Come on in baby, the water's lovely
These little ones just love making a splash!
The babies – some as young as two days old – have been photographed as they go underwater in special swimming classes around Belfast.
The Water Babies programme is designed to make the most of babies' natural affinity with water.
Babies have natural reflexes that mean they instinctively hold their breath when submerged.
Instructor Amy West-Hurst began giving lessons when she couldn't find any local swimming classes for her eldest daughter Zoe. She said: "I firmly believe swimming is a life skill that everybody is entitled to. Zoe (2) is a true water baby, and my other girl Emma just loves the water, too."
She continued: "I think that Zoe's early introduction to swimming has helped her balance and strength as well her confidence. I look forward to welcoming lots of new Water Babies this term and helping them begin their own swimming journey."
A key focus for the half-hour sessions is enhancing parent/carer and baby bonding, and of course having fun together. "Our aim is to create a really fun, sociable and energetic atmosphere," explained Amy. "Plus it's a great way for parents to meet other mums and dads who live in the local area. We're seeing more and more dads, which is great. It's a great chance to bond, especially with baby girls. With boys there's always football, so it's great to see dads with their daughters learning to swim."
Although the lessons focus on fun, there is a serious element: "Tragically, drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death for children in the UK, so it's really important to get babies used to the water and teach them life-saving skills," added Amy.
"We teach them how to turn onto their back or swim to the nearest solid object following a sudden submersion, which means they are less likely to panic if they do accidentally fall in water." The instructor continued: "The babies just love it, they learn so quickly and have a great time splashing around."
Amy runs Water Babies classes in Lisburn, Belfast, Holywood, Bangor and Newtownards. Bookings are still being taken for the new term and free taster sessions are available in Belfast, Holywood, Lisburn and Newtownards.