When you have the cry baby of the swim class

It’s true – Miss Belle is the cry baby of our swimming class. And it’s really starting to do my head in.

As my husband and I both like to swim, swimming was the single most important baby class to us. So we signed Miss Belle up when she was about four months old. Along with a couple of NCT friends we chose Waterbabies, and even though the cost at £15 for a 30 minute lesson, made our eyes water, we went ahead knowing how important water safety and swimming skills are. After all, she was going to be the next Rebecca Adlington, according to Daddy.

The first few months she loved it. I felt so proud of her. She was almost the best in the class. Yay for my brave daughter, I foolishly thought.

Then, around the time she was learning to sit up, she started to hate lying on her back for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at the end of the class. No big deal everyone said, loads of babies go through this stage of not liking to be on their backs. Something to do with reflexes, or something.

At Waterbabies there’s a lot of emphasis on going under the water. At first I was terrified my daughter was going to drown, but along with the other parents, I dunked her, and it was OK. She didn’t love it, she spluttered all over the place, but she lived. But as the weeks went on, she cottoned onto what was coming. You are supposed to give a cue so they learn to close their mouths (and their eyes, if they are super clever). But this advanced warning told Miss Belle she was about to be forced under water, and actually, seen as she didn’t like being partially drowned and the subsequent choking afterwards, she wasn’t going to co-operate. So, when I called her “name, ready, go!” with the biggest of smiles, she started to tense up, scream “Nooo” and shake. I heard her loud and clear, she did not want to go under.

The teacher said not to force her, that it would scare her more in the long run, and that she’d eventually get over it, if we just took a break from going under the water.

Well… it’s been nearly a year now.


After about four months or constant illnesses (colds, conjunctivitis, ear infections and viruses) we stopped Waterbabies, after realising we were essentially paying them every week, not to swim. When we did go to a class, she’d still cry, even without going under water. I started to dread going too. It was stressful and exhausting trying to reassure her I wasn’t trying to kill her.

At our last lesson, the teacher told me to carry on taking her swimming and that the worst thing to do would be to stop swimming completely. So what did I do? Went with my gut and completely ignored her advice.  We needed a couple of months off.

We took her to the local pool a few times over the summer and she went in the pool on holiday and she seemed to enjoy it, without going under. Hurrah! I thought. She’s turned the corner – no cry baby here! Keen not to keep her out of the habit of swimming for too long, we signed up for new classes at our local pool, at a third of the price. We started again in August.

swim cry baby

Having fun in the sun. Maybe I do have a waterbaby after all?

Well, as the title of this tells you, I still have a cry baby.

She still hates it! Every class is the same. General smiles for the first 10 minutes until everyone else starts with the “name, ready, go!” I don’t even say it and she thinks it’s coming! Then I’m stuck with a whinging cry baby for the rest of the class. She clings onto my swimming costume and she physically climbs up me. She won’t do anything that all the other toddlers do. Last week she wouldn’t even sit on the side and allow me to help her pretend jump in.

All the other mums give sympathetic looks. “Oh Rosie used to cry for the first few weeks” one woman said to me. I just want to scream, “but it’s not been a few weeks! IT’S BEEN MONTHS!!! It’s alright for you with the confident daredevil of the class who launches herself in every week!” Yep, I have swim class envy.

Last week I got so fed up and frustrated I cried. I actually cried, not for the first time I’ll admit, in my daughter’s swimming lesson. How embarrassing. Muttering that we might as well go, that it was all just a waste of time, I swam off to the side and let Miss Belle play with some watering cans. At least she’s learning those all important skills…

So now, I am seriously considering cancelling our lessons again. My husband says we need to take her more. Or, I could just stick it out and never ever put her under water. But I don’t want her to be behind all the others. I want her to enjoy it so desperately. Maybe that is the problem? Am I putting too much pressure on us both?

I just don’t know what to do anymore.

Anyone else got any great ideas about how I can help her enjoy it and stop her being the cry baby of the swimming class?

