The Benefits of Taking Your Baby Swimming (From Bonding to Mental Health) – Guest post

Guest post from Jo Stone, who is a co-founder of Puddle Ducks: a franchise business that teaches independent swimming from birth in a nurturing environment with individually tailored activities.


One of the best-loved family activities, swimming is also one of the most widely participated sports in the UK. You may think there’s not much more to swimming than seeing your little one in a cute swimming costume, splashing around, and playing with all of the floats, but taking the plunge with your baby is a lot more beneficial than you may have first thought. Here are a few benefits to your baby making their first splash:

  1. Confidence is key

Introducing your baby to swimming from an early age can help to boost their water confidence (and their wider confidence), and in the long run it can prevent any future water-fear. It’s not uncommon for parents to pass on uneasiness of water and swimming to their children, because children are perceptive that way. By getting your baby used to water and swimming, they will bypass this fear, and it may even help you overcome your own fears (if you have them).

  1. Safety first

It’s normal for you to feel nervous about taking your little one to the pool, but there are so many positives. One of which is safety. You may not think it at first, but taking your baby swimming early on helps to build up their knowledge of water safety. Whether it’s teaching them to turn and reach for a wall/float/mum, or just learning the sensation of floating, it all adds up to showing them that the swimming pool is a safe and fun environment.

  1. Nothing beats family bonding

Swimming with your baby provides quality bonding time between both of you. We always have less time with our little ones than we would like, but swimming gives us that bonding time back. Being in the water with them is a great opportunity to give your undivided attention to them with lots of eye-to-eye communication, and have some water-based fun.

Skin-to-skin contact helps to strengthen the bond between you and your baby, and let’s not forget that it’s a great opportunity for the dads to spend some one-on-one time with the little ones to increase their bond together.

  1. Mental and physical health

Swimming is a superb way to incorporate exercise into your baby’s lifestyle from an early age. Swimming – unknowingly – is actually a full-body workout, because it encompasses physical activity from all of your baby’s muscles. Not only does it help with their physical health, but it also has a big impact on their mental health too. As swimming helps to strengthen your baby’s heart and lungs, it therefore encourages the development of the brain by stimulating all five senses of taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. Plus, swimming helps to burn a few calories too, so be prepared for a workout yourself as well!

  1. Baby balance and coordination

A study by the Norwegian University of Science & Technology showed that babies who swim can grasp objects and have better balance than those who stay out of the pool. The main focus in the swimming pool is maintaining balance as your body is fully supported by water. So, your baby’s balance will inevitably improve, given that water-balance is their focal point when in the water.

  1. Strength and wellbeing

The buoyancy and water-resistance that babies experience during swimming means they use their muscles a lot more, and a lot more effectively. This all helps to build strength in your little one’s muscles and teach them about muscle control.

Now, we’re not saying swimming will get rid of your sleepless nights, but, swimming does help improve your baby’s sleeping pattern. The extra exercise will help to make your little one sleepier, which will maybe even give you a bit of a rest too. It’s not just the nighttime habits that will improve – it’s their appetites too. Exercise and the warm water of the pool can make a baby hungry, so make sure you have some snacks ready for after their last splash.

Committing to weekly swimming classes will help to add structure to both yours and your little one’s week. Providing them with a fun and social activity regularly definitely helps to improve their feeling of wellbeing.

  1. Enhance learning skills

There are many learning benefits swimming can have for your baby. The continued responding to voice-commands can help to increase their mental skills of understanding. In fact, a study at Griffith University found that those who swim from a young age are ahead of non-swimmers by 6 to 15 months when it comes to solving maths problems, developing language skills, counting ability, and the overall following of instructions.

Advancement in cognitive learning is also heavily increased due to swimming. If you think about the process of swimming, your baby will be learning multiple cross-pattern movements and exercises, which all increases neuron build-up in the brain. This facilitates skills such as communication, and overall will help to improve skills such as reading, spatial awareness, and academic learning.

  1. Social time

It’s always good to socialise, and we all love a bit of ‘us’ time with our friends, but guess what? So do your little ones. By going swimming, not only are you helping to improve their physical and cognitive development, but also allows them a head-start with their social skills.

We’re guessing you’re already packing the swim-bag and deciding which towel to take (we suggest the blue one), so have a look at where your local Puddle Ducks swim-team is, and get ready for you and your baby to make a splash!

