When can I start swimming with my baby?
You can start your baby getting used to the water early. Introduce him to water play in an inflatable pool with some bath toys at home. Parents are usually advised to wait until their baby is at least a year old before taking them to public pools. There are two reasons for this:
- Your baby won’t be coordinated enough to learn to swim properly until he is two or three, but you can get him to feel confident and relaxed in the water and make swimming a fun way to exercise for both of you.
- The hygiene and quality of water in public swimming pools is not always up to the mark. Young babies with their vulnerable immune systems are prone to catching illnesses fast. After swimming, watch your child for signs of allergies or infections, such as rashes or a urinary tract infection (UTI).
On the other hand, if you are certain about the cleanliness of your pool, then there is no harm in letting your baby start swimming earlier.
What does my baby need to wear when he goes swimming?
Floating devices can give you peace of mind and help give your baby stability. Water wings or inflatable arm bands are suitable for babies older than one. Other swimming aids such as floatable rings can be used before then. It can be a good idea to purchase them to give you peace of mind. You may also want to check with the pool where you plan to take your baby; they may have some specific guidelines.
What do I need to bring when I take my baby swimming?
Before your first trip to the swimming pool, visit the pool to find out if they have facilities for babies, like a separate baby pool, stroller or pushchair access. This can also help you decide where you will feed and change your baby. Once you are happy with your choice and ready to start, you’ll need to take:
- A change of clothes
- A towel, preferably one with a hood. Or take a towelling dressing gown
- A snack for older babies, swimming makes babies hungry. If your baby is on supplement feeds it’s a good idea to also bring a bottle.
- Books or toys for older babies
- A few of your baby’s bath toys to play with, if you’re allowed personal toys in the pool.
- A nappy/diaper bag
How do I help my baby get used to the water?
Here are some ideas on how you can help your baby learn to enjoy splashing about in water:
- Begin by introducing water play to your baby at home. Make bath time fun. Gently splash water over his body and face and let him play around in the water.
- When you first start going to a public pool, make sure you go at a time when there are few people. A huge swimming pool with lots of people may overwhelm him. Ask a relative or friend to come with you. If you feel relaxed and confident, your baby will, too.
- Start in the baby pool first. Your baby will enjoy sitting or standing in the shallow water. This will give him more confidence in the water. He might refuse to let go of your hands for the first few sessions.
- Once he is comfortable in the baby pool, you may want to try the shallow end of a bigger pool. When you first get in the pool, make sure that your baby’s face is close to yours and that you have eye contact. Hold him close to you. As you both relax and feel more confident you can extend your arms and swish your baby around.
How do I help my baby enjoy the water?
Here are some ways to help your baby enjoy the water and learn the basics of swimming:
- When he can sit up, usually at around six months, sit your baby on the side of the pool and sing Humpty Dumpty. When you get to the line “Humpty Dumpty had a great fall”, lift him down into the water with a splash.
- Let your baby splash and play with the pool toys, a ball or a ring. Throw one a few feet across the pool and ‘walk’ him through the water to retrieve it.
- Put your mouth under water and show your baby how to blow bubbles. This is an important lesson for babies to learn. They can’t inhale water if they are blowing. For older babies, blow a toy across the water and get him to blow it back, or at least mimic you blowing.
- Lay him on his back with his head resting on your shoulder. Encourage him to kick his legs.
- Swimming instructors say it’s safe to dip your baby under the water for a second or two. Research suggests babies are born with a dive reflex. This stops them from inhaling when they are underwater. But, you may feel more confident doing this under the guidance of a trained baby swimming teacher.
What precautions do I need to take to keep my baby safe while swimming?
To keep your baby safe while swimming:
- Check that the temperature of the pool is about 32 degrees C if your baby is under six months. If he’s older it should be between 29 degrees C and 30 degrees C.
- As soon as your baby starts to shiver or his fingers get too wrinkly, get him out of the pool and wrap him up.
- Start off slowly. Begin with short sessions of 10 minutes and build up to 20 minutes. If your baby is under one, it is best not to spend more than 30 minutes in the pool.
- If your baby has a cold, conjunctivitis or seems unwell, it is best to wait till he has recovered before swimming.
- If your baby has a skin complaint, check with your doctor to make sure that the chlorine won’t irritate his skin.