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How Swimming Lessons Strengthen The Parent-Child Bond

Understanding the benefits to your child's development by enjoying time in the water together.

Did you know that even prior to birth a baby is learning about the world it will soon enter? Sleep rhythms, the mother's heartbeat, tastes and smells in utero all contribute to your unborn baby learning about its new world.

After your baby is born your child receives these signals from you above all other stimuli. Your child instinctively listens and feels for your heartbeat, your touch and voice tone. Before we can understand words we understand so many other senses. After all our babies have been practicing in the womb!

In "Can Love Last?: The Fate of Romance over Time" Stephan Mitchell writes "The mind of the newborn, as we know it today, is not definitively shaped; Essential neurological connections that control basic biological rhythms of sleep and wakefulness, eating, action and relaxation, are built through adjustments and non-adjustments, complex and delicate contacts between the particular baby and the particular caregiver figure. The baby and the mother shape each other in order to create a world into which the growing child will fit."

Quote from Stephen Mitchell in blue Aquanat branded font that says "the baby and the mother shape each other in order to create a world into which the growing child will fit..."

In infancy, when words are not yet spoken or understood, the non-verbal things such as touch, movement experiences, tone of voice, and the responsiveness of the caregiver, will leave their impressions on the newborn’s preliminary neuron connections which will then impact their lifelong emotional and somatic memory.

You as the parent are giving gifts that last a lifetime for your child!

Harry Harlow, the father of the "psychology of affection" theory, discovered in his mid-20th century research that the mother's physical closeness is necessary for the proper development of the baby.

A mother with closed eyes is holding and cradling her newborn baby in her arms looking peaceful

A stressed mother who holds her baby’s hand tightly sends non-verbal signals to her baby that she is upset.

A father who says that he is listening, but caresses his son’s head distractedly because he is all focused on his phone is sending signals to his child that he is not really listening.

It is clear to us that our touch says something, speaks our truth, and that it is stronger and more accurate than words.

There’s a growing consensus among child development professionals that touch is necessary for the normal development of newborns and that parents should be encouraged to touch a lot, give the baby massages, play together in the water, pet, hug, kiss, and cradle the toddler in their arms.

In recent years, many studies in the field of child development have also shown that physical touch improves the closeness between kids and their parents, helps to develop the child’s self-confidence, as well as their cognitive, physical and emotional skills.

 A man and woman hold their breaths as they hold their baby underwater who is holding a yellow float stick during a swimming lesson

Baby-parent swimming classes present parents with a unique opportunity to deepen their connections to their newborns as the water provides physical closeness and emotional security.

Being safely held by an attuned parent, adding the sensation of skin touches skin and heart close to heart, provides a deep sense of belonging that resembles the safety and warmth of the womb. It thus creates a unique and enjoyable experience between parent and baby.

Being together with your baby in warm water offers a wonderful window of opportunity to be truly present and see what unfolds in the water, an opportunity to study your baby’s nonverbal signals and test your ability to respond accordingly.

It is a unique quality time of being as one, and being attuned. This is one of the most powerful and meaningful times in which a strong bond can be strengthened in an enjoyable way. After all what is more enjoyable than being a mirror to your baby's giggles and movements!

Why nonverbal communication is so important in the first 12 months of your baby's life

The first year of your baby's life is mainly devoted to staying connected with his main caregiver. This devotion to seek closeness and connection is an innate survival instinct as at this point your baby is completely dependent on you.

The initial connection and the emotional bond between the main caregivers/the parents with their baby and toddler begin from the moment of birth, largely is formed around the age of 12 months and matures around the age of three. This connection has a tremendous continuous impact on the child throughout their life and is known to impact their lifelong future relationships with others.

Through different inborn behaviours, babies are able to signal different needs. Yet, at this early stage your baby does not know how to form words, identify or regulate emotions and needs or smoothly move from a state of wakefulness to relaxation, they need the help of their caregiver.

As the signals are mainly physical and nonverbal, paying close attention - being present, is imperative.

Research suggests that from birth infants respond to their environment and communicate with it, firstly non-verbally, then progressively by accumulating words and developing their verbal abilities.

A smiling newborn baby receiving skin to skin touch and massage while lying on a bed

As adults, most of us have now adapted to mainly using verbal skills for communication This means sometimes we miss non-verbal signals at times, and might sometimes miss opportunities to communicate with our babies.

Crying, looking away, gazing, reaching out, smiling, quick limb movements - all of these are not only symptoms of distress or contentment, but ways the baby communicates to the external environment what is happening internally. When these nonverbal signals are effective your baby will feel more confident to explore the external world by testing their abilities and skills with curiosity and assertiveness.

Your baby is learning confidence through these non-verbal expressions!

Swimming in a Heated Pool Mimics the Womb

The polarities between the sensations of being enveloped in the warm water of mum’s womb, with its slow pace and monotonous and soothing sounds, to the exposure to bright lights, cold air, higher volume sounds, and lots of tactile stimulation, is an overwhelming experience for any newborn baby. Birth is an abrupt interruption to a life of being cocooned in warm water!

We at Aquanat believe this is why infants can often be seen in the water displaying relaxation and belonging followed with joyful smiles and giggles. Warm water is a natural and familiar sensation relating back to the long experience of being in the womb.

When this experience is combined with a loving presence and the mindful touch of an attuned parent, the whole experience of bonding is magnified and fosters the sense of safety and trust.

Our many years of teaching baby-parent swimming classes cause us to believe without a doubt that there is a correlation between secured attachment of a baby with their main caregiver and their abilities to learn new skills and develop social abilities.

 A man and woman hold their breaths as they hold their baby underwater who is holding a yellow float stick during a swimming lesson

Bonding in the water not only contributes to building your child’s self-confidence, but can contribute to the entire family's sense of connection.

This is why at Aquanat we are always happy to accommodate both partners to join their child’s classes, and why our focus is on teaching you, the caregiver, ways of responding and being that encourage a safe and trusting bond as well as enjoyment together in the water.

A white neon sign on a light blue background that reads hello in a speech bubble

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