Neck Floats for Babies – Sink or Swim?

neck floats

You may have seen images of babies suspended by their necks in water by semi-solid or inflatable rings, the photographs generally display babies looking serene and relaxed, enjoying a so-called ‘Pampering Experience’.  For as little as £2.49 you can purchase your baby an inflatable neck ring online and recreate a baby spa in your own bathroom! These products are sold as “Safety Aids” and “Unique Swim Gifts”, it is claimed that they “Exercise your baby’s strength and ability to grasp” and that they “Encourage early mobility, exploration & a love for water play” but in our opinion (and many other professionals) we believe this device is completely overlooking the real benefits of introducing young babies to water.

At Aquatots Swimming Ltd we strongly believe in and actively promote the bonding opportunity that our courses offer.  The closeness between parent and child is necessary to encourage the confidence the child needs to learn water skills such as kicking and reaching.  Being in the water together gives the opportunity for a child to explore in a safe and fun environment. Using a neck float is effectively isolating the baby and restricting free movement, how much can they really explore whilst hanging vertically beneath the float!

Now for some medical evidence! Did you know that infant development is cephalo-caudal, which means it starts from the head and works down?  Take a minute to think about suspending a young baby in water with only its neck supported, even with the natural buoyancy of water imagine of the strain the ligaments and muscles have to endure, even for a short period of time.  Fortunately one of the world’s leading experts on baby swimming, Françoise Freedman, has worked with the STA and Shawn Tomlinson to produce a “message of caution” which provides in-depth information about the damaging effect this newest ‘Pamper Experience’ could have. Whilst it may not be a short read it does explain about how babies ‘work’ and provides links to all the relevant and current data to substantiate it. Read the full report ‘The Hidden Risks of Floating Neck Rings for Babies’ HERE 

The original idea behind this ‘fad’ came after it was recognised that water floatation tanks can be used to help adults disengage from the stresses and strains of everyday life and somebody, somewhere felt that babies were missing out on this experience! Despite us meeting thousands of children we are yet to meet a baby that was worried about paying the mortgage!


  • In 2015 a leading supplier of their own branded neck floatation device recalled THREE THOUSAND units due to them posing a risk of drowning!
  • Babies already spend a lot of time in contraptions that isolate them from human contact.
  • It will set you back more than £60 an hour to take your newborn to a baby spa!.


“I think it looks horrific; it doesn’t give any consideration to the body posture underwater, and I’m sure could, therefore, do lasting damage. Teaching any age of a child that it’s ok to put things around their neck (which could become instilled behaviour through repeated use) can never be a good thing, and as you say that whole bonding experience of swimming with your baby is lost through the use of these devices.

I would imagine it could also breed complacency in some parents; putting 100% confidence in anything around water will, unfortunately, lead to a terrible accident, and heaven forbid it would take that to end the use of something which looks entirely unbeneficial in the first place.” – Pippa (Aquatot Parent)

We do hope we have provided you with enough information for you to make an informed decision.

Thanks for reading



Summer Water Safety

Life savings 2

At Aquatots we pride ourselves in not only teaching babies and children how to swim but also giving them the skills to save their own lives (and during our higher levels the skills to save others!).  Having these skills does reduce the risk of serious water related incidents BUT accidents happen especially to young children and we ask that you NEVER become complacent about the dangers, teach your children to respect water and always supervise them when they are around water.

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Aquatot to Aqua’champ

Aquatots Swimming Ltd is the new sponsor of record breaking swimmer Tazmin Pugh, ranked 1st in the Europe in the 200m fly (short course).
When Dad Ian began Aquatot baby swimming classes with daughter Tazmin aged at 6 months he never imagined the lengths she would swim to get to the promising position she is in now.  Aquatots Managing Director and teacher Fiona Munt-Whittle recognised the raw talent of Tazmin even from such a young age and supportive Ian took Fiona’s advice and regularly visitied the pool with Tazmin outside of lessons to encourage her enthusiam for swimming.
At 15 Tazmin is travelling the world competing for England, her recent trip to the Commonweath Youth Games in Somoa saw her win 6 medals out of 8 events and help Team England come second with an overall 25 medals (Tazmin bringing home the most individual medals!).
The lastest exciting news is that Tazmin has been offered a place by British Swimming on the World Class programme ‘Podium Potential’, this small group compises of athletes whose performances indicate they have realistic capabilities for making the Olympic Team in 2016 and medal potential at those Games or in 2020, she is also due to represent Team GB in Canada this December!
Pershore raised Tazmin joined her first swim team at 5 and is now on a sponsorship at Ellesmere College regularly competing for her school team the ‘Titans’  – In fact she represented the West Midlands at the English Schools Swimming Inter-Divisional Championships (short-course) in Leeds on 3rd / 4th October where she gained her ‘1st in Europe’ title.
It does not stop there though, Tazmin’s older sister Brittany now takes her 2 year old son Ted swimming at our Tewkesbury Park Hotel venue.  With Auntie Tazmin as a role model and swimming talent running in the family – who knows where Ted will be in a few years time – WATCH THIS SPACE!

