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Web' babies learn to swim—before they toddle

PUBLISHED: 20:40 26 August 2008 | UPDATED: 13:34 05 October 2010

Siana Shah (top) and Saoirse Exelby—on the web, naturally

Siana Shah (top) and Saoirse Exelby—on the web, naturally

MEET the Water Babies. These tiny tots may still be a bit wobbly on their feet—but they think nothing of going for a quick dip under water. Their mums bring them from all over London and splash out for swimming classes each week.

The youngest tot to take the plunge was just two days old, but the average is around six weeks

Mike Brooke

MEET the Water Babies. These tiny tots may still be a bit wobbly on their feet—but they think nothing of going for a quick dip under water.

Their mums bring them from all over London and splash out for swimming classes each week.

The youngest tot to take the plunge was just two days old, but the average is around six weeks.

One mum thrilled at seeing her baby swim under water like a fish’ was Neeta Shah, whose seven month-old girl Siana goes to the classes in Bethnal Green.

“Siana gets so excited as soon as she sees the pool and her little legs go mad,” she said.

“It’s fantastic—the lessons have been such fun.

“My confidence handling a new baby increased as well as Siana’s confidence in the water.

“You know your baby is gaining a valuable life skill which one day could potentially save their life.”

Babies have a natural gag’ reflex, making them hold their breath instinctively when their faces are submerged.

A structured 10-week course teaches babies to control their breathing instead of relying on this reflex, preventing any risk of gulping for air while submerged—it puts the babies in control.

The classes are run each Tuesday at Bethnal Green’s Beatrice Tate School in London’s East End by two former school pals, Hannah Yeomans and Lucy Hall, both 31, who began running the course in May.

Hannah explained: “There’s very little that beats sitting underwater, watching your tiny child serenely glide towards you.

“Babies lack the strength to swim on the surface until they’re three or four.

“But they can enjoy the sensation of moving their arms and legs underneath the water within days of birth.

“It’s hardly surprising they love it. After all, we spend our first nine months before birth surrounded by fluid.”

Babies are eligible for the unusual under water photo session after completing the first nine weeks of the course to build up their stamina.

But the course also has a serious aim.

“Babies rarely appear to be doing any more than having fun,” Hannah added.

“But they are actually learning potential life-saving skills.

“Most people wouldn’t think it, but drowning is still unfortunately the third largest cause of accidental death for children in the UK.

“There’s been no decline in the number of incidents in recent years there’s been.”

They run three 30-minute sessions every Tuesday at Beatrice Tate School in St Jude’s-road, Bethnal Green, from 3.30 until 5pm. The 10-week course is £115.

Water Babies teaches 10,000 newborns up and down the country each week through a network of family-run businesses. It has its own website:

www.waterbabies.co.uk

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