Mums, have you ever wondered how to get your baby started swimming, but didn’t know where to begin? Don’t worry- you’re not alone. In this article, I hope to answer all the common questions I get asked when I’m training with mums and babies at the pool. We’ll go step-by-step, so you’ll be well prepped to introduce your bub to a safe, happy and lifelong relationship with the water.
When can I start taking my baby swimming in the pool?
You can actually start really young. And I’d recommend that you do too. Rebeccah Adlington is a professional swimmer and regular mum columnist from the UK, who started her daughter in the pool at just three and a half weeks old. Starting early makes for a much easier introduction than when your toddler is in their terrible twos!
I had a C-section/complicated birth. When is it okay for me to get in a pool?
Everyone’s physiology and birthing experience is different. A common recommendation is at least six weeks from the delivery, or at least a week from the last incidence of any bleeding following the birth. However, I would strongly recommend speaking to your health practitioner for their professional advice before going down to the pool for the first time.
What are the best pools to take my baby to?
You should look out for a couple of things when taking your baby to a pool for the first time:
- There are baby changing facilities on site
- The pool is clean and doesn’t smell strongly of chlorine
- There is a safe shallow area where you can stand with your baby, and that this is easily accessible by wide and shallow steps
- The pool is warm. 32 ˚C is ideal
- The pool isn’t too crowded, and there aren’t lots of noisy kids charging around making a ruccus
Call ahead, or visit in person beforehand to make sure you’re happy with these as it could make the difference between a great time out and a teary disaster.
What do I need to bring when I take my baby swimming?
As someone at the scene of many pool time accidents, I would say that it is ESSENTIAL to buy, bring and use swimming diapers. You really don’t want to be the infamous mum, whose cheeky cherub shuts down the pool for an afternoon of cleaning.
I’d also recommend bringing floating toys like rubber ducks, and stickers you can paste and remove from the side of the pool to engage your baby’s attention.
Snacks can also be great for a post-swim treat, and a towel is essential to keeping your baby warm once they are out of the pool. Some mums also pack a baby wetsuit if the water temperature of their local pool is a tad under 32 ˚C. However, I’d keep a close eye on your baby’s temperature if you do visit a colder pool. If their lips are blue, it’s time to get out.
At the beginning I would stay away from goggles and from floatation aids like water wings. This is because things like floatation devices provide a false sense of safety, and the aim is to get your baby comfortable in the pool without any kinds of artificial aids.
What can I do to prepare my baby for their first swimming outing?
I can’t stress enough that the secret to all of this is to make everything as fun as possible, and to work up progressively in small steps. The best first step towards swimming is actually your baby’s bath time.
Follow this sequence at bath time before your first trip to the pool, and you will be miles ahead of the game:
- Start with rubbing water gently on their cheeks and trickle water on their heads to get them used to the feeling of water on their skin
- When they are comfortable with this feeling, start with submerging them partway. Up to the waist is fine for now
- Next, experiment with supported floating. This is where your baby floats on their back with you providing support and buoyancy from below. To do this, cup your baby in your forearms, supporting their bum and feet with your hands and keeping their head close to your chest. Submerge just your baby’s back into the water slowly and gently
- After a couple of successful tries, you can bring your baby a bit lower down in the water. While they are still on their back, and supported by your arms, submerge your baby deep enough that their ears are just covered by the water. Having their ears covered will feel odd for your baby, so don’t be surprised if this final exercise takes some practice
Run a warm bath while doing all these exercises, avoid any soap that could irritate your baby’s eyes, and be super generous with praise and cuddles!
How should I get in the pool with my baby?
Remember the nice wide, shallow steps we talked about earlier? This is where they come in. Descend them slowly, while cradling your baby just like you would if you were going downstairs anywhere else.
Alternatively, you can also get comfortable in the pool first and then ask your partner, or a friend to pass your baby to you.
What can I do in the pool with my baby?
It really depends how confident your baby is with the water. It’s important to go at a comfortable pace and ensure that nothing is too overwhelming. Start small and then work up to bigger goals.
To begin with, if your baby is nervous, never force them into the water. You can warm them up by sitting with them on the edge of the pool dangling your toes and feet in the water and splashing gently.
If they are happy with this, enter the pool making sure that you hold your baby facing you. This will give your baby something familiar to be comforted by in the new environment. Keep smiling, singing and use lots of skin-to-skin contact to keep your baby at ease.
In the pool, start by trickling water gently on to your baby’s head while singing a nursery rhyme. Next, you can start to ‘swoosh’ your baby. To do this, hold your baby under their armpits and then move them gently around you. This gets them used to feeling buoyant and moving in water. Just make sure that you keep your baby’s head out of the water while doing this, because swallowing pool water can be a nasty surprise.
The first few times, ‘swoosh’ with your baby facing you and maintain plenty of eye contact. If your baby is having fun then spin them around to look at the rest of the pool and keep on ‘swooshing’. When you get more advanced you can start with games like bouncing up and down, and using floating toys like rubber ducks to engage your baby.
When playing, can I submerge my baby under the water?
Full submersion can be a little advanced, so I’d recommend you do this under the supervision of an instructor the first few times. A good instructor will give you the confidence and knowledge to try new and unfamiliar things in the water. In addition, your baby can pick up on your stress level very easily, so it really helps to be in