There must be some parental switch that pops on once you hear the first heart beat; you can't help but start to look around you and view the world... differently.
All your lovely staircases, the overhanging loft, the enchanting little pool just steps away from your front door - all seemed perfectly fantastic when you first chose your home. All of the sudden, these appear as the most foolish of ideas.
We literally sat back and asked ourselves "Why on earth didn't we consider a child friendly single story home with a pretty garden?!", once the reality of impending parenthood set in.
But even if we had the foresight to properly plan around optimum child-safety, there's no dearth of pools at our friends homes. So we knew straight away that as soon as our daughter got old enough, it'd be off to swim classes for her.
But even though we wanted to start as early as possible, we had a few requirements - mainly a pool that was baby friendly, heated and salt-water based. So despite having a pool just outside our home, it didn't fit the bill.
Although we'd heard of a couple centres outside the city, in Bangsar and elsewhere, it felt too far to drive for a short half hour lesson - the distance would be even longer than the swim class, especially when you are relying on Grab or the train to get about town. So it felt like a stroke of luck when we found out that there was one opening up nearby on Jalan Damai, just around the corner from Intermark and RGB cafe.
The first swim school to open in the centre of KL, Finns Boutique Swim Centre was literally built before our eyes, as we monitored the progress eagerly whenever we were in the neighborhood.
I swear we must've been one of the first families to cross the threshold, so eager were we to get bebe started!
When we walked into the centre, it had that gleam of a brand new space - all the surfaces untouched by little finger prints and all the toys sparkly and new.
We met with Bryan, one of the founders and swim teachers, and decided to do a trial to see how she took to lessons. I'd already chatted with several friends who had babies around the same age, so we decided to enroll our kids together making it an even more cozy way to spend the morning.
I'd originally imagined this as another 'mommy & me' activity during the week, but it was clearly apparent that the weekend classes drew in a lot of dads. I was quite ok staying cosy and dry overlooking the pool, snapping as many photos as I pleased and chatting with the other parentals.
So I happily handed the swim-reins (if you will) over to my husband.
It quickly became obvious that the key to a child enjoying the water and relaxing into the different exercises was the for the parent to remain cool and collected.
Bryan taught us about the steps to conditioning our children each time they enter the water, reintroducing them to the flow of the water, the feel of it on their heads and helping them feel at ease. We carried over some of these techniques into our bath time routine too.
Finns follows an Australian certified style of teaching, none of which was familiar to me before but seemed straightforward and sensible. I had imagined swim classes for babies would just be an enhanced bath playtime in the water, with perhaps a lot more singing and splashing.
Let me tell you how wrong I was!
In even the first couple sessions, the babies are conditioned to become used to having water fall on their faces and then introduced to short submersion periods - totally supervised and done together with instructor and partner, but still a bit nerve wracking at first!
This is when I realized it was a boon that my husband was participating in the swim classes instead of me, as the thought of her going underwater and taking in too much water made me anxious.
Granted, I've seen tons of imagery of babies underwater and swimming and love the idea of water births conceptually. But when it comes down to watching your tiny precious child dipped under water - one that you safely carry for 9+months and through the newborn stage - well it can make anyone a tad apprehensive.
And that's the crux of baby swim; you want them to thrive & enjoy the water and not carry any of your anxiety about them drowning or choking.
That's really where the expertise of the swim teacher makes all the difference between you doing it on your own at home.
As I mentioned, one of the first things we were taught was about the importance of conditioning the baby each and every time to entering the water. Once bebe got comfortable with that, then the next thing Bryan taught us was to understand the baby's facial expressions - based on that you could assess whether you could dip them underwater or not.
But the thing is that from the sidelines, you don't realize how clear and apparent these expressions are. When you are in the water, totally focused on your baby's face, you can easily tell when they are ready to go underwater and you can clearly see them through the water to tell when its time to pull them up.
If they squished up their face and close their eyes when you dip them towards the water surface, that's a sign that they are closing their throats and most importantly, the epiglottis, which prevents water from entering their windpipe. If they are 'eyes-wide open' at the moment of entering the water, most likely they'll take in a full breath of water, which is clearly not the aim!
I realized that only when I had to substitute for my husband when he had to travel over a weekend. So I'd definitely recommend that both parents give it a go, because you realize that with the proper guidance, you can read your babies signals on their readiness for the next steps.
Week by week, the teacher practices with the parents and babies to get them to learn to anticipate going under, to hold their breaths for longer period, and to become more accustomed to leaping into the water towards their parents. There's a few props that proved to be quite helpful - a little doll affectionately named "Cha-Cha" that Bryan uses to demonstrate how to position or move your child, a bunch of floating toys and a little foam raft that the kids love to crawl on to and float about, before they get gently tipped into the water.
The weekend I was solo-parenting I realized how well Finns set up their facilities to to accommodate parents who are swimming on their own with their kids. All the showers come equipped with this little kid-seat-contraption that allows you to shower yourself and bebe and get dressed on your own, if needs be. There's plenty of changing tables and spaces to get dressed.
As a new centre, there are definitely things that I'd like to see improved - at first the floors felt a bit slippery when we got out of the pool but before we even mentioned it to the management, they had already ordered in new textured black mats to help reduce any potential falls along with big air blowers to speed up the drying time. Not to mention, a helpful staff member who quickly mopped the area after every class. I like that kind of attentiveness to safety!
Additionally, while the pool is sheltered from the elements, it's still open air - which is nice but draws mosquito as pretty much any green areas in KL tend to do. After mentioning that to the staff, they've put little mosquito pots under the benches where the parents sit and they've mentioned plans to close in the pool later on. Combating mosquito is tough in KL, I have a heck of a time with it in our own garden, so I appreciate that they are trying their best to find ways to keep our kiddos bite free.
All in all, we are pretty darn delighted to have this boutique swim center in our neighborhood. They are starting to implement new ideas and programs, including a STOP WATCH Campaign, which includes a pledge that parents can take to bring greater awareness about kids and pool safety to reduce accidental drownings in Malaysia. That's something we would definitely get behind and want to be a part of!
We just completed our first session of swim classes for bebe and were quite surprised how much she has learned in just 8 classes. She went from never being under water to being able to go underwater for 3 to 4 counts and also happily sits on the edge of the pool and confidently leaps/dives into the water and into our arms.
That's way more than I expected, so now we are really keen to see what will happen after her next series, as we've just signed her up for the next session!
In the meantime, when we stopped in to do our de-briefing with Bryan after her first series of classes, I managed to get a few videos while it was early and before it was filled with the shrieks of happy kiddos so here's a few short clips to give you a look-see around Finns BSC - Enjoy!
They should be launching their new website any day now but for now, if you are keen on swimming lessons for your kids, I'd definitely recommend you check out their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/finnsBSC/ or drop by, or simplygive them a call!
- FInns Boutique Swim Centre: 19, Jalan Damai, Kampung Datuk Keramat, 55000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur : 019-282 6329