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Showering before swimming – the reasons why!

shower sign

Showering before jumping into water sounds a bit of a contradiction doesn’t it yet here at Aquatots we request you do it before every lesson.

In the UK 70% of swimmers admit to not showering before entering the pool – that sign in the changing area is not just a suggestion it is an essential part of ensuring you, your child and the pool is protected!

There are lots of reasons why we actively encourage you to take a shower before swimming, some are common sense but some reasons you may not expect – carry on reading and see why it’s so important:


Common Courtesy:

Its only polite to clean yourself before jumping into someone else’s pool, it’s the most considerate thing you can do!

Looking after the pool:

The more contaminated the pool becomes the harder it has to work to ensure its clean. Pumps and filters have to remove contaminates so it makes sense that the more there are in the pool the harder their job is.  Swimming pools are regularly checked and additional chlorine is added if required. Chlorine doesn’t come cheap and if everybody showered before swimming it would decrease the cost of pool chemicals by a third.

Removing contaminates:

The above are secondary to the main issue.  Before you shower your body (and that of your child)  will have substances such as sweat, soap, perfume, shampoo, deodorant, urine and even feces…..yes POO!  Chlorine is added to pool water to kill communicable pathogens (particularly bacterial or parasitic), but it doesn’t kill everything. Cryptosporidium (a germ that causes diarrhoea that is found in infected people’s stools and cannot be seen by the naked eye) can live for days in chlorine.

Imagine this, every swimmer that gets in the pool in one day contaminates it with a little urine and feces – the amounts will quickly add up and the result is that you and your child are swimming in a concoction of bodily fluids, now can you understand why we insist on ‘double bagging’ and showering!

So please take the time to properly shower before your lesson, not just a quick run through but a good wash to remove all those ‘yucky’ contaminates.


Thanks for reading and if you’ve found this post informative please add a comment.

Fiona Munt-Whittle




Excuses, excuses


Do any of these sound familiar?

  • My tummy just isn’t the same since giving birth.
  • I have cellulite
  • I just need to go to the gym for a few months first
  • I don’t want to get my hair wet

Throughout my life as a Mother and Swimming Instructor I’ve heard these reasons and many more countless times, they are the excuses used to not to get into a swimming pool.  I’ve heard Mum’s say them with real pained expressions on their faces, they really, really don’t want to strip off down to a swimming costume and walk through the pool area half naked!

I understand, I really do – I’ve had four children and I’m not 18 anymore but yet nearly every day I’m donning one of my swimming costumes, introducing myself to people on poolside and getting in and out of the pool in front of the lifeguards and other swimmers!  I may have an advantage, I have a history with water – I’ve been swimming since I was young and I’ve never stopped so I suppose I’m not fazed by the whole experience but that’s not the reason why I get in the water.  I get in because I want to teach babies how to swim, I want those babies to grow up confident in water and have those all-important life-saving skills, I want to see them progress, to dive to the bottom of the pool, to swim widths then lengths, to roll about, to blow bubbles in the water, to do handstands and then to get out at the end and confidently walk back to the changing rooms.

Now we all know the benefits of getting babies into the swimming pool as young as possible, you are literally exchanging one watery environment for another – babies love it!  You are helping your child to boost their intelligence, to strengthen their muscles and to socialise with others.

But let’s say you’re past that stage, your child(ren) already love going swimming and pester you to take them to the local pool at every opportunity, you really want to take them but can’t face putting your cellulite or love handles on show so you sit by the side whilst they splash about in the shallows complaining to the Mum’s around you “I’ll get in once I’ve got rid of this extra weight” or “once I find a swimsuit that covers all my body I’ll be happy to get in” – you may notice your child(ren) go quiet and absorb what you are saying – this is what they hear “I can only have fun if I’m physically perfect”.

above water

It may sound severe but that is literally what you are saying, you can only wear a swimming costume if you look flawless!  In this day and age of media pressure, expecting everyone to want to look like a super model it is not surprising that’s how you feel but is that also how you want your child(ren) to feel?  They look to you to be the example so I say now is the time to shrug off those expectations, show your children that you can have fun whatever you look like and throw on your swimming cossie and get in that water!

Thanks for reading

Fiona Munt-Whittle

Is it easy to be an Ethical Small Business?

