Baby Swimming Safety

MyBump2Baby Expert Podcast

Featuring

Baby swimming safety
  • Baby Swimming Safety

Today I am joined by Lauren Heston the founder of Little Dippers Swim School, our swimming experts in the inner London and Brighton area.

Today we chat about water safety and why it is so important. We cover why you should go to baby swimming, what the benefits are and so much more.

To find your nearest swimming class visit www.mybump2baby.com 

If you are looking for pregnancy – preschool groups or classes visit www.mybump2baby.com 

To find your local swimming lessons visit https://www.mybump2baby.com/pregnancy-baby-toddler-directory/baby-swimming/ 

Little Dippers – Teaching babies to love the water in Brighton, London and Surrey website

Fi Edwards (@littledippersltd) • Instagram photos and videos Instagram

https://www.facebook.com/Little-Dippers-LTD Facebook 

Laurens bio

Lauren Heston is widely regarded as the pioneer of baby swimming in the UK.  She has been instrumental in developing and teaching classes for over 25 years. 

Lauren began her journey in 1989 when involved in the filming of a television advert for British Gas which featured a baby swimming underwater, a very controversial image at the time. She observed how naturally the baby adapted to the water and decided to investigate this phenomenon.  

This lead her to a study on the Russian premature baby techniques in aquatic environments and watching how newborn babies responded so naturally to the water.  It was this that inspired her to develop her now highly respected Little Dippers baby swim school in 1992.

Lauren has worked alongside Professor Robert Winston and Desmond Morris on their groundbreaking science series “The Human Body” and “Baby It’s You”.  She was also author of the sell out book “Waterbaby a first fun book of water skills” which was printed in 6 languages.  She collaborated and was a consultant on water birth pioneer Michel Odent and photographer Jessica Johnson’s book “We are all waterbabies”. Lauren has also consulted on many tv and print advertising campaigns involving her Little Dippers babies.

She was an executive producer on the highly successful Little Dippers’ waterbabies film, a parents’ guide to teaching your baby water skills, which has been widely distributed throughout the world.

Lauren was a key collaborator on the revision of the STA (Swim Teacher’s Association) baby training programme which has become an integral part of teacher training worldwide.

With the success of Little Dippers’, Lauren is now applying her progressive teaching skills from babies to pre-school children with outstanding results. 

LITTLE DIPPERS – CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF TEACHING BABIES TO LOVE THE WATER!

The pioneers of baby swimming in the UK, Brighton based company LITTLE DIPPERS are thrilled to announce their 30th anniversary in 2023. The swim school has become a household name for new parents and is top of the list of activities to do with their newborn babies.

Little Dippers’ was founded by long time Brighton resident, former model Lauren Heston who as managing director of the company continues to teach babies to love the water.  

Little Dippers’ was one of the first baby swim schools in the UK at a time when baby swimming was a very new phenomenon and Lauren has been instrumental in developing and teaching babies key water safety skills for the last 30 years leading the way for the plethora of baby swim schools that now exist.   

Little Dippers is proud to be one of Brighton’s longest running female led company success stories and teaching local babies key life saving skills and a respect for water that they will have for life.  Particularly important for those living by the sea, there are many stories of children who have saved themselves from drowning using the techniques that are taught.

This year the company is delighted to see some of the first babies’ who swam in the early years returning with their own children. 

Lauren says: “I am so excited to be celebrating this milestone. When I was introduced baby swimming, I was fascinated by how easily the babies adapted to an underwater environment. It is incredible to think when I first started the company in1993 the common belief in the UK at the time was that there was no benefit in taking children into the water until they were around 4 years of age.  So a company teaching newborn babies water safety skills without any armbands or rubber rings was highly controversial. I am so glad that the methods of the little dippers’ baby swim programme have since been replicated all over the world”. 

To celebrate this fantastic anniversary Little Dippers are running a Charity fundraising Splashathon in aid of the Rockinghorse Charity from 9-15 May to run alongside the STA’s National Swimming week. 

Little Dippers offers local families a unique and special bonding experience, with classes taking place in the lovely private warm water baby swim centre at the swim centre in Upper Gardner Street in the north laine also expanding to classes in London and Surrey.