Diary of an imperfect mum
The Pramshed
This Mum's Life





  1. 29th September 2016 / 7:57 pm

    Oh I’m so sorry to read this, how awful for you! I would have done exactly the same as you and had a break. I think id just go recreational swimming as a family and forget the lessons for a while. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime

    • thisismenow
      30th September 2016 / 7:10 am

      Thanks Hun. I’ve had that reaction from quite a few people on my Facebook page too. I think we will get to the end of this term and reassess how she is but if she’s still unhappy we will probably take another break. It’s just too stressful! X

  2. 29th September 2016 / 9:07 pm

    It’s so tough, you’re right, with all the best intention in the world, people really can’t understand if they haven’t been through it, and I’m not sure sympathetic looks are always that helpful. I’m not a good swimmer, so it’s important for me that my eldest is. He’s 5 now, and we have just started him at group swimming lessons. Last week he cried a lot, and had to get extra help in the pool. *rolls eyes* Sometimes kids can just be plain ol stubborn, I know when BB gets something in his head there’s no changing his mind until he’s ready. I guess that’s a good trait for somewhere in the future, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it when you’re experiencing it. Xx #ablogginggoodtime

    • thisismenow
      30th September 2016 / 7:09 am

      Very true! I am hearing from a few people who started their children’s swimming lessons a bit later and it doesn’t seem to have impacted their ability compared to others who started younger. The more I think about it the more I think it’s time for another breathe. Thanks for reading and hope your little boy starts to enjoy his lessons soon! X

  3. Anon
    29th September 2016 / 9:55 pm

    You ask how to help her enjoy her swimming lessons. As a mum of three, and qualified nanny my advice is to change swimming classes. You don’t have a cry baby, you have a frightened baby. From her point of view you are repeatedly asking her to do something she finds terrifying and this will, in the long run, put her off swimming completely. Dunking babies to help them learn to swim, or be confident in the water, is totally unncessary and, as you have found, can scare the babies.

    You are trying to teach her to swim very young, keep it relaxed, maybe don’t go to classes but take her to the local pool and swim for fun, and no dunking. Have faith, you are not doing anything wrong by not putting her under water and don’t worry, she will learn to swim just fine. But for now, listen to her, she’s telling you how to help her x

    • thisismenow
      30th September 2016 / 7:06 am

      Oh thank you for your advice and kind words. I think you’re right. Maybe it’s just not for her now. I think we will find something else to do that she will find more enjoyable and just take her on the weekend with daddy for a splash about to take the pressure off. Thanks for reading X

  4. 30th September 2016 / 6:00 pm

    We want to go on swim calsses:) for now we were on swimming pool to see how out boy like being in the water and I can say that ho love it 🙂

  5. India
    30th September 2016 / 7:28 pm

    Maybe we should have some swim fun on a weekend with all the children? She may see friends enjoying swimming as a positive influence and that may help her be less worried? Do you go under the water before her too? this also helps. But otherwise, keep taking her swimming, but just give a break from going under water until she is ready again. Much love xx

    • thisismenow
      30th September 2016 / 9:08 pm

      Well, we went today, different teacher and no dunking (or me as she didn’t like that either) and she was fine! She’s so up and down! Everytime I blog about something she does the opposite the next day haha! But yeh going to try go with friends or as a family more too so she sees it as more fun in the long run xx

  6. 1st October 2016 / 8:55 am

    Ah this sounds really difficult! Maybe it is about taking her out of a class and going swimming just for fun with you, maybe away from the cues and the routine of a class she’ll loosen up? Some things might come more naturally as she gets older if she’s relaxed about it all. Good luck with it 🙂 #fortheloveofBLOG

    • thisismenow
      1st October 2016 / 10:08 am

      Thank you. Yeh I think that will help and my husband wants me to take her more just the two of us. At yesterday’s lesson it was a different teacher and routine and she was fine. I just didn’t dunk her. So maybe that’s all it is. She’s so up and down! Thanks for reading xx

  7. 1st October 2016 / 9:21 am

    Oh I was that soldier . Enjoyed it at first then years of hating it ! I stopped when I went back to work full time when he was around 2. I think there’s no harm in stopping it to be honest . What is really the point if no one is enjoying it? Try again in a year or so – it’s not like she’s never going to learn to swim just because she doesn’t like the water at the moment. I do feel for you tho! #fortheloveofblog

    • thisismenow
      1st October 2016 / 10:34 am

      Ah thanks, it’s good to hear from others who’ve been through similar. I think we will stop by Xmas if she’s still not enjoying it. Went yesterday and it was a different teacher and I didn’t dunk her and she was fine!! She’s so up and down! Thanks for reading xx