We think it is, actually maybe it is easier when you have a smaller committed team.  Right from the beginning I made a conscious effort to move my business forward ethically and as Aquatots grew it became a core value – the big secret is TRUST! The office staff, the swimming instructors and I trust each other and we all trust in the ‘product’ – we know our Aquatots methods and techniques for teaching babies to swim are the very best!   As a team we are easily able to project to our customers that we are a business that is transparent and has nothing to hide, this is why we have a huge customer retention rate and have a healthy intake of new swimmers every term.


So what other ethical practices can a small business adopt?   How many employers overlook their employees and are rigid and inconsistent, how many are cash orientated to a point that profit over quality?  Of course as a business you need to generate an income to flourish and grow but a steady rate is preferable to ‘burnout’– here at Aquatots Swimming we recognise everybody’s strengths and encourage idea sharing and active participation in decision making – that’s what makes us so strong and able to compete in an every growing market for baby swimming lessons.


Aquatots Swimming is not just a company that talks about sustainability we actively do our part in supporting the community by employing people local to our swimming pool venues and giving them constant training and support , we also work alongside other local small businesses – employing their talents as consultants and suppliers.  We do our best to minimise energy use and waste, we utilise recycled products and materials from ink cartridges to paper and we are exploring ways on how to broaden that to include outgrown swimming costumes and baby swimming equipment.

baby and toy

Aquatots understands that ethical values mean different things to different people, but I have been lucky to be able to match my moral values to those of the business and the people I have employed have been completely on-board.  We all understand that being ethical helps us to be sustainable which in turn gives our swimmers the security that we will be here, giving 100%, from the first swimming lesson right up to when our swimmers leave us.

Sister and brother

Thanks for reading

Fiona Munt-Whittle

Aquatots Managing Director


Swimming with eczema


What is eczema?

Eczema (also known as dermatitis) is highly individual in its nature and affects 1 in 5 children in the UK.  It varies from person to person, comes in many different forms and is not contagious.

Skin provides a strong, effective barrier that protects the body from infection or irritation – it is made up of a thin outer layer, a fairly elastic one in the middle, and a fatty layer at the deepest level. Each layer contains skin cells, water and fats, all of which help maintain and protect the condition of the skin.  Healthy skin cells are plumped up with water, forming a protective barrier against damage and infection, fats and oils help to keep the water in.

If you have eczema, your skin may not produce as much fats and oils as other people’s, and will be less able to retain water- the protective barrier is therefore not as good as it should be. Moisture is then lost from the deeper layers of the skin, allowing bacteria or irritants to pass through more easily. Some everyday substances contribute to breaking down the skin. Soap, bubble bath and washing-up liquid, for example, will remove oil from anyone’s skin, but if you have eczema your skin breaks down more easily, quickly becoming irritated, cracked and inflamed.


Can my baby swim with eczema?

YES!  You should ensure you shower your baby thoroughly straight after swimming if the chlorine seems to worsen the eczema. Apply moisturizer once you’ve dried your baby off and if necessary apply it before swimming as well.  You may want to use a wetsuit such as Warma Wetsuits or Sun Protection UV Suits on occasions when the condition is flared.

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Why is swimming good for my baby with eczema?

Swimming is beneficial to babies but for eczema babies in particular there are a number of long and short-term health benefits:

Swimming has been proven to strengthen the heart and lungs as eczema babies have a higher chance of developing asthma it is important to support the development of strong lungs.  It is also of great advantage to teach babies how to control their breathing which can help to control asthma symptoms.

Eczema babies can really struggle to sleep through itching, swimming really does encourage a better night’s sleep (for baby and you!)

Spending time in cool water can calm angry skin and surprisingly pool chemicals can actually be beneficial for some babies’ eczema, especially if your baby’s eczema is prone to infections!

Interacting with other babies in Aquatots swimming classes supports good social skills.  Developing these skills early can be a real benefit to eczema children who can start to struggle socially once they become aware of their skin condition.


Tried and Tested non-prescription remedies from our Aquatots parents


Final word

For babies with mild to moderate eczema it should be possible to find a way for them (and you) to really enjoy swimming. However, if your little one has really severe eczema it would be wise to wait until it is under control before venturing into the pool for the first time. If you are in any doubt, ask your GP.

Thanks for reading

Fiona Munt-Whittle – Aquatots Managing Director

Top Tips when swimming with your baby


Baby swimming is a rewarding experience and completely natural. The first year of a life is crucial in terms of a baby’s development, as it is in this period that the brain grows most rapidly. Regular exercise plays a vital role in development with every movement they make helping to strengthen their brain for new learning.