Lauren Heston

Lauren began her journey in 1989 when, in her former role as an underwater model she was involved in the filming of a television advert for British Gas which featured a baby swimming underwater in the coral filled reefs of the Red Sea. A very controversial image at the time, she observed how naturally the baby adapted to the water and decided to investigate this phenomenon.  

This lead her to a study on the Russian premature baby techniques in aquatic environments and watching how newborn babies responded so naturally to the water.  It was this that inspired her to develop her now highly respected Little Dippers baby swim school in 1993.

Lauren has worked alongside Professor Robert Winston and Desmond Morris on their groundbreaking science series “The Human Body” and “Baby It’s You”.  She was also author of the sell out book “Waterbaby a first fun book of water skills” which was printed in 6 languages.  She collaborated and was a consultant on water birth pioneer Michel Odent and photographer Jessica Johnson’s book “We are all waterbabies”. Lauren has also consulted on many tv and print advertising campaigns involving her Little Dippers babies.

She was an executive producer on the highly successful Little Dippers’ waterbabies film, a parents’ guide to teaching your baby water skills, which has been widely distributed throughout the world.  You can also see her in a few 80’s iconic pop videos with Shakin’ Stevens and Duran Duran!

For more information, assets and interview requests
(for Lauren Heston and parents who were Little Dipper babies and now bring their own children to classes)

Please contact:

Fiona Edwards

[email protected]

[00:00:00] Carla: We are Google’s number one, baby and toddler directory. We cover everything from pregnancy to preschool, and we are home to over 8,000 business listings. Join over 160,000 parents using our website each month, and you can find your local groups, classes, services, and support in your local area.

[00:00:36] Carla: Hello and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby Expert podcast, where we bring experts from all over the UK. To answer your questions on everything pregnancy to preschool.

[00:00:59] Carla: Hello everybody and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby’s Expert podcast. Today I am joined by the founder of Little Dippers Swim School, and today we are gonna be talking all about water safety. I hope you enjoyed this episode. 

[00:01:19] Carla: Hello everybody, and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby’s Expert podcast. Today I am joined by Lauren Heston, the founder of Little Dippers Swim School. They are our swimming experts in the inner inner London and Brighton area. Hello, Lauren. How are you? 

[00:01:36] Lauren: Hello. Good afternoon. I’m very well and you?

[00:01:39] Carla: I’m very well, thank you. Yes, we’re really happy to have you on here cause we’re gonna be covering all the important things when it comes to water safety, which you know a lot about.

[00:01:49] Lauren: Yes, yes. I’ve got my A levels in it. 

[00:01:53] Carla: Oh, brilliant. Lauren, will you, it’s an exciting year for you guys this year. So will you just share a little bit more about Little Dippers and a bit about what, what you guys do and, and more about your exciting year? 

[00:02:05] Lauren: Yes. Well, if I may start with how it all began, which was Yes, in 1989 when children were still being taught with, uh, rubber rings and water wings and all sorts of flotation devices, and I was asked to work on, I was a underwater stunt diver and I was asked to work on a commercial for British Gas.

[00:02:29] Lauren: And it was with a baby swimming underwater in the Red Sea. 

[00:02:35] Carla: Wow.

[00:02:36] Lauren: It was, and it was, it was sensational, but it was, uh, looked upon as trick photography or when they realised it was real that it, it shouldn’t be happening. They shouldn’t do this with the babies. But the Russians had been doing it for years.

[00:02:53] Lauren: It started as a Russian developmental therapy for premature babies that submersion in water would build up the, the lungs, which of course are the last things to develop. So what we were doing was completely natural for the babies, but it did cause rather a um, bit of furer about it, but now of course, everyone teaches babies in this method. So yes, that’s how, how, that’s how it all started. 

[00:03:21] Carla: How old was the baby, Lauren? 

[00:03:23] Lauren: Well, we had about five babies, um, because obviously we needed, you know, babies couldn’t work all day. Um, we had, I think the baby’s, the youngest baby that’s featured in the commercial is about five months old, and the oldest was about 11 months old.

[00:03:41] Carla: Wow. That’s amazing. 

