SM Chats to Ali Burlingham of Waterbumps


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Ali Burlingham is former Aquatics Manager at WaterBabies – the baby swimming lessons which have thousands of parents, including celeb SM Fearne Cotton, ‘splish splashing’ with their little ones – and she has now launched a new ‘sister’ venture called WaterBumps.

WaterBumps is an aqua fitness regime aimed to help pregnant women prepare for childbirth and get back into shape afterwards through gentle but effective workouts in the pool.

Currently regional,  but with plans to expand nationwide, find out more at

Many of our team’s own little ones were or are avid Waterbabies and we were delighted that Ali agreed to chat to us…

How did the idea for WaterBumps come about?

Ali: During my time as an Aquatics Manager at Water Babies I was challenged to keep ahead of the competition by thinking centred around other areas we could develop into. Lots of other competitors and swim schools were already doing 4-7 year old swimming lessons, but no-one was looking the other way!

As a practitioner of pre/post-natal reflexology, and having attended pre-natal yoga classes throughout my pregnancies, I started researching how we could break into this market. In the summer of 2012 Paul and Steve took the leap of faith (based on my research) and in January 2013 I became the Head of WaterBumps, a new and exciting role developing a new franchise business in pre and post natal water-based exercise classes – WaterBumps!

Most of 2013 and the start of 2014 saw us complete a feasibility phase where there was strong evidence that this market is untapped, especially in the water. An outstanding piece of internal market research (20% of the Water Babies client base – 8,000 clients) also proved to us that this market has great potential. Therefore the business modelling phase and programme trials were done and are now completed!

At the start of July 2014 we appointed a Business Development Officer, Penny and we relocated the Head Office of WaterBumps to Bristol. Since being here we have built the brand of WaterBumps, finished the website and on the 15th September 2014 we launched the first ever WaterBumps – WaterBumps Bristol & Bath. This is a company-owned franchise that I run with the assistance of Penny.

Can one do WaterBumps at any stage of pregnancy/post partum and does one need to be a good swimmer?

Ali: Women can join our ‘before birth’ classes after their 12-14 week antenatal check right through to due date. Our ‘after birth’ classes can be joined either once a woman has been medically signed off – 6 weeks after a normal vaginal delivery and 10 weeks after a caesarean as the recovery time is a lot longer, or any time after they have had a child – this can be years after too!!

No women do not have to be good swimmers, all our skills can be tailored for them to have their feet on the pool floor, we don’t ask anyone to go underwater or do anything that they feel uncomfortable with.

As you are currently regional, is there one ‘taster’ exercise you could share with us to try at our local pool?

Ali: Push and Glide – as soon as you are pregnant you don’t and can’t lie on your tummy and lots of women miss this. This skill is a great way to glide across the water on your front and give your body a full stretch. Stand with your back to the pool wall, with shoulders under the water. Place arms out straight in front of you holding a float. Bend your knees and gently push forward by pushing your feet either off the pool floor or the wall behind you. At the same time really stretch your arms forward and straighten your legs once you have started to glide. Sometimes you won’t go very far – this is more about getting the full body stretch rather than reaching the other side of the pool!!! It’s lovely and very relaxing, our mums-to-be really like this skill after a long day.

Are you running WaterBumps courses for would-be-instructors as well as for new/expecting mums?

Ali: Yes, as the business grows we will be training teachers through on the WaterBumps teacher training course which will include the brand new ASA Level 3 qualification that we instigated, designed and developed with the ASA (National Governing Body for Swimming)

And – we had to ask – is there any singing involved…?

Ali: Hehehe – not in WaterBumps classes – the peace and quiet of the classes is exactly what our ladies want – time to bond with baby, stretch and tone, as well as relax and switch off!!

Ali – we hope the new venture goes ‘swimmingly’ (and without any Happy Nappy accidents!)