How to sleep better during pregnancy, guest blog from Rennie Downes


leachco snoogle body pregnancy pillow

guest blog from Rennie Downes www.pregnancypillows.org

Finding optimal quality rest is crucial during pregnancy, yet a 1998 poll by the National Sleep Foundation shows that 78% of women find it harder to sleep now than at any other time during their lives (even given the disturbed rest likely to follow in the near postpartum months). Why is this, and why is rest so important when we are expecting a baby? What can we do when poor sleep / sleeplessness strike?

Poor sleep during pregnancy

There are many factors that can contribute to inadequate quality or duration of sleep during pregnancy. Anxiety over the birth and our new role as mother – sometimes manifesting as 3am list-making! – can often become a factor in the development of insomnia. Difficulty getting comfortable thanks to changing curves and aching joints may also play a factor to disturbed rest, as can back pain – the latter affecting 50-80% of pregnant women (spine-health.com).

Many expectant mothers will experience vivid or disturbing dreams during their pregnancy, and some could be woken up by the movements of their unborn child. A tendency to feel “overheated” is common, and we are likely to require more frequent night-time bathroom trips as our trimesters progress. 30-50% of pregnant women will also experience heartburn and 26% will suffer from RLS (Restless Legs Syndrome), so it’s really not surprising when the quality of sleep plummets in pregnancy.

Risk of complications

Nevertheless, expectant mothers are “sleeping for two” and as such it is doubly important for the health of both mother and child that adequate rest is acquired. A study by the NSF found links between poor quality slumber and elevated blood pressure in pregnancy (as well as an increased risk of preeclampsia) while other studies show that women who sleep less than six hours per night are more likely to experience longer labors and give birth by Caesarean section.

Poor sleep, depression and a weakened immune system are all inexorably related (poor sleep causes depression and vice versa) and each increases the risk of pregnancy complications (Science Daily). Unfortunately sleep medication is usually not an option during pregnancy, but there are many methods you can use to try to improve the quality of your sleep.

Five ways to better sleep

1) Try not to worry

As hard as it may sound, lying in bed worrying about the fact that you cannot sleep is only going to make your problem spiral. If insomnia strikes, don’t wait it out in bed – you are actually more likely to get back to sleep sooner if you get up and move about, engaging in mild, relaxing activity until your head is ready to hit the pillow.

2) Know your enemy

Insomnia has multiple symptoms, the most commonly known being the classic issue of going to bed only to find sleep impossible. Waking up early, finding it difficult to wake in the morning or regularly waking during the night are all other signals of insomnia, but then again you may feel sleepy for entirely different reasons altogether.

Daytime drowsiness can just mean you need more sleep – but sometimes it indicates underlying medical conditions like anaemia or sleeping disorders such as sleep apnoea, so it is very important to get your fatigue checked out and diagnosed accordingly. Even if your doctor confirms that it is just another symptom of pregnancy, it’s worth being able to rule sleep apnoea etc out as these can have a detrimental effect on your pregnancy and birth.

3) Relax through exercise

Whether you’re new to exercise or already have a regime in place prior to getting pregnant, moderate activity can be helpful to you during pregnancy for several different reasons. If you suffer a bad back, exercising can help strengthen your core and ease discomfort while well-timed aerobic activity – not too close to bedtime – can be an excellent cure for insomnia.

If you struggle to sleep during pregnancy, why not consider using exercise as a form of relaxation? Classes in prenatal yoga and aquatic exercise are both very popular and widely available, but there are many other possibilities too.

In contrary to what you may have been told by your family and friends, pregnancy is not normally a reason to give up your daily dose of cardio. In fact, cardiovascular exercise can help your body to build a larger, more efficient placenta for your baby – and there are many other benefits too. You will need to take things carefully, though, and avoid certain activities like contact sports; if you are unsure which activities are classified as safe, consult your physician.

4) Sleep well-supported

As your trimesters progress you are likely to be spending more time in bed sleeping (or at least resting) every week, so it’s really important that you find a way to get comfortable when doing so. Being able to achieve an optimal sleeping position in which your bump, back and legs can feel relaxed but well-supported goes further than just attaining a good night’s rest – it may also affect your level of discomfort throughout the day, particularly in the case of RLS, back pain or PGP (Pelvic Girdle Pain). If your hips are aligned into a neutral position it could even help baby get into position ready for the birth.

As your uterus expands it will become more and more impossible to lie comfortably or safely on your back, so doctors tend to recommend that you sleep on your left side – yet even this can put a lot of strain on your spine if unsupported. It is therefore recommended that you purchase a suitable maternity pillow to ease the increased weight and strain being placed upon your joints; such pillows are extremely versatile and can help you achieve the best sleeping position during pregnancy. What’s more, with such a huge amount of choices available on the market, you are sure to find the right size, shape and price for you.

