The first time I took my daughter to our local pool, I underestimated how long getting from the car into the water could take. As a seasoned swimmer, I can be changed in a couple of minutes - I've got it down to a fine art! Then I tried changing myself and my daughter at the same time, and it took forever!
I was taking her to a parent and baby drop in session run by the local council pool. I hadn't thought to bring a changing mat, and I only had two towels - one for me, and one for her, which seemed logical when I packed the bag. I didn't want to put her down on the cold, wet floor, so I tried lying her on the bench in the changing room. That didn't work, because I worried about her falling off, and there was no way to change myself whilst keeping her safe on the bench. In the end, I resorted to getting my jumper wet and sacrificing my towel to make a sort of nest for her on the floor.
I had assumed that baby swimwear would be a breeze to put on...wrong, again. The disposable swimming nappy was easy enough to get her into, but wrestling a wriggling baby into a neoprene happy nappy is as easy as trying to put a ferret into a sock - definitely not an activity to attempt when you're starting to feel stressed and trying to get into the water before the session is over.
Getting out of the water was even worse! We were now both cold and wet, and we had one dry towel and one wet one between us. I didn't know whether to change her first or me, and we were back with her on the floor in her now damp jumper/towel nest. She was also starving hungry and screaming after her swim, and that only added to the excitement.
The whole thing was a disaster, but, undeterred, I decided to make a plan for the following week. I left the house twenty minutes earlier than the week before, and took a changing mat, prepared a bottle of milk ahead of time, and packed a lot more towels. I put my swimming costume on underneath my clothes, and I put her disposable swimming nappy on under her clothes too. I set off feeling confident and prepared.
When I arrived at the pool, she was soaked through - the swimming nappy most definitely hadn't done its job on dry land! Another lesson learnt.
It was all a learning curve, and despite a shakey start I got better at getting my daughter changed before and after swimming. As a parent and baby swimming teacher, I pick up tips from other mums too. Here are some ideas to make it easier for you:
Leave plenty of time so you're not rushed;
If you can, leave a bit of time between a breast or bottle feed and swim. Allow an hour between any solid food and your trip to the pool.
Think about how you want to transport your baby from the car to the pool - a big buggy takes up valuable space, and you can't underestimate how uncomfortable lugging a heavy car seat about can be in a hot changing room. I've always used a sling or baby carrier to keep my hands free for bags.
Put your own swimsuit on before you leave the house - I wouldn't recommend putting your baby's on too!
Bring as many big towels as you can fit into your bag (and as many as you can face washing and drying later);
Pack your swimsuit and the baby's disposable swimming nappy, neoprene swimming nappy and anything else you want them to wear at the top of your bag;
Practise putting on the neoprene swimming nappy a few times at home;
If there isn't a baby change unit available, it would be safest to change your little one on the floor. It is best to bring a changing mat with you. You can buy disposable and travel changing mats which are great for this;
I would recommend changing yourself first when you're getting into the pool, so that your baby isn't waiting around in their swimsuit;
If you're not swimming in a pool with warm air and water temperature, take a towel or a towelling poncho with you onto the poolside to keep your baby warm after your lesson;
Wrap your baby up snugly in a towel and lie them somewhere safe while you quickly get dried and changed after your swim;
Dress your baby warmly after the lesson - a hat and warm outer layer is a good idea! It's best to bring clothes that are quick and easy to slip on for both of you.
Don't expect to both have showers and beautifully washed and dried hair! Have a quick rinse together under the shower at the pool, then treat yourself and your baby to a relaxing bath when you get home;
Swimming will leave your little one hungry and thirsty. Be prepared to feed them soon after they get out of the pool. Many pools don't allow food in the changing room, so you might need to save it for the car.
Don't let a fear of the changing room put you off your trip to the pool. It only takes a couple of times before you'll be a pro!