How to help your baby overcome their water worries

Between the ages of 8-24 months, your little one might start to become a bit more cautious of the water. They might start to cling to you desperately, not want to participate in activities they once loved and become less comfortable around your teacher. But don’t worry. This is the same natural development stage shared by nearly all children. In the pool, we call them water wobbles.

Why do they happen? 

The wobbles often hit at this time because it’s when your baby is learning to walk and explore their surroundings. And as this adventurous side of your little one takes over, something called separation anxiety starts to kick in too. Confusing eh? This newfound independence, coupled with their dependency on you means that when you’re not around, they might start to feel anxious or show signs of distress. It’s pretty tricky. But imagine how challenging it must be for your baby.  

Signs to look out for  

Teacher and baby in swimming pool

It might be pretty obvious when your little one is going through this stage, but sometimes there are some more subtle signs. You might notice that you child: 

  • Refuses to go under water. Even though you’re there, going beneath the surface feels like your baby is in a separate room to you. 
  • Doesn’t want to take part in any activities. 
  • Won’t let go of you. 
  • Suddenly seems distressed in lessons when they were absolutely loving it before. 

It can be frustrating. Really frustrating. We’ve seen our fair share of wobblers. But you can breathe a sigh of relief because there are plenty of things you can do to navigate through this difficult time. 

What can I do to help?   

Water Babies teacher, parent and baby swimming

  • Keep praising. Use plenty of reassuring language and keep encouraging your baby. Focus on the things that they’re good at.  
  • Don’t hold them too closely – this will make them think that you’re protecting them from something bad, so they’ll only end up clinging to you more tightly. 
  • Adapt the skills you’re learning in the water. Your teacher will help you achieve this with your little one. 
  • Let them use their most loved toy in the activities. 
  • Switch up the swim positions. Sometimes the side swim position might make them feel like you’re letting go of them, so give the extended arm position a go instead. 
  • Try a bit of haggling and negotiation. Try “if you have a go at this swim then you can have this toy”. Then reward them once they’ve given it a go. 
  • Your lesson might be interrupting your baby’s sleep schedule or feeding pattern. See if changing up the location, day or time of the lesson helps at all. 
  • If they’ve lost their confidence or trust, it’s okay. Just don’t push them and they’ll soon get it back. Really!  
  • Keep calm and talk to other carers in your class. They’ve either already been there or they’re going through the same thing as you. A problem shared is a problem halved. 

And most importantly of all – keep at it. Powering through is one of the best things you can do to overcoming this tricky time.