World Prematurity Day is held on the 17th November, this is an important date for raising awareness of preterm births and the health concerns of premature babies across the globe.
Premature babies are more likely to suffer from health and developmental issues due to being born before they are physically ready – learning difficulties and respiratory conditions are more common than in children who were born at term.
Swimming can help your preterm baby ‘catch up’! We already know from the research undertaken by Griffith Institute for Educational Research in Australia that children that participate in early years swimming achieve a wide range of skills such as Visual Motor Skills, Story Recall and Mathematics Reasoning earlier than the normal population, in some cases children were 20 MONTHS ahead of their expected milestones* so closing the gap between premature and full term children can be supported by the benefits they receive from getting in the water as young as possible.
Premature babies are more likely to suffer from Hypotonia, this is low muscle tone in infants which is due to the cortex (the part of the brain that controls the muscles) having had less time to develop. Whilst in the swimming pool the increased resistance in the water helps to build strength and muscle tone especially in the legs, arms and neck.
Until your baby is born, their lungs are filled with a liquid that helps them grow and develop. During labour and birth this fluid is absorbed so that after birth they can take in the surrounding air. Premature babies are at high risk of developing breathing problems because their lungs are not yet mature enough to make this switch without some extra help, these breathing issues may continue as they grow. Swimming has been proven to strengthen the heart and lungs, developing strong lungs and the ability to control breathing can help to control the symptoms of ailments such as asthma.
At Aquatots we actively encourage parents to bring their premature babies swimming but due to babies especially preemies being unable to properly regulate their own body heat we do ensure that baby is at least 12lbs in weight and we recommend starting in one of our warmer hydro pools. Wetsuits are always available on request if baby needs that extra layer in the water and our office staff and teachers are on-hand to answer any questions. We also recommend you speak to your health visitor or GP before starting lessons with us.
Please see below some testimonials from some of our Aquatots parents with premature babies –
‘Olivia was born 12 weeks premature and she began swimming with Aquatots when she was 24 weeks old and has loved the water ever since and I put her love for swimming down to introducing her to the pool at an early age and when I felt she was strong enough. Her brother Jack was born 7 weeks premature and because his sister took to the water so well Jack began swimming at 17 weeks and he too enjoys the water. I think from my experience my advice for prems would be to make sure they have sufficient layers on for warmth as I still find with Jack even though he’s just turned 1 that they feel the cold but after their early battles nothing stops them!’ – Jane Briggs
‘Daisy was almost 9 weeks premature, We joined Aquatots when Daisy was 24 weeks old. Swimming has helped build Daisy’s confidence near water, I think she was lacking it due to not even being able to be bathed for 5 weeks so it was all very new for her. Daisy absolutely loves swimming and can’t wait to jump and splash into her bath at night thanks to Aquatots’ – Sinéad Somerville
(*see the full YouTube report HERE)