It may seem impractical to take a baby to swimming lessons, but getting your child acclimated to the water early on in life can actually be beneficial. The following article details how to get started swimming with your baby, including potential risks you should take into consideration.
When To Start
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a child isn’t developmentally ready to take swimming lessons until they are at least 4 years old. Unfortunately, this statement has led some parents to believe their baby isn’t anywhere near ready to go into the water before reaching that age.
The good news is that you can still take your baby swimming as an infant. They won’t be learning to swim, per se, but they will become more comfortable in the water. There aren’t any formal guidelines about when an infant is old enough to go into the pool with a parent or guardian, but it’s a good idea to wait until your baby can hold their head up without support.
There are plenty of infant and toddler swim classes available that provide guidance for parents who want to introduce their baby to the water. At the same time, these classes offer valuable water safety advice for parents. Check your local YMCA or American Red Cross for classes – often, these will be listed as “Mommy and Me” swim classes, though fathers are of course invited to participate as well. When choosing a class, you may want to ask to sit in on a lesson before signing up. Make sure the instructor is well-organized and clear in their explanations. There should also be a lifeguard on duty at all times.
Whether you choose to take your baby to a swimming class or introduce them to the pool on your own time, there are a few things you need to take care of first:
- Infant CPR: Consider taking an infant CPR class if you haven’t already. This could potentially save your child’s life should anything go wrong in the pool. It’s especially important to know this technique if you won’t be around a lifeguard and plan to take the baby in the water on your own.
- Sun protection: If you’ll be in an outdoor pool, make sure your child has sunscreen on before getting in the water. You may also want them to wear a hat to shield their face from the sun.
- Life vests: Consider investing in an infant life vest if you’ll be in the water a lot with your baby. Some infant swim classes provide this equipment to those participating in the lessons.
- Water temperature: Make sure the temperature of the water is warm enough for your baby before getting in.
- Swim diapers: Purchase swim diapers for your baby before taking them in a pool.
Pool Activities For Babies
There are lots of fun ways to get your baby more comfortable with being in the pool. Here are a few suggestions:
- When first entering the pool, lower your baby into the water slowly to let her get used to the temperature and feeling. Keep her face close to yours and make eye contact to reduce any fear or anxiety she may be feeling.
- Bring a few bath toys and allow the baby to splash around and play with them.
- Demonstrate how to blow bubbles and encourage your baby to do the same. This is helpful for babies to learn since they can’t inhale the water while they are blowing.
- Lay your baby on his back and rest his head on your shoulder to keep it above water. Encourage him to kick his legs and splash the water.
- If your baby seems uncomfortable with the water, don’t try to force it. Keep your visit short and try again in a few weeks.
Bringing your baby into a pool does have some inherent risks. Consider the following before taking your child into a pool for the first time:
- Hypothermia: The pool temperature should be between 84 and 86 degrees F to keep your baby comfortable and to prevent hypothermia. If you baby starts to shiver, take her out and wrap her in a dry towel immediately.
- Water intoxication: Don’t allow your baby to swallow too much water while in the pool.
- Communicable diseases: Although the most common of these when in the pool is diarrhea, babies can also get pink eye, skin infections and other communicable diseases when swimming in a pool.
- Drowning: Never let your baby out of your reach when in the pool. Always be close enough that you can touch them from where you are.
Many babies love being in the pool and the experience can be a great way to get them acclimated with the water. However, there is no proven research that shows that swimming lessons as an infant decreases the risk of drowning, so always be vigilant when a child is in the pool whether they seem comfortable in the water or not.