Water Babies sets the safety standards for underwater swims and photoshoots

Here at Water Babies, our team of highly-trained professionals always ensure that our swimming and underwater photography techniques adhere to the very latest safety standards set by the industry. Not only that, but we initiated and set those standards ourselves!

There has been the perception in recent years that some baby swimming lessons place too much of an emphasis on underwater swimming, with concern that techniques used in underwater photography sessions involve too many repeated submersions. We found that some swim schools were using these inappropriate techniques, both in lessons and in their photo shoots. Therefore, we joined forces with other UK baby swimming industry leaders to revise and update the national guidelines for the safety of babies and toddlers during lessons and shoots: ‘Safeguarding 0 to 4-year-old children within the teaching of swimming, including any associated professional photography – Code of Practice’ (PAS520).

Published by the British Standards Institute in June 2017, our updated guidelines provide the definitive blueprint for everybody involved in baby swimming. Our latest policy not only reduces the number of underwater swims in lessons and photoshoots but also includes revisions around class sizes, teaching ratios and recommended teaching qualifications. We set these industry standards along with other leading bodies in the baby swimming sector, including:

  • Water Babies
  • Swim England
  • Swimming Teachers’ Association (STA)
  • Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS)
  • NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit
  • Splash About
  • Swimming Nature
  • British Society of Underwater Photographers

With an estimated nearly half a million babies and toddlers taking part in swimming lessons in the UK every year, it’s crucial that everyone involved in the delivery of these lessons and underwater photoshoots works to consistently high standards, so that parents and carers have peace of mind that their little ones are always safe to enjoy the water.

Why do we swim underwater?

Babies aren’t born with a fear of the water and enjoy the feeling of being suspended in the fluid environment - it feels just like home! The sooner that underwater submersions are introduced to little ones, the less likely they are to develop the fear of water.

Underwater submersions also help little ones swim more quickly. Children under the age of two years generally do not have the upper body strength to swim on the surface of the water, and often aren’t able to lift their head to breathe until three years of age. Therefore, it’s helpful that they learn to swim under the water to increase their confidence while building the strength and stamina needed to swim at the surface.

Water Babies’ highly-trained teachers encourage constant communication between carer and baby from day one. We place utmost importance on the fact that underwater swims should not be undertaken by any baby or toddler who is not prepared emotionally and physically. Any cues exhibited by our little ones are carefully observed and submersion does not take place if they’re not ready. This applies to both our lessons and during our photoshoot. We always follow babies and toddlers’ leads and no child is ever forced to do something they don’t want to do.

Our expert 'dipographers' are our own Water Babies teachers who take on extra training to be qualified to swim our little ones in front of the camera at just the right moment and in just the right way. Our teachers have already trained for an average of 130 hours and must have undertaken 200 hours of teaching practice to qualify as teacher before they can attend our specialist ‘dip course’; which consists of an additional 40 hours of training, comprised of two days theory followed by three days of mentored practical assessment to become qualified to conduct their own shoots with our photographers. The additional training to become a dipographer can take roughly 9-12 months.

Our dipographers are trained to watch and interpret babies’ body language, expressions - and even the noises they make! Focused on our little ones, they keep an eye on how comfortable and safe they feel so they can make any changes or understand if they've simply had enough.

Babies who swim with us only attend one of our photo shoots when we are happy they have reached the required standard. We limit the number of submersions, as we do in classes, and our little ones’ comfort and readiness is our absolute priority concern - not the photograph.

Everyone at Water Babies works to ensure that all our little ones enjoy the sensation of swimming underwater – just like the little one gracing the front cover of the standards document!