There’s very little in life that creates a greater shock to a woman’s system than having a baby. Your body and mind will have gone through the mill; you’ll be pretty tired (and maybe a bit emotional); you might even feel a little adrift from the world.
So probably the last thing on your mind is the thought of taking any form of exercise. After all, isn’t this the time, more than any other, when you’ve earned your right to those three extra biscuits? And with the rest of the family to look after, when are you going to find the time?
However, for most women, around six weeks after giving birth is a great time to start thinking about exercising again. Many new mums find shedding those post-baby pounds a challenging experience. But if you take the plunge sooner rather than later, you’ll find it much easier to regain as much of your pre-baby physique as possible. Here, Ali Burlingham, Aquatics Manager at Water Babies explains how swimming with your baby can not only provide a great workout for you and your newborn, but is also a magical bonding experience.
A work-out for two
Light stretching exercises are a great way to ease back into an exercise regime. And with Spring fast approaching walking, swimming and even light jogging are fantastic for weight loss, and also have great cardiovascular benefits.
In particular, swimming with your baby is one of the most memorable, thrilling and bonding experiences the two of you can share. Time in the pool can be special for you both as you can give your baby undivided attention whilst having fun together. Over 300,000 babies and toddlers attend various sorts of classes each week, ranging from 30 minute drop-in ‘splash’ sessions to fully structured courses like the Water Babies programme.
Swimming is one of the most complete and beneficial activities, as well as being one of the few things you can do with a baby from birth. And it’s never too early to get them in the water, as long as the water’s warm enough (32 degrees for babies under 12 weeks or 12lbs; 30 degrees after this).
Once you’re in the pool, keep your baby moving all the time: bouncing across the water, swinging them around, singing nursery rhymes as you go. Just half an hour’s swimming will provide you both with a great physical workout, with the benefits lasting far beyond the duration of the class. Due to the lack of gravity in the water, this includes the benefit of exercising muscles neither of you would even find on land. And all that lifting your baby up in the air, swishing them around and moving through the water can burn an impressive 300 calories!
The skin-to-skin contact that swimming with your baby involves is one of the best – and easiest – things you can do to bond with your baby. It’s believed that physical contact reduces stress and boosts feelings of wellbeing, for parents and babies alike. Babies love being in water and swimming from birth is entirely natural. After all, they’ve just spent nine months in the womb!
It’s a great idea to start from as early as possible, as activity in the water is the best all rounder for aiding your baby’s development. Not only does swimming make babies stronger, but movement has crucial neurological benefits. The first year of life is a time when the brain grows the most rapidly; with every action stimulating its growth, strengthening nerve fibres and making it function more efficiently.
The warmth of the water is very important and being in such a cosy, intimate environment really enhances the bonding experience between parent and child. Moreover, mums often report how much the lessons have helped with both their baby’s and their own confidence. After all, once you’ve learnt to skilfully handle your baby in water, anything you do on land will become infinitely more natural.
New parents also find swimming is the perfect way to socialise and make new friends; and choosing to join a structured baby swimming course can help relieve any anxiety you might have about your first visit to the pool.
For more information about your nearest Water Babies class visit www.waterbabies.co.uk