When it comes to baby swimming, even the safest pools can be dangerous. Pools may be contaminated with diarrhea causing bacteria so you should know which pools to consider.
However, teaching your baby how to swim early in life is helpful from the point of view of safety. Swimming is an excellent exercise and is great fun too. Read the following for some advice on when is your baby ready to take the plunge and how you can teach him/ her to swim.
When Can a Baby Start Swimming?
It is recommended that you should wait until your baby is 6 weeks old before you go swimming. There are chances of you picking up an infection, if you go sooner. You may be advised by your GP or health visitor to wait even for longer than 6 weeks, in case you had a tear during delivery or your baby is born by caesarean section.
You can ask your partner or someone else to take your baby to swim, if you are keen to introduce your baby to swimming sooner than she is six weeks old. Though most of the babies swim classes start at six weeks, still you may find that some may start as early as four weeks.
You are not required to wait until the immunization of your baby as the chlorine present in the water of the pool will take care of any germs that are present in water.
What Kind of Pool to Consider—Temperature Consideration
It should be kept in mind that the skin area in babies is more in relation to their weight when compared to older children, meaning that their body temperature can vary very quickly. Since babies cannot regulate their body temperature very well till the age of one year, you should ensure that the water of the pool is warm enough.
According to Dr Reinstein, the water that feels chilly to you will feel really cold for your baby. The temperature of the pool water should be in the range of 85 to 87 degrees Fahrenheit for your baby to be comfortable. In case she is shivering in the water, you should take her out of the water.
Too hot water may also prove dangerous for your baby. Children younger than 3 years should not be taken to hot tubs, spas and swimming pools with water heated to greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Overheating occurs in young children more quickly in comparison to adults and a high temperature may cause palpitations in children and is dangerous.
Pay Attention to Safety
The issue of water safety is also there while you are taking your baby for a swim. One of the leading causes of injury and death in young children is drowning or near drowning. You should follow the below mentioned safety tips when you take your baby around any water body:
- ‘Touch supervision’ is recommended by the AAP, which implies that at all times an adult is there within arm’s reach of a toddler or an infant while they are in or around any water body.
- While in the pool, you should always hold your baby. You should remain in that much deep water where you can maintain firm footing.
- When your baby starts walking, teach her that she should not run when she is near a water body. Also emphasize that your baby should enter the water only when an adult is present nearby for supervision.
- You should not rely on inflatable toys such as water wings for keeping your baby safe while in the pool. Make your child wear a properly fitting personal flotation device (PFD). The device should be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Your baby should be wearing the PFD at all times when she is around and in water.
- Pay attention to duration of swimming. Initially the duration of swimming should be kept short, no more than 10 minutes. You can gradually increase the time. However, do not stay in water for greater than 30 minutes. Also take your baby out of water if she starts shivering or looks fatigued.
How to Teach a Baby to Swim?
The majority of the babies can actually swim up to the age of six months with your help. When you are starting early, the baby’s natural ability of doing primitive strokes can be taken advantage of. Moreover, before six months, the inbuilt gag reflex in your baby is at its strongest. This implies that your baby can hold her breath without thinking about it, when under water.
1. On Your Own
You can get your baby used to the water at bath time. Splash water over the body of your baby or gently move him in the water.
While visiting a pool, choose a time when the pool is not too busy. When you are in the pool, keep eye contact with your baby and hold her close to your body. Once confident enough, you can stretch your arms and swish your baby around. Talk to your baby and praise her. Encourage your baby to play with the bath toys and splash water. An important lesson for your baby is to teach her to take her mouth under water and blow bubbles. Rest your baby’s head on your shoulder and lay her on her back. Ask your baby to kick her legs.
2. In a Swimming Class
Baby swimming classes are usually conducted in small, warm pools and consist of around 10 mums, dads and babies. The aim of baby swim teachers is to make swimming sessions fun and relaxed. They will build upon the baby’s natural ability to do primitive swimming strokes. Once you are in water with your baby, hold her close to your body and keep eye contact with her. Make her feel safe and secure by encouraging her. Once your baby gains confidence, the teacher will encourage your baby to swim under water. The inbuilt gag reflex of babies allows them to hold their breath under water.
Watch a video for more on how to teach a baby to swim and tips on how to better work with babies:
More tips can be found in the following video: