationships with family, teachers, piers and later on in life, in love relationships and as a parent himself.

A case study with infants and their parents the first time in the pool, shows us a lot about the power of trust. When parents could trust the teacher and/or was well prepared and trusted themselves they were better capable of being in control of their own emotions and both parent and child could enjoy easier and sooner.

When groups of families (10 groups with 10 families in each group), with babies ranging from two to six months, entered the water for the first time the reactions and experience varied as much as the amount of individuals.

What was general for parents who felt nervous and insecure was that they found it harder to enjoy and in many of the cases it rubbed-off on the baby, who became uneasy, clingy and some even cried. Parents expressed that it felt difficult and that they wished for more time with the teacher and some worried that their child would not like the swimming activity.

In general for parents who felt more secure it was easier for them to tune-in on their child’s needs. They expressed that they felt confident that they could give the support and the time their child needed to feel comfortable in the new environment and activity.

They enjoyed the time together and the class, even those who went out of the water early due to that their baby had had enough. They all looked forward to the next class.

What contributed to a parents ability to manage own emotions and feel more relaxed and confident, was the trust they felt for the teacher and how well prepared the parent was before hand. The teachers confidence and knowledge had a direct impact on the feeling of either being in good hands or not.

What buffered for a less confident and/or experienced teacher was the knowledge a parent had beforehand. When they knew what to expect and what to do the first time with their baby in the water it was easier to trust themselves and in the process of learning. They could better enjoy together and found it positive right from start.

Get off to a great start

To build trust early in life is by being present, predictable and caring. Make it comfortable for your little baby in your hands and arms. When he experiences discomfort help him into comfort again as soon as possible.

In the video you see a baby in the water with her dad. It’s her first time in the pool.

Because she is so little, and not only the activity but the world is new to her, she needs us to go slow. She needs us to show her respect and give her time to see and feel the sensations of the water and her own moves.

She also needs us to pay attention to what captures her interest and also to share and invite her to new experiences such as, easy swings and twists and turns, bubbles, smiles and other activities that she might be ready for. Always tuning in on her.

Rather early in the lesson she let’s us know that it’s enough. She shows signs of discomfort. She is may be tired, hungry or maybe she just needs a short break because she has had enough stimulation, for now. Her father, sees her, reacts and responds to her by holding her close. Is it maybe a just a short rest she needs?

Her mother stands close, the parents support each other in trying to see what their little baby needs. When they realize that she needs more than just a short rest, they leave the pool. Soon, after feeding, the little girl fell comfortably asleep in her mothers arms.

These are the moments that matter and they happen every minute of swim. That is why the gift of swim provides a brilliant joint activity, with parents as leaders and role models to build mutual trust. Not only between the baby and its parents but also between the parents, right from start.

*The Harvard Gazette and news from the 80 year Harvard study that shows how to live a healthy and happy life

One day many years ago I was asked by a big publishing company in Denmark to write a book about baby swimming. They wanted me to write a guide book for parents on baby swimming.

For me a dream came true. I had been working with parents and their babies in the water for many years and also educating teachers. I knew that there was a need for more knowledge. I also had a strong feeling that it would empower parents and teachers.

With more knowledge before they started swim classes they would gain more. And I hoped more parents would take to the water and swim with their babies. So I wrote the book, it was published and became a popular guide book among parents and swim teachers.

The hunch payed off, parents started much better prepared and questions evolved from basic: “How do I get my child to...”, to become more specific and with a desire to learn more and to do it right. And baby swimming grew even more popular. 

One day I realized that something was wrong. Very wrong. Some babies were not happy but rather feeling stressed and uneasy. Viewing it from their perspective our focus had grown more skill based with a tactical approach.

The babies had become test-dummies for us to try “things” with and we wanted them to be happy. The exercises had become the goal of being in the water. 

With the best intentions children had become projects, and exercises was done to the child not with. Becoming someone else project is not only harmful to a persons self-esteem but also to the relationship and the desire to explore and learn may often be lost. Being played with, rather than together with left many children feeling alone, stressed and unhappy.

But they cooperate or adapt and they learn how life and relationships work by experiencing it.

Because some babies were not happy, many parents dropped out of swimming when their little ones didn’t seem to enjoy it anymore. The babies who appeared uneasy or unhappy - some clinging to their parents - were trying to tell us something beyond, “I don’t like swimming”, but we didn’t pick up on it.

They tried to tell us that the way this activity was done felt bad and was to some degree harmful for their development of a healthy self and the relationship.

 

 

Once I recognized the problem, I changed my approach. I researched and read everything I could find on baby development and rewrote our entire curriculum. Rather than emphasizing skills and exercises, my swim program now focused on how babies learn – in the context of a relationship.

It became about the babies and their parents’ emotional experience: how babies’ communicate and their readiness and the parents’ responsiveness to their baby.

There was a need for a new book too. Many of the old books on activities with babies and children you could easily take out baby or child and move in a dough or a thing. I wondered how our view on children had become this way?

Because I had begun to see the effects short and long term it became important to write a new book. When published it had the child as an equal partner in the activity as well as in the relationship.

And ever since that day focus has been on the quality of the relationship. Parents where guided and supported. They were empowered and under their responsible leadership their children loved to explore and learn.

Together they grew and enjoyed more than ever. With the new approach and the new guide book parents where happy to experience that there are few activities in life that can foster growth and relationships as well as swimming with their baby can.

