We’re smack dab in the middle of swim season so we thought a little discussion about swimming with baby would be appropriate. Young infants usually love water because it is familiar to them from their time in the womb where they were floating and bobbing for 9+ months. But easing baby into the pool may be wise to make her feel comfortable with water on this side of mom’s belly.
One of the best ways to start swimming with baby is in the bathtub. In addition to making solo baths a fun, soothing and relaxing time, make it a grander family experience by hopping in the tub with your baby from time to time. You can hold your baby the way you would in a pool to let her know you’ll be there to comfort and protect her throughout her early stages of swimming. Make joint baths an exciting sensory experience by helping baby splash water with her hands and feet, pouring water into containers and watching it fall out, and playing with bath and pool toys. If your baby is particularly attached to a toy in the bath, be sure to bring it along when you head out to the pool.
When you’re ready for your first pool adventure, keep a few health and safety tips in mind before taking a dip. Select a saline pool that doesn’t have too many chemicals that may be harsh on your baby’s eyes and skin. While it’s not recommended that babies drink pool water, she may swallow some so you don’t want it to be laced with tons of harmful chemicals.
Also, the water temperature should be slightly warm. If you don’t have access to a heated pool, wait until later in the day to swim so the sun has a chance to warm the pool. Your baby is not yet able to regulate her own body temperature and can get cold very easily. And don’t forget the sunscreen and protective clothing. You certainly don’t want to associate sunburns with swimming, and baby’s sensitive skin is more at risk for burns than older children and adults.
When it’s time for the plunge, hold your baby while sitting on a step to simulate the bathtub swimming experience. Then slowly ease her into the water, holding her tightly so she feels secure. She may be more comfortable completely submerged in water as wet skin exposed to cool air can be chilling. Plus, the feeling of being underwater is pretty neat for a baby when she can sense her weightlessness and move her body through the water gracefully. Be sure to make pool time lots of fun by singing, splashing and playing with toys. Many classics like “Ring Around the Rosie” and “Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall” work nicely as pool games too.
You can also use an upright baby float so your baby can sit in the water while you glide her around. Never take your hand off the float though as these may not be completely secure. Many baby floats have a cover to shade your baby from the sun, a nice added bonus. But experts agree that strap on floatation devices are not a good way to introduce babies to the water as it will give them a false sense of safety around water. They may grow to learn that they can always float in water and test their theory when not wearing floaties.
If your child seems to enjoy the water, you may want to begin swim lessons as early as six months old. Usually introductory classes are group lessons with parents participating to continue feelings of trust and security in the water. Certified instructors can help you teach your baby pre-swimming skills such as blowing bubbles and kicking. As your baby grows into a toddler, you can take more advanced and individual swim lessons to sharpen swim and water survival skills such as floating and being able to get to the side of the pool. This is especially important if you live near water or have your own pool.
Remember, make swimming with baby a fun, bonding experience so she will love this summertime activity for a lifetime.