[00:03:41] Lauren: So, yes, it, it all started from there. It was, it was, it was wonderful. 

[00:03:46] Carla: And then it was after that, that you, um, decided to launch your business? 

[00:03:50] Lauren: Yes, yes. I, I decided to study this phenomenon and you know, trained with different people, a around, around the world really. And particularly I studied the Russian, uh, premature baby development, and then we turned it into, uh, a self rescue pool. So if babies should ever fall into water, they would, um, have the skills to, to help themselves as in coming up and floating on their back or. When my son was about 15 months old, I could drop him into water and he’d turn around and hold onto the side. Uh, but it’s all done through fun and games and nursery rhymes. Um, it’s a very gentle child led, uh, school. 

[00:04:39] Carla: Wow. Wow. It’s so interesting that you say that because I mean, although we we’re aware of choking and all those different hazards that we have at home, you know, when we do go on holiday, it’s so easy for a little toddler to just run off and, and jump in a pool without, without even thinking. I know it’s happened to quite a few people that I know and the panic sets in and how amazing that you can, you know, you help towards saving babies’ lives. That’s just incredible. 

[00:05:06] Lauren: Yes, well,the panic is generally what will have children lose their lives. Because a lot of the drownings, as you know, are kid is wandering off into other gardens and falling into ponds, and sometimes the ponds are only, you know, sort of six inches deep and they’re, they’re big enough to be walking, but just falling in will cause that panic.

[00:05:27] Lauren: But if you are going to a fun class every week and you are doing little dips, it just becomes second nature to you. But then of course you have to teach, you have to say, this is what you do if you find yourself I in a, in a pond or a pool. Um, and we do have, our clients of course, have come back with their stories of, oh my goodness, she just ran off. And by the time I got to the, the side of the pool, she’d turned around and was hanging on. 

[00:05:52] Carla: Oh, wow. 

[00:05:53] Lauren: Yeah. To, to, to stop that panic is probably the most important part of our work. 

[00:05:59] Carla: That’s amazing. That’s brilliant. And obviously you’ve, you’ve gone and studied about all of this, so you’re definitely the person in the know. So going a bit more, a bit further into water safety, should we, can we just touch on why, first of all, babies should go swimming? Obviously that side of things, the drowning and the safety side from that aspect, yes. But there are so many other benefits aren’t there? 

[00:06:22] Lauren: Oh yes. I mean, first of all, it’s very sociable for them to mix with other babies and, and the parents love it because they feel that they’re actually doing something with their children.

[00:06:32] Lauren: They’re, they’re learning together and it’s really, really beneficial for, um, their development, uh, builds up their heart and lungs. Which is very good for when you’re getting coughs and colds. When they’re tiny, they have very quick recovery. We find, uh, muscle development and excellent for sort of coordination skills.

[00:06:53] Lauren: So it’s a really, it’s a really fabulous, um, early learning, which they couldn’t really get, um, in any other activity. 

[00:07:02] Carla: Hmm. Yes. Yeah, I know. I mean, with the baby swimming, I do think it’s a really nice thing to do together, especially during maternity leave as well, and starting that routine early. 

[00:07:12] Lauren: Yes. Yeah, and we, we do get quite a lot of daddies as well. Um, particularly at the weekend, we get a lot of the, a lot of the fathers, um, which is a really lovely bonding thing for them. I find that, uh, people are coming back now that were little dippers with their own children and the, the, the big ones are still friends with the babies that they were, were swimming with.

[00:07:37] Carla: Oh, that’s so sweet. That’s lovely. 

[00:07:39] Lauren: Yeah. It’s very, very sweet when you get someone coming in and that you’ve taught as a baby and they’ve got their baby. It’s, it’s really special. 

[00:07:47] Carla: Wow, that’s amazing. So how, I mean, from, from your side of things, how has baby swimming developed over the last few decades? How have you watched that develop?

[00:07:57] Lauren: So what we found was, uh, the big swimming association at the time was saying that babies’, children cannot learn anything until they’re four years old. I’d seen that babies can swim underwater in the red Sea from doing the, the filming. Um, so there was a lot of anti little dippers, but then slowly, slowly, uh, people started to, to see that this was a really, really good method.