When I was asked to write the book in English, I knew it would not be easy, but to share this approach and to hopefully inspire more parents and caregivers to get into the water, with their baby, and swim, was a high motivator for me.

Now the book is ready to meet its readers – I hope it will bring many happy splashes to families around the world. And imagine if every family get to foster healthier and happier relationships through the gift of swim.

 

Internationally renowned family therapist and author J. Juul call’s the book brilliant!

“This book is a brilliant example of how instructive and uplifting it can be when experienced, dedicated people share their wisdom. On the one hand, it will teach you everything worth knowing about baby swimming, but at the same time you can learn a lot from it about being an attentive and present parent.”

—Jesper Juul, Danish internationally renowned family therapist and author

Christopher is running as fast as his two-year old little legs can carry him towards the water in the pool. When he reaches it he does what he and his dad always do, every week. With a happy squeal he jumps right in. But where is his Dad? No sign of Dad who usually always is with Christopher.

As Christopher’s little body tumbles down deeper into the water he gets surprised, he is not bouncing up as he usually does. He wants to come up again, but he doesn’t know how to! And Dad is not there.

Suddenly Christopher feels someone grab hold of him and pulls him up and out of the water.

He stands back on the pool deck looking with confusion at his rescuer, a man he has never seen before. Inside Christopher there is a turmoil of mixed emotions. Then he hears his Dad’s voice calling his name.

Dad approaches with big steps, worry and fear written all over his face. Christopher reaches for his Dad who picks his little boy up and presses him close into his chest. In Dads arms the tears come. Dad looks like he too is in need of comfort.

Christopher and his Dad has gone for a swim every Sunday the past year. They go up early and while Mom sleeps in they drive to the club and enjoy some Dad and Son quality time.

Christopher has grown very fond of swimming and has become quite a daredevil in the water too. This Sunday while Dad was busy organizing their things Christopher (with the short-lived patience of a two-year old) took matters in his own hands and went ahead of Dad to the pool room.

Christopher knew his way, he had walked there with his Dad for as long as he can remember. With the feeling of joy, freedom and some urgency when he saw the water, the only thing on his mind probably was time for fun.

Only two years old, he has not yet developed the ability to calculate risk or understand consequence, (that will take another twenty (20) years or more). He needs adults to make sure he is safe and secure.

What he also didn’t know was that there is a big difference if you jump in with floaties* on, or not.

Christopher had never experienced anything else than jumping in with floaties on his arms. His understanding of jumping into water was that he was buoyed right back up.

With no floaties on his arms, it didn’t work as he had learned to understand it. The new experience surprised him and he didn’t know how to orient or propel himself to the surface and back to the wall.

He had never been given the opportunity to learn and practice it. Dad didn’t know either that it was important nor that a swim aid, when used this way, actually becomes a crutch for his son and his possibilities to learn important skills.

*(Floaties inflatable arm-rings, swim-ring, cork-belt or other flotation devices.)

While Dad was comforting Christopher the horrifying thought of “What if…” occupied his mind in various ways. It was a close call, a scary experience for both Dad and Christopher. Luckily with a good ending.

The man who rescued Christopher and Dad talked, they agreed on that little two-year-old’s, get their own ideas and can be quick as lightning together with that they don’t always understand that they can get into serious trouble. As far as Christopher knew this place was a happy and fun place and that he could “swim”.

The man recommended Dad to give his son the opportunity of also getting to learn a more true experience of the water and how that would equip Christopher better. It would also teach dad important knowledge about his son and his abilities and limitations in water.

It was a matter of not giving children a false sense of water and their capabilities but letting them in the safety and security of their parents guidance, and in their own pace learn about the water and be better equipped in water and with life on this planet.

Dad didn’t need to think twice. He signed them up for swim lesson right away. It took some weeks before Christopher happily accepted not having the floaties on. He missed the freedom and independence they had given him and without them he felt limited and it frustrated him.

But soon they both, Dad and Christopher, gained more confidence and the lessons they learned helped them grow as individuals and as a team. It made them feel great. Dad learned about water and how to help and give his son opportunity to discover his buoyancy and develop efficient movements.

Christopher could under his dads great leadership grow trust in himself and develop his understanding of water and swim abilities. They took their Sunday quality time to a whole new level.

Christopher grew more understanding and confidence and his father was a great leader beside him. Because of the trusting relationship and the fun they had together Christopher soon learned how to, after jumping into the water without the floaties, orient and propel himself back to the wall.

With the more true knowledge of his whereabouts in the water he could also enjoy time with the floaties on. Although as his competence had grown he preferred swimming without. With the support and help from Dad he was developing his swimming skills, and that was a fun challenge for him.

 

Son and Dad have fun and grow under a fathers great leadership

 

Flotation Devices

A flotation device, such as a Pool Noodle or Swim Ring, can give a child freedom to move around independently in the water. But too much time spent with flotation devices can adversely impact muscle memory and your child’s swimming, so use these aids in moderation.

From the Book: "Happy Babies Swim"

 

Always stay close to your child

- This probably goes without saying, but you should never leave your child alone in or around water. And even if you are present, you should not take your eyes off of them. Children are naturally curious and want to explore, and they have not developed the ability to calculate risk or understand consequence.

Therefor it is always the adults role to keep them safe by guiding them towards fun activities and away from any danger. It’s never a child’s responsibility to keep themselves safe - it’s the adults responsibility! Your child naturally trusts that you are taking full responsibility for his safety.

An adult should always be with a child in the water, or at arm’s reach depending how old and comfortable of a swimmer the child is.