From First Lessons to First Medals

At the latest Swim Ireland National Minor Schools Championships swimming competition in Dublin, six Water Babies graduates competed with many bringing home medals in their categories and two of them even coming home as Irish champions.

With many of the children starting their swimming journey as new-borns, they dominated the competition, showing how much they’ve progressed in the first decade of their lives with their swimming skills.

Overall, at this event, all of the six Water Babies graduate entrants were placed within the top five of their respective races – a testament to starting their swimming journey at a young age. Having all had baby swimming lessons with Water Babies Northern Ireland, water confidence, strong swimming strokes, and core aquatic skills were key to their competition success.

One of the Water Babies graduates was Leo West-Hurst, who won the title of the Irish Minor Schools Champion in 50m freestyle at the National Aquatics Centre at the Swim Ireland Minor Gala.  Leo began his swimming adventure with Water Babies almost exactly a decade ago when he was just over a week old with his Mum, Amy. Throughout the course of six-years, Leo’s classes with the baby swimming school Water Babies, have helped him to develop an appreciation for the water and a passion for swimming.

Leo qualified for the Swim Ireland Minor Schools Gala , which hosts schools from all over Ireland, back in November in both the 50m freestyle and 50m breaststroke categories, as well as in his medley and freestyle relays for Ballyholme Primary School. Heading into the competition, Leo was the seventh fastest athlete for his age group but managed to beat his personal best by three seconds leading him to victory.

Leo’s Mother, Amy West-Hurst, commented: “We are extremely proud of all Leo’s achievements over the years, but have been especially proud of him throughout this process. Qualifying for a national competition and winning it is such an incredible accomplishment!

I always knew I wanted to take my kids to swimming lessons from a young age due to the benefits it would have on their development, but watching their love for the water grow and flourish has been a total joy. I’d like to use this opportunity to thank the team at Water Babies for all their support over the years, and to encourage mums across the UK to stick with those swimming lessons because it will pay off.”

Another one of the Water Babies graduates is called Mila Pickett, she became Irish Champion in 50m Butterfly at the National swimming championship. Mila started swimming with Water Babies at 3 months and has continued to build on her love of water and passion for swimming to achieve her first national medal at age 11.

Teaching children the importance of water safety from a young age is vital for their development, and helps to reduce any life-threatening accidents with little ones in and around water. Mila, and her mum Nicola, understand how important it is to teach little ones water safety as early as possible first hand, as Mila accidentally fell into a swimming pool on holiday at 18 months old.

“It was such a terrifying experience for all of us and it happened so quickly.” Nicola explains. “Luckily, Mila has been swimming from birth, so she knew from her lessons what to do to keep herself safe in the water whilst we rescued her. But it could have ended terribly. To see her now thriving in the water and competing at National level is amazing. And only at 11 years old, we can’t wait to see her water confidence grow. We can’t thank Water Babies enough for supporting Mila in her baby swimming journey, and her lessons were instrumental to her swimming progression. She is a true water baby!”

Founded in 2002, Water Babies has grown into the world's largest baby swim school, today teaching more than 47,000 babies and toddlers every week the lifesaving skill of swimming. Supported by over 76 franchise outlets and around 600 teachers, lessons are delivered through a network of family-run businesses across the UK, Ireland, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, and China. Little ones can start lessons from birth (with the youngest water baby being 1 day old!) to 5 years old.

Hannah Smith, Director of Aquatics at Water Babies added: “It’s wonderful to see Water Babies graduates achieving such fantastic milestones and pursuing successful swimming careers after swimming with us. Swimming is such a vital part of the healthy cognitive and physical development of children, and we are extremely proud of our highly trained teachers and expertly developed swim programme to support families across the globe to learn how to enjoy the water safely. It’s so rewarding to see our water babies continue their love of the water after graduating and to keep us updated on their swimming successes.”

To find out more about classes in Northern Island, visit the Water Babies website - phone us on 028 91472403 or email us at