5) Speak to your doctor

If all else fails, you are feeling very anxious or just cannot seem to get any sleep, don’t suffer in silence while everyone else dreams! Consult your physician about the possibilities that are open to you during pregnancy – he or she may be able to suggest a suitable medication or other avenues that you’ve not yet explored. Remember that however tired you may be feeling now, it is only temporary and soon everything will change again. Try not to despair, but don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Do’s and don’ts of exercising while pregnant

Guest post from Patricia Hogenes

Isn’t it an exciting time when you’re pregnant? While you are carrying, you want to think about exercise, because any fitness you build will help later on. For instance, doing bicep curls will be helpful when you are carrying the baby around the house. So what are the do’s and don’ts for pregnancy?

Do be moderate. If you exercised before the pregnancy, it is great to continue your workout routine, but just be moderate. If you used a weight workout regimen before pregnancy, it’s fine to continue that through the first trimester and even into the second. But by the third trimester, you’ll want to be cutting down on your use of weights. Here are some excellent resources with more information:

Do think of alternatives. If you were a runner before you were pregnant, but it’s now midsummer and really hot outside, maybe there is another way to get in a great aerobic routine, without facing the summer heat. Consider water aerobics. To replace the running, think about aqua walking. Just go to the community pool when the lap lanes are open and walk up and down the lap lanes. For more exertion, pick up the pace to aqua jogging. Do keep a water bottle at the end of the lane, to stay well hydrated.

Do use exercise for relaxation. With the stresses your body will be going through over the term of the pregnancy, exercise will function as a great relaxer. Your body sends out signals of calm and exuberance while you work out, and those will be transmitted to the baby, as well as making you relax more. You’ll be using that workout for double duty – keeping yourself peaceful, and helping grow a strong and happy baby.

Don’t overdo it. If you haven’t exercised much, and decide to start during pregnancy, it is perfectly fine to do that. A recommendation by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology is to engage in 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day, unless there is a complication. This is an excellent goal to strive for, but start by checking with your medical professional to make sure you’re cleared to begin exercise. Tell the doctor your plan, and make sure it will work for you. Begin with a low level of exercise, and gradually work up to higher levels over time. Don’t try to start with more than you can handle.

Don’t do really strenuous exercises. Be respectful of the changes your body is going through. Yes, it’s fine to exercise, but put some thought into the kinds of exercise which will be appropriate. For instance, there are some types of exercise that could put the belly at risk for trauma. Among those, off-road biking, horseback riding, gymnastics and downhill skiing are exercises that you might want to try later, after you’ve recovered from the pregnancy.

Don’t wait until later. With a lot of things happening in your world during the pregnancy, it would be easy to say “I do mean to work out, but I’ll just get started next week.” Putting things off is a common tendency, but during your pregnancy, time will be going fast, and it would be easy to quickly find yourself in the third trimester, not having worked out, and wishing you had. Start early, or if you’ve already been working out, don’t allow a break in your workout routine. You’ll be glad you did when it comes to the delivery, and after the child is born.

Smile when you think of your pregnancy, and how your exercise routine is making it a more powerful and positive experience.

Patricia Hogenes writes for AnApplePerDay.com, about kids, parenting, exercise and health. She is avid about her workouts, which have ranged from aqua jogging to marathon training to cycling. She and her husband also enjoy entertaining, and taking vacations with their kids.

What is a healthy weight gain during pregnancy?

The latest NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) guidance, released in July 2010, says that:

  • Women who are a normal weight for their height (BMI 18.5–24.9) should gain 11.5–16 kg during pregnancy.
  • Overweight women (BMI 25–29.9) should gain 7–11.5 kg
  • Obese women (BMI greater than 30) should only put on 5–9 kg.

So try not to pack on more than this, otherwise you’ll still be left with a lot of weight to shift when your baby is born – this isn’t healthy for either of you. Try not to weigh yourself too often. Focus more on how your body looks and feels and remember that lean muscle weighs more than fat.

Where Does the Extra Weight Go During Pregnancy?

You’ll be pleased to hear that the weight you are putting on is not all sitting on your hips ready to bulge over the top of your fave jeans once you have had your baby. Here is a rough idea of where the weight goes:

Baby: 8 pounds

Placenta: 2-3 pounds

Amniotic fluid: 2-3 pounds

Breasts: 2-3 pounds

Blood: 4 pounds

Stored fat: 5-9 pounds

Uterus growth: 2-5 pounds

Total: 25-35 pounds

Remember that everyone is different and you may gain more or less than this.