[00:08:26] Lauren: Um, and places started to, to open up. You know, all over the country. So now I think it’s more the norm now. I think if you see any, a child in arm bands, it’s, it’s very rare. 

[00:08:41] Carla: Yeah, you don’t see, see the, a lot of children in arm bands now, do you really? 

[00:08:47] Lauren: No, because armbands, uh, I mean they have their purpose. I suppose if you’re on holiday and you wanna relax and you’ve got an, a slightly older child that can put armbands on, but they are just really a false sense of security because you, you know, you take them off and a baby doesn’t know what to do. A child doesn’t know what to do, uh, but they have their place.

[00:09:09] Carla: So why is it different then? 

[00:09:12] Lauren: Well, we teach self rescue skills, and you can’t do that if they’re in armbands because we want them to have the sensation of what would happen if you fell into water. So our main aims are if you fall in, you turn around back to the side, and you head back to safety. But of course that will only work if a child has the ability to turn around and hold onto the side and a a little baby wouldn’t.

[00:09:41] Lauren: So our other skill is we teach how to come up and back float, take a breath and back float even if even a baby is bobbing up and down in the water. It’s, it’s the learning. How do I take a breath? And it has happened with, with a couple of children who found themselves, um, floating on their back, one in a garden pond and one in a pool on holiday.

[00:10:05] Lauren: Um, so we, you know, we, we, we know our methods work. And, and in class, you know, that’s what they’re doing. It starts off very, very gently and it just builds up each course. We generally do a six or seven week course, and each term we add on, um, exercises that will, um, like we do a splashing in exercise.

[00:10:31] Lauren: So that they can feel the sensation of what it would be like to fall in. And, you know, gradually, gradually we start to teach them how to turn around underwater, back to the side and hold on. And then generally they’re, they’re very young swimmers. Um, we introduce things like what they call noodles later on for a bit of independent swimming.

[00:10:50] Lauren: But yeah, it’s just, but it’s all done through fun. A lot of people have this idea that it’s like some American method where we just throw them in with gay abandon, but it’s, it’s all done. If a baby’s crying, we are wondering what we’re doing wrong. 

[00:11:06] Carla: That’s a really good way to put it. Yeah, I complete, yeah, yeah, I completely understand that cause I think a lot of parents get a bit worried, don’t they, when it comes to baby swimming.

[00:11:14] Carla: Um, but, but really, I mean, I suppose they get worried for the thing. They think the baby’s just gonna be thrown in, but that’s absolutely not the, that’s absolutely not the method. And you go, I’m guessing you follow the baby’s cues as well where, what they’re comfortable with. 

[00:11:28] Lauren: Yes, absolutely. If a baby’s not happy, We just play. Yeah. Um, it’s very, very, Very child led. And of course it’s a terrifying prospect. Even myself, I didn’t have my son until a year after I did the commercial underwater in the Red Sea, and still the first time I took him under, I, I, I got the jitters, you know? I thought, oh my goodness. So I, I, I always know how it feels and 30 years.

[00:11:57] Lauren: Mom, my son’s almost 32, but 32 years on, I still have in my mind how terrifying that was to take him under the first time. 

[00:12:07] Carla: Lauren, with babies, I know a lot of parents are unsure when to take their baby swimming. What age do you recommend? 

[00:12:16] Lauren: Well, my youngest, uh, little baby, little dipper was only two days old and she came from the hospital.

[00:12:23] Carla: Oh wow, that’s amazing. 

[00:12:26] Lauren: It was with a very brave mummy who was actually one of our photographers, um, oh, underwater photographers. And yes, she brought little Brooke when she was two days old. Um, and, you know, can be to do with the confidence of the mummies. I mean, I like to take the very young, um, because they have their really strong reflexes.

[00:12:48] Lauren: They have a mammalian dive reflex, which is carried over from the womb. And it’s the reflex which closes the airway as we are submerged, and that is very, very strong in newborns. It changes a little bit as we get older to a gag reflex, but it’s, it’s always with us. As in, if we go underwater, we don’t suddenly have water entering our lungs. It just closes the airway. And that’s why we’re all confident that we can teach this and babies are completely safe. 