Swimming helps build the bond between you and your baby, you are starting them on a habit that will last a lifetime as well teaching them an important and potentially life-saving skill.

We have gathered some TOP TIPS to help you and your baby prepare for your first swimming experience and beyond.

TIPS from the ASA (Amateur Swimming Association)

above waterdiving inbaby and toy

  • Submerge your baby to shoulder level or ensure they are wearing a full suit. Babies out of the water will soon become cold.
  • Watch your baby’s face so it does not fall below the water and so you can monitor their reactions.
  • Keep moving – your baby becomes aware that by moving their arms and legs they will stay afloat.

TIPS from Aquatots parent

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  • If your baby is still in a car seat you can carry, take a large carrier bag to place in seat to keep it dry and then wrap your wet baby in a towel and place them in the seat whilst you get dressed. You can then use the carrier bag to carry the wet costumes and towels home.
  • Carry your thing in a rucksack, so that you can have both hands free for dealing with children.
  • Poncho towels are a useful and it means you can get dressed first.
  • Sing loudly and enthusiastically in the lessons
  • Always carry a roll up waterproof type changing mat with you so you can place your little one safely on the floor, these are available from the Aquatots shop- Changing Mat
  • Bring a snack for after and also some water for a drink but please remember to not eat or drink in the changing rooms.
  • Persevere, they all go through the ‘I don’t want to’ phase but stick with it, don’t give in and let them surprise you a week or two later when they suddenly do the exercise they were resistant to.
  • Give yourself plenty of time. Rushing just stresses you and baby!

TIPS from our teachers

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  • From day one – make bath time fun by introducing toys and singing songs. Splash water over your child’s body and lay them on their back moving them gently through the water maintaining eye contact and giving lots of smiles.
  • Try not to hold your baby on your hip too much between exercises so they’re less likely to want to cling to you when it’s time for the next exercise. Try to hold them in front of you instead.
  • When you are in the water try to maintain lots of eye contact and skin to skin contact – this reassures baby as well as promoting the bonding experience.
  • Don’t panic in the water the instructors know what they’re doing.
  • Give lots of praise to your child after each exercise.
  • If you are unsure about an exercise, practice with the Teachers doll before trying with baby,
  • If you have an unsettled baby – try to remain in the pool if you can. Take a toy and if there are steps have a rest on them or take yourself off to one side where you can find a bit of space and try and calm baby down. Bring a favourite toy – suitable for the water- that can help distract your baby.
  • Remember to smile – babies are very observant and likely to mirror your expressions and mood so try to act confident and happy.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask your teacher to show you something again if you are not sure, you won’t be the only one who would like a demonstration again so be brave and ask!
  • Talk to the other parents as they are all in the same situation as you so it’s nice to chat things through with them, it doesn’t even have to be swimming related.
  • You don’t have to go under the water with your baby every week but try to go under as much as you can as it is good for you to see your child under the water and it’s nice for your child to see mummy or daddy doing it too! (Remember your goggles if you prefer going under this way or wear contact lenses)
  • Arrive with your costume under your clothes but don’t forget to pack underwear for afterwards.

TIPS from Dads for Dads

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  • Arrive in Swimming Shorts and bring a spare pair to change in to.
  • Wear slip on shoes NOT lace ups – for a quick exit.

All photos are the property of Aquatots Swimming Ltd and were taken during our underwater photo shoots.

Aquatots Baby Swimming Testimonial

We love getting feedback from our parents and swimmers but this is the first time we have ever had a blog testimonial written about us! If you are still in two minds about the benefits of Baby Swimming or choosing Aquatots as your preferred Swim School then read on to see some excerpts from Karen Whitlock’s blog “Stopping At Two”

“On parenting forums, there are frequent discussions on whether baby swimming lessons are worth the money. It is cheaper to go swimming at the leisure centre, where both of us can be in the water with the girls, but I haven’t regretted the money spent on the Aquatots courses for one minute”

“Aquatots courses are progressive. Everyone starts off at Duckling level and then move on through the courses at their own pace, once certain skills have been mastered”

“Fiona runs Aquatots. She is very experienced and it really shows. I have been amazed at how well Freyja has done with her”

“She (Freyja) happily dives in from the side, or throws herself in from a float (something that she has NEVER wanted to do)”

“There are free catch-up lessons if your child is ill so can’t do the lesson too! And what I have been most impressed with is that they have tried to be really accommodating with when lessons are, so the girls have theirs back-to-back”

“Aquatots do free taster sessions – so you can at least try before you buy a term of lessons”

Read the Blog in its entirety here –

Thanks to Karen for such including us in her blog, its a pleasure to teach Frejya and Emily 🙂

Fiona Munt-Whittle
Aquatots Managing Director