World Aquatic Baby Congress 2005

Overview by Amanda Walker of Birthlight (below)

Overview by Swimbabies

Birthlight Ladies on tour in Malmo * photos and text from Birthlight

The beautiful city of Malmo in Sweden with it's vibrant cultural scene, modern architecture and great feats in engineering was the hospitable venue for this year's WABC.

Our hosts the Swedish Swimming Federation headed by Lena Andersson-Stenquist organized a most wonderful and inspiring three day conference, which we thank you very much for Lena.

Both lectures and work-shop presentations left one feeling privileged to be in the company of so many devoted, caring people most passionate about the subject of Infant Aquatics. The common goal seemed to be steering even closer to the well-being of the child and parent rather than achievement of the child at any cost.

I think we can all safely say that we felt more enthusiastic, knowledgeable and aware after our visit to Sweden and looking forward to the next WABC in 2 years time. Poor us! This means we must travel to New Zealand!!!!!!! Yeah! However if you can't wait until then, Iceland next year will be the venue for the next baby swim conference.

Presenters from around the globe talked about their swim programmes and research projects, one which included toddler life saving from Nina Fostas Brathen. Her presentation was on how to use simple lifesaving as a supplement to regular swim classes, incorporating new and exciting activity to the daily routine.

The only disappointing thing for me was having to choose who to listen to in the afternoons as I wanted to see everyone!


United Kingdom

Francoise Barbara Freedman

How Research Supports Practice

Françoise Freedman's presentation looked at how scientific research (in neuroscience infant psychology & motor development) explains and supports the benefits of a joyful interaction between parents and infants in water.

Françoise explained the transition from early reflexes to voluntary movements in infant swimming. Positive responses to infant cues, the progression from secure holding to bold movements, the development of early emotional intelligence, were mapped out and examined in detail with reference to research materials.


Leslie Crawford and Jim Spiers from America, discussed traditional methods of swimming and then the focus of the Underwater Schoolhouse methodology of Balance, Line, Stability, Buoyancy and First Class Locomotion for children and under 3 yrs.

Dave du Bois gave us an enjoyable look in to different cultures around the world and their affect on baby swimming. This was a first hand experience, a personal view, not a scientific one. Dave tells us there is so much common ground in infant aquatic, so much foundation for unity. Appreciating the cultural differences and the individuals who have spawned the programmes we see around the word is essential for a move into the new era of infant aquatics that lies before us. Accepting that we each may be products of our own culture and may therefore individually pursue different goals. In a word that is troubled, Infant swimming is one way we all have of contributing to a brighter future. Dave got different speakers from around the world to contribute to his presentation.

Kathy Hubbard

Simple Building blocks. Do small things with great love.

Kathy's speech highlightighted the process that her swim school applies to it's baby swimming - a series of simple baby steps. Using a predictable and thus reassuring class structure. Kathy and her husband Bob reviewed the importance of patience, balance and buoyancy, which is at the heart of their programme.


South Africa

Nell White has a strong aversion to the practice of submersion. Her theory is that submerged reflex swimming tends to obstruct the emergence of inherent swimming potential in toddlers, delaying it by months or even in some cases years. Infants at the swimming reflex age are capable of learning the back float position, which carries over to become a valuable swimming skill and acts as a safety skill.


Johan Anderson and Anna Gislen, researchers from the Lund University, gave us important information on the dive response and underwater visions in humans.

Karen Preliner specialist in respiratory disorders, researcher at the Lund University, shared her research regarding ear infections, what is the cause in children and how to cure them.

Lena Andersson- Stenquist talked about the Swedish Swimming Federation, their standards and programme.

Anne Asterhall gave a demonstration on how to adapt the Halliwick Ten Point Program to baby swim, which gave us a nice time in the pool.

Mia Elmsater gave a photographic journey comparing Baby's Cues between Baby Swim and Baby Massage, taking a look at positive and negative cues as well as what happens when baby says "no" and we don't listen.

Ingregers Ericsson shared her research on Motor Skills and academic achievements. The outcome of three years of extended excercise and a control group leads to the conclusion that physical exercise helps academic ability.

Ulrika Faerch presented "Infant Swimming - your impact as a teacher".