  8. 3rd October 2016 / 4:39 pm

    Both of our girls got motivated by having younger friends or cousins surpassing them at the pool. As soon as a bit of ‘look what I can do’ stopped by, they pumped up the volume in the pool and got their swim on! #BigPinkLink

    • thisismenow
      5th October 2016 / 1:13 pm

      This is interesting! My friend has two little ones so we are going to try and go together and see if she enjoys it more being with friends – one is slightly older. Thanks for reading 🙂

  9. 5th October 2016 / 12:04 pm

    I really feel for you. My eldest was never keen on swimming class either. We did Water Babies when he was very little and there was a lot of crying (from both of us sometimes!). As he got older and he started to understand how much fun swimming could be, he’s gotten better. We took a break from classes and just took him to splash around in the pool without necessarily going under. Now he’s 4-and-a-half, we’ve tried lessons again and he is loving them! He is in the pool without us too, which I prefer! So not advice exactly, but I would say just hang in there, maybe take a break from lessons, and she’ll eventually get there. #familyfun

    • thisismenow
      5th October 2016 / 1:11 pm

      Oh thank you – that’s good to hear. We have cancelled now, so just the last few remaining classes this month and then we will just take her for fun on weekends with Daddy or with a friend for a different sort of play date. I guess I just feel sad she’s not super confident, but it’s more important she is happy and not scared in the long run. Thanks for reading and commenting x

  10. 5th October 2016 / 12:26 pm

    Noooo don’t be stressed! My son is almost two and there is ALWAYS a different cry baby in the class – it changes every week. My boy likes to sit on the side pouring water with the watering can. Over. And over. Again. I remember one week I got sooo stressed and said to my dad “it’s a complete waste of money and embarrassing while all the other children are actually in the pool” and he said “don’t be ridiculous, he doesn’t know he’s meant to be swimming, he’s learning excellent fine motor skills” – thank you goodness for wise grandparents!!! Since then I’ve just let him sit on the side playing while I float around and chat to the other parents. After a while he gets bored and jumps in to me. Why don’t you try a few weeks where you just do what she wants? If she wants to cling to you, just chill at the side of the pool hold her. Our teacher says the most important thing is that they enjoy being in the water, not the actual “swimming”. #familyfun

    • thisismenow
      5th October 2016 / 2:09 pm

      Yes I think that’s very true. And what a wise dad you have! We have a few more lessons left then we will be going just for fun and for her to get used to the water. I just don’t think the lesson environment suits her (or me!). Thanks for stopping by x

  11. 5th October 2016 / 2:49 pm

    We’ve been going to our local pool for lessons for over a year now (our little girl is 22 months) and she’s mostly ok, but a few months ago she just refused to lie on her back, for no apparent reason. She makes a real fuss when I try to get her to do it. There are some children in the class who have always been like fish, but then there are some others who used to be really good, but suddenly changed and now hate it every week! Maybe stop the lessons for a little while. It doesn’t mean you can’t take her swimming yourself – it might even be more fun for her and she might relax a bit more in the water. #familyfun

    • thisismenow
      5th October 2016 / 4:37 pm

      Ah the lying on the back thing! Yes my little girl went through that. Hope she gets over it soon. Thanks for your comment, it definitely seems the best thing for us at the moment so we will give it a breather and see how she is in a few months. Thanks for stopping by x

  12. 5th October 2016 / 9:43 pm

    Oh no I’m so sorry! Swimming was the most important thing for me to introduce to for the same reasons and I also ended up with the cry baby. The first school I signed up with, I paid just as much as you for the pleasure of sitting at the side week in week out- as soon as she heard her cry the teacher wouldn’t let her take part no matter what. I was furious. I had paid so much and was literally ignored. We did the same as you and tried a different much nicer school but still had problems so we decided to stop with the lessons. We decided just to go to the local pool every now and again to see how she got on and finally (3 years later) is just starting to really enjoy it so it may be time to think about lessons once again. I think some children just take a bit longer…. I have swimming envy though- my friends boy (who is same age as my daughter and took same early lessons and always loved swimming) can now swim 6m unaided. Oh well, I didn’t learn to swim until I was 7 and I ended up being school swimming captain so I don’t think age matters 🙂 #FamilyFun

    • thisismenow
      5th October 2016 / 9:53 pm

      Oh bless you. I feel your swimming envy!! I never knew how many people had experienced this though – but from these comments I can tell a few have been through it. At the time it just feels like you are on your own, but hearing from others gives me hope that one day she will get there. Thanks for reading and your lovely comment x

