Why is it so important to get babies under the water?
Think about how we swim - think about what you see when you watch swimmers compete on TV. We don't learn to swim under the water. Yes, to achieve a streamlined body position and move efficiently in the water we need to have our faces in, but we don't spend the majority of the time with our whole bodies submerged a metre or so beneath the water - we need to stay close to the surface in order to breathe.
So, why is there such an emphasis on putting babies under the water? For some swim schools, a large part of their revenue comes from selling photos from underwater photoshoots - they need to get babies used to being under the water so that they can turn over a profit. There is also now an expectation from parents that a successful "swimming" baby needs to be used to going under the water - baby swim schools have created that expectation and now market it as the norm.
And some babies love to be submerged deep under the water - and it's great if they do, but we need to remember that it isn't a necessary or essential part of learning to swim. I've taught a few children now who were put off by early submersions, and it takes a while to get that trust of the water back. What is essential is to impart a love of the water and water confidence, which they learn directly from you, the parent. In my classes, babies watch their parents dip under the water, blow bubbles and put their faces in and want to copy. They splash forward into the water from the poolside when they do a jump, or take a little dip towards a parent with their faces in the water. But there is no need or expectation for them to be pushed any depth beneath the water, because there is no evidence to show that this improves their swimming or water confidence in any way.
Baby swimming is about enjoyment and building trust between the child and the parent, and a trust of the water - to foster that trust we need to relax and let things happen in their own time.