Newborns show they are at home in the water, as more and more parents sign children up for swimming groups. Phil Shaw's London Baby Swim offers swimming classes for parents and babies as young as six-weeks-old.
With their eyes wide open and a real air of serenity, these babies are naturals under the water. They are taking part in baby swim classes – the latest trend that sees children as young as six weeks old take the plunge to develop their brains and bodies.
The number of tots enrolled for the west London sessions has risen from just 85 in 2008 to 500 this summer, making it the ‘in thing' for newborns. ‘The classes are great because the babies develop all sorts of motor skills and learning skills,' said organiser Phil Shaw.
‘In the first few years of a baby's life, they experience huge development, as their brain grows faster than in later years. With our swimming lessons, we are helping babies to make new brain connections and strengthen learning through skills and stimulation.
‘A weekly swim provides a good work-out and improves the cardiovascular system.' There are up to eight babies in each of the classes, which take place with parents and are led by qualified instructors. The youngsters spend up to four weeks getting used to the water, with their parents holding them while they splash about.
Some take longer than others to become fully-fledged water babies but by the end of term they are usually ready to go solo and pose for their souvenir snaps.
One of the reasons the children look so confident is that, up until about nine months old, babies have a gag reflex that blocks off their windpipe as soon as they are under water, allowing them to instinctively hold their breath.Shaw, 49, set up the school in Osterley with his partner Ana Torres two years ago, after being approached to take photos for another baby swimming centre.
He has ten years' experience taking underwater shots, after starting his career photographing wildlife in tropical regions across the world. Now, with baby swimming becoming ever more popular, he plans to get more people involved. He is to open a new centre in Ashford, Kent, in October and one in north London in the winter.