Getting baby used to water as soon as possible makes perfect sense. It’s great fun and baby will love her time in the water. It’s also valuable form a safety angle as well. Baby will benefit from the great exercise that being in the water offers – its very gentle resistance training.
Anyway, it is a great leap for parents and baby alike, so here is a bit of advice for taking a baby swimming.
The first factor to consider is if you are Mum, did you have any procedures during the birth that need time ti settle before you go swimming. Take advice from your medical professionals about this and adhere to it. There is no fun in hurting / risking yourself, and looking after a newborn when you are under the weather is very hard work! Also consider bleeding as the lining of the womb will shed for upto 6 weeks after the actual birth.
Babys are born water ready! They can go into the water as soon as they are born, in fact 95% of babies have the mammalian dive reflex which makes baby close his mouth and protect his airways when the face is submerged into water. This reflex stays with bay for around six months and is known as infant swimming or diving reflex.
Sadly drowning is believed to be one of the highest causes of infant death in the USA (not known for UK) as horrible as this might seem to highlight here, preparing baby for an unexpected encounter by going swimming will greatly increases chances of survival.
The recommended method to get your child into the water and swimming is with careful supervision from a baby swimming class. There are hundreds around the UK and most cities world wide. Finding one should be very easy. A search like this on google – infant swimming classes finds lots of options available to you. You midwife should also be able to advise of other classes local to you and baby.
The pool should ideally be heated to around 32 degrees C for you babies. Most pools have smaller baby pools that are kept a little warmer for this reason. Large public pools are generally to cold and distracting for you both.
Take What You Need For Swimming.
The most important part is preparation. Make sure you have all the essentials before heading off to the pool. Re-usable swimming nappies are amazing and a must in a public swimming environment. A towel with a hood always seemed to be preferred by my children and it means you can keep the head warm very easily. If you are not breast feeding or are Dad a nice bottle of milk for a feed after swimming (swimming makes us hungry!), other snacks if baby is starting on slid food, a changing bag and ground mat as well as toys baby knows from bath time. The toys will help baby feel more at home and happy in this new environment.
Keeping Baby Safe Around the Water.
Remember, baby is small however her surface area is relatively large so she loses heat quickly through her skin, especially her head. So check the water temperature before getting into the pool. Most good pools advertise the water temperature, if not just ask. Remember 32 degress C is what we are looking for.
Get into the water your self carefully without splashing and keeping eye contact. Make those hapy noises you both share and slowly, but with confidence lower her into the water. Try and keep the water level up to and over her shoulder level as this will help to keep her warm. Gently move baby around, keep talking and encouraging.
If you see your baby shiver its time to get out and wrapped up in the hooded towel. You are probably only looking at 10 mins until he starts to get cold. He is a lot smaller than you and feels the cold a lot more quickly! This short session can be increased over time, but it is key to finish on a good note, not when baby has had too much. The maximum duration of a baby swimming session should be around 30 mins for the first 12 months.
A poorly baby should not go swimming, so steer clear if she has a cold, temperature or is under the weather. If baby has a dodgy tummy stay away for 48 hours as they could pass on the infection until this amount of time has passed (this becomes more of a problem at school when a 24 hour sick bug means you need 2 days off to look after them!)
The chlorine can irritate babies skin. Seek medical advice before going swimming if you are at all concerned. Make sure you wash the chlorine off well with fresh warm water as it will stay on the skin and potentially cause problems if not. A good all round moisturiser will help protect from dry areas forming after a day at the pool.
Getting Baby in The Water
Start the learning process at home, get baby used to playing with water. Bath time is great for this – splash, laugh and have fun. Get her used to lying in the water and carefully pour water on her hair allowing it to run off the back of her head. Use toys and make bath time another learning experience for you all!
the first time you head to the pool it might be well worth taking your partner or a friend to help out until you get into a routine. Make sure as already mentioned its warm enough and you can get in with your buggy. Another person is useful while you learn how to get yourself and baby safely into the water as the more relaxed and happy you are, the more baby will feel comfortable (there are lots of non verbal communications between babies and parents).
Remember these tips while in the water.
- To start with hold baby close to you and keep that eye contact
- Talk to baby and show him you are enjoying the pool
- As you both settle gently move baby around in the water
- Remember, keep her shoulders under the water as much as possible.
- Let baby splash and introduce the favorite bath time toys.
- Show baby how you can put your face underwater and blow bubbles – there are toys that flip over when you blow them which makes this a great game.
- Play games from the pool edge carefully lowering baby into the water, make this more relaxed and more of a splash as time goes on.
- Hold baby by her shoulder on her back, supporting the head and encourage splashing with her legs
The most important part is for you all to have fun and get out on a high and while baby is still warm!
I am non-swimmer
This dosen’t matter as long as you stay in your depth and do not show any fear of the water to baby. You must not let your feelings get in the way of baby development.
Playing in the water should feel natural and really build the bond between you all. I can still remember many great times taking my children to the pool for the first time and how they all reacted so differently.
Baby swim classes are a great way to start if you are not confident in the water. You will feel more confident, therefore so will baby. There is a little more structure and other people to meet and develop new friends with, so there are benefits all around.
A good swim teacher should make learning fun, teaching babies to explore this new environment through play and interaction. A good teacher will pick up quickly on the natural abilities of your child and start to expand her abilities as well as enhance natural reflects.
You might be amazed with how much progress you all make and some times your child might end up swimming comfortably under water.
It’s really important you keep talking and encouraging throughout this process
Finding Local Lessons
There are many ways to find local lessons. I have shared a google search above to assist with this.
You might contact your local pool and ask. You can ask your midwife or other parents at antenatal classes.
Swimming.org provides plenty of information on swimming with babies and is another good place to start looking.
I think it is really important to get baby into the water as soon as possible. Let them explore and learn all the fun things they can do. Take time to make it a part of your weekly routine as it will have benefits that last a lifetime to you all.