Akiko Abe is a swimming instructor and aquatic instructor at Tokyo Y.M.C.A and the Oahu Club in Tokyo. She has devoted the last 42 years of her life to helping disabled swimming. She has always put particular emphasis on working with babies and children, as they need to be treated with special care. She introduced us to some of her case studies.

Aska Kjelberg Lime gave a talk on "Nervous Beginner to a World Class Water Playmate". The importance of feeling safe and secure is a precondition for learning and development. Nervousness and insecurity block learning and the ability to perform new techniques. She also gave ideas on how to increase the parents' confidence.



Lorraine Martin presented games, songs and activities for ages up to 5 yrs. Her presentation included a video showing lots of different activities that are used at her swim school. She also stressed the benefits of keeping the parent in the water up to school age, around 5 yrs.

Barbara Nolan presented "Equipment Based Teaching - an Australian Perspective".

Judy Watts, an infant aquatics teacher for the last 27 years, showed us how aqua movements in water, for babies 6 weeks to 3 months, improves the development of a young baby's movement and promotes a bond between new parents and their baby.


Eduarda Veloso gave us her final work of her master's degree in child development, body position, leg and arm movements. The main focus was on the breathing control organization and sub-aquatic orientation. She used references and video footage to illustrate her work, which inspired and reaffirmed my belief that all baby swimming teachers should have this knowledge.


Ludmilla Rodengren

Reflexes and dive - necessary or interesting?

Ludmilla discussed the diving reflex and the different ways of diving as a hot topic for debate. Are reflexes important to know about when you are submerging children. Should we submerge at all? The conclusion of this talk was that the most important thing is to prepare the child in a good way before starting to submerge. Also, from a psychological perspective, not to decide for the child but, if possible, to let the child decide itself .

New Zealand

Janine Ramsey presented from a New Zealand Perspective. This presentation looked at how the Kiwi way of life has influenced infant swimming and the way infant aquatics has changed to how it is today with it's successful swimming programme.

This has been a brief outline of what was on offer at this amazing conference. Not only did the Swedish Swim Federation put all this together but they also managed to feed and entertain us as well. On the Saturday night we all went to a banquet where cabaret and singing came to your table in the shape of many famous characters. The music was fabulous and the company as well. Some of the crazy ones even went for a swim in the sea afterwards!!

So much fun was had
old friends meet again
new friendships made
A really top class conference

love and splashes,

Amanda Walker


Francoise Freedman and Knut Rosen enjoying themselves at Conference

Birthlight and STA ladies having fun at the banquet

John Bainbridge Australian Swim School (USA)
and John Kolbisen USA


Overview of WABC 2005 Conference by Swimbabies

The WABC (World Aquatic Baby Conference) held its 8th Conference on Aquatic Education for Babies and Young Children; in Malmo, Sweden this September, and Hannah and I were very enthusiastic to attend such an event.

Baby Swim teachers from 24 countries attended the conference and it was so exciting to talk to people from Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, America, South Africa and The Philippines, about their schools, their methods and their achievements in Baby Swimming. There were even teachers from the Faeroe Islands, and Barbados, a true World conference.

The 3 days were packed with fantastic presentations on subjects as far and wide as baby swimming methods, the scientific view of baby swimming, cultural influences, under water vision, human responses to under water swimming, the dive reflexes and baby swimming and ears.

The conference was opened by the most amazing skipping display-all I can say is wow, how do they do that!

Very experienced teachers gave lectures on a variety of interesting topics. Akiko Abe from Japan, shared her work with disabled children-some now are adults in their 20’s and are competitive swimmers, or still using her methods for therapy-a wonderful woman and humbling to listen to-naturally a tear was shed!

Barbara Nolan from Australia gave a fantastic talk along with a film of her work on water safety and equipment-based teaching in Australia.

It was interesting that Nell White of South Africa describes her method as ‘Drown Proofing’.

Nina Fostas Brathen from Norway shared her unique Life Saving course for children.

We learnt so much about other countries philosophies and dreams for swimming babies, and I have to say that the passion and enthusiasm that all the lectures were presented with made us feel so proud to be a part of the conference!

We also met some great people from England working hard to promote baby swim practices in the UK.

Janine Ramsay of New Zealand gave the final presentation.