The Safe & Fun Guide: Introducing Your Baby to the Water

Make a splash this summer with your little one.
Living near the beach most of my life, swimming quickly became one of my favorite things to do in the summer.

As the weather gets warmer, you’re probably thinking about taking your little one swimming too.

But when is it safe to do so? When should they start learning how to swim?

According to the American Academy of pediatrics, children aren’t ready to take formal swimming lessons until the age of four. However, this only refers to traditional swimming lessons.

In fact, it’s totally fine to start introducing them to water at an early age. As soon as they’re old enough to take baths, you can start preparing them for eventually swimming in the pool or the beach.

Here are my tips and advice for getting your baby swimmin’.

First, get them used to the bath water.

baby in the tub
Taking baths together is not only a great bonding experience, but also a great way to introduce your little one to the joys of water in their early months!

Let him play with floating toys, washcloths and splash around to his heart’s content. Get him used to the feeling of the water by gently dripping it over his head and forehead.

Just be really gentle and let him snuggle up against your chest, submerged in the water up to his waist or a little deeper. The idea is to slowly acclimate them to the water and make it a fun experience that opens the way for eventually swimming on their own.

Baby’s first experience with the water should be a positive one, so keep the following in mind:

  • Make sure the water is the perfect temperature: not too hot and not too cold.
  • Don’t use any bubble bath in the tub, or if you do, make sure it’s a good, tear-free soap
  • Keep everything super gentle and never overwhelm them with the water.

Introducing them to the pool

I don’t believe there’s ever a time that’s “too early” to introduce your little one to the pool, as long as you take the proper precautions and keep them safe.

In fact, some say that the longer you wait to get them in the water, the harder it will be. It’s best to start in the 1 1/2 years, because after that, they enter a stage called the “challenging twos”, where they can be MUCH more apprehensive about getting in the water.

When it comes time to getting them in the pool, keep these tips in mind:

  • No floaties allowed. Don’t use any floatation devices like water wings or otherwise. These will instill a false sense of security, and keep them in an upright position, which isn’t ideal for learning to swim.
  • Make it a bonding experience. Lots of skin-to-skin contact is key here, as it will make them feel more secure and is also a great way to bond. Plus, always being close is the safest way to teach them to swim.
  • Make it a fun experience. The idea here is to reinforce that being in the pool is a positive experience! Play games, sing songs and just have a good time.
  • Go with the flow. All children react differently to the water, and some will progress faster than others. It’s very important to listen to the cues your child gives you, and never push them to do things if they don’t seem comfortable. Not only is this safer, but making it a traumatic experience will make it much harder to teach them to swim.
  • Use a swim diaper. Avoid a “poop in the pool” situation that will ruin everyone’s day and use a good swim diaper. Swim diapers are waterproof and specifically designed to be used in the water.
  • Discourage them from swallowing water. Not only is the pool water gross, but swallowing too much water can upset an older baby’s sensitive chemistry.

Also, be sure to avoid pools that are loaded up with chemicals. Unfortunately, most public pools will be full of pool chemicals as a method of dealing with bacteria. Chlorine is very irritating to a baby’s sensitive eyes, skin and repository system.

A good rule of thumb is this: if you enter the pool area and there is a distinctive overpowering chlorine smell, it’s probably too strong for your little one.

Look for pools that use newer filtering technology that utilizes ozone filters to clean the water. Ozone-cleaned water is chemical-free and safe for baby.

Is it true that babies can instinctively swim?

You may have seen the videos of babies naturally “swimming”, along with the claim that babies instinctively know how to swim.

The fact is that this is simply not true: while they do have reflexes that make it look like they can swim, they can’t.

They aren’t old enough to know how to hold their breath and also don’t know how to keep their heads above the water.

Why do we seemingly have the reflexes to swim when we’re that young? Some experts believe that this is simply a remnant memory of our 9 months spent in the womb, immersed in amniotic fluid.

As cute as these videos are, you should never assume that your baby can swim because they simply can’t when they’re that young.

Resources for teaching your baby to swim:

Here are some great sites you can read for more information on teaching your child to swim.

Don’t Miss The Rest of My Summer Safety Series!

Summer is a fun time, but there are a lot of dangers and concerns during those hot (and sometimes wet) months.

The other articles in my Summer Safety series:

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