  13. 6th October 2016 / 7:39 am

    Oh no, it must be really disappointing for you to get a reaction like this, when this was the activity you particularly had your heart set on… I only took my eldest swimming occasionally, it wasn’t something we did regularly. Then when the smallest came along, we basically stopped swimming altogether, apart from the odd occasion my husband had a day off and we’d go-they are 14 months apart, and I couldn’t have them both in the pool on my own. When we’d go on holiday anywhere three was a pool, my eldest would be terrified of it, and scream the place down, making me feel terrible that I’d not been able to take him swimming enough to stop the fear. But since he turned 3, he seems to have lost the fear, by himself, and we’ve just signed him up for swimming lessons. I’m not sure what’s the best thing for you to do-maybe just take her once a week for a splash around, outside of a lesson, with no expectation that she’ll have to perform certain tasks? Then maybe when she’s older (it might take a bit of time,) and she seems happier about her, give classes another go? Let us know how she’s getting on!

    • thisismenow
      6th October 2016 / 9:10 am

      Thank you – I will! We’ve cancelled our lessons now so just have what’s left of the block (I thought just a week but apparently til then end of the month) and then I will just take her on my own or with daddy/a friend and see how she gets on. Just need to take the pressure off. I’m sure we will re introduce lessons eventually, just not sure when that will be! Thanks for reading and sharing your experience xx

  14. 6th October 2016 / 1:55 pm

    This is exactly what happened with my daughter. We started at 4 months and she was happy for about 2 months (again with WaterBabies). Then suddenly she’d start crying halfway through the class. I persisted into a second term and it got worse. To the extent that she would cry on entering the pool! I swapped classes thinking that the water might be too warm for her – it was a very warm hydrotherapy pool. The first class in the new pool was great. But the second we were back to crying and I also did my back-in as the pool wasn’t deep enough for me to stand up and hold her. So I stopped. That was about a year ago. WB told me to keep taking her but I couldn’t deal with the stress and then drying a wriggly baby in pool changing rooms. We recently went to Center Parcs and she enjoyed the pool there for a bit. One day I will take her again but I don’t like our local and going further afield is too tricky to sync with her nap. Maybe in another year.

    I think getting them in the pool now and then and having them enjoy the bath is the main thing. As long as they don’t fear water then they’ll swim eventually. Good luck!


    • thisismenow
      6th October 2016 / 3:06 pm

      Oh it’s amazing to hear others have been or are going through the same thing. Yeh our daughter is quite happy in the bath now. She hated it as a new born then started to like it and last year had a couple of weeks of not liking it after she slipped and went under (Daddy’s fault not mine!) but now she loves it. So I don’t think she can be fully scared of water. I think you’re right to go as and when we can. That’s my new plan! Thanks for reading X

  15. 6th October 2016 / 5:55 pm

    Ah I’m with you swimming is so important but I guess the good news is she’s happy to swim with the you and she’s not afraid of the pool so that’s the main thing! my little one loves the pool and swimming but we haven’t done lessons for a while. I think I’m going to take her again in the new year when she’s old enough for actual lessons. Thanks for sharing at #familyfun xx

    • thisismenow
      6th October 2016 / 6:47 pm

      Thanks and thanks for hosting 🙂

  16. 6th October 2016 / 8:20 pm

    I don’t really have much experience to impart advice for you. We did do some swimming sessions and he enjpyed it. I didnt enjoy the price but it did give me the confidence to take him to to the local pool on my own once a month or so. Can you do more playing with water rather than trying to get her to swim, play with water pouring in the bath and silly games. Childhood should be fun and if she really isn’t enjoying it doesn’t mean she wont in a few year times. Give her time. Thanks for linking up to #familyfun.

    • thisismenow
      6th October 2016 / 8:47 pm

      Yeh she enjoys bath and her water table. Playing rather than lessons will be the way forward for us from now on! Thanks for hosting x

  17. 7th October 2016 / 9:57 pm

    Oh hun I know how you feel, it’s awful when they cry throughout the swim class, you just feel so bad and embarrased for yourself. I had exactly the same thing with my daughter at our Waterbabies swim class. She didn’t like it, and I stopped going after the first season, purely because I couldn’t justify the cost for 30 minutes in the pool, for not an enjoyable session. It’s not for all babies, but OI really hope that your daughter enjoys swimming soon. Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

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