[00:13:24] Carla: That’s amazing. So what’s been your youngest swimmer, baby swimmer? 

[00:13:29] Lauren: Uh, as in, on top of the water swimming? 

[00:13:33] Carla: Yes. 

[00:13:34] Lauren: Um, well, I had a little boy who he actually swam at 18 months, but it wasn’t in any conventional way. It was. Vertical swimming. So he swim with his, he would tread water with his head above water. 

[00:13:52] Carla: So I know your very water, water safety focused in your approach, which is amazing. So can you tell us a little bit about, about when babies would start with you and what to expect, um, from you guys? 

[00:14:04] Lauren: Well, babies can start from birth. Um, generally they come from about six weeks, six weeks old, and we build up their heart and their lungs through little repetitive dips. As the weeks go on, as you are dipping, you’re building up, uh, the heart muscle and the lung capacity. So generally at the end of a six week course, a baby will swim underwater from the teacher to the parent on its own.

[00:14:32] Carla: That’s amazing. Thats incredible

[00:14:33] Lauren: It’s a magical sight. It’s a really magical sight. And they have, the younger they are, the more, um, motivated they are to move. So you, well, I think we’ve all seen the, the babies. Um, I work with Des Morris and we’ve had very, very tiny babies. And if you put them into water, their movements would be like, they’d learnt to swim already. So when the baby, when you let the baby go, it’s absolutely, absolutely beautiful to see a baby swimming on its own underwater. 

[00:15:07] Carla: That’s amazing. That is so good. Wow. Wow. And, and you obviously this year is your 30th anniversary as well. So what are you doing to celebrate this year? 

[00:15:17] Lauren: Well, we’ve got a lot of fun things planned. We’re doing a splash, splashathon with um, All the babies, and we’re doing it for the local charity, the Rocking Horse Appeal, which is, um, it’s the Trevor Man unit in Brighton where they treat all the prem babies. So we’re, we’re doing that, we’re having lots of fun days. Uh, we’re gonna do a photo shoot, which is really exciting with all the big babies that have grown up and their babies. So daddies and mums with their babies. So two generations of little dippers. So we’re planning a lovely photo shoot, um, for that. And people who have had this, you know, experiences with little dippers have made friends. I mean, I’m still very good friends with quite a few people that came with their babies. Of course, my son was a baby at the time. Uh, so yeah, we’re gonna have lots of fun. Maybe I’ll put open a bottle of Champers. You know.

[00:16:19] Carla: I don’t blame you. I don’t blame you. That is definitely a celebration. 30 years. That’s incredible. So, so will you just tell people where they can find you, and obviously we’ll put all your links underneath this podcast as well so people can contact you directly.

[00:16:34] Lauren: Yeah, sure. I mean the, the, the website, I’ll let Fiona tell you this cuz I’m don’t wanna get it wrong. Here she is. The website is is just www.littledippers.co.uk. Yeah. And we’re also on Facebook and on Instagram. Um, our Instagram page is probably the best one to see the things that we do. Um, we’ve got a few bloggers that post, uh, their experiences with us as well, which is amazing to see, just to see their progress through the courses.

[00:17:05] Carla: That’s brilliant. I’ll put all of those links underneath anyway so people can click through straight through to you. But thank you so much for taking part in today’s podcast. I’ve really learned a lot. 

[00:17:15] Lauren: Okay. Well thank you so much. 

[00:17:17] Carla: Thank you so much for listening to today’s episode of My Bump 2 Baby’S Expert Podcast.

[00:17:25] Carla: If you are looking for baby swimming lessons or any pregnancy to preschool groups, classes, or lessons in your local area, head over to our website www.mybump2baby.com to find your nearest groups, classes and lessons. And don’t forget to check out the reviews on the listings, sharing their real experiences.

[00:17:50] Carla: My Bump 2 Baby is one of the UK’s leading parenting platforms. You can find local pregnancy to preschool groups, classes, and lessons wherever you are in the UK. Not only that, but you can read our honest reviews on the latest products, days out, and services that you as parents need to know about. We also work with trusted financial advisors, family law, solicitors, and now estate agents too. If you would like to find your nearest trusted expert, head over to www.mybump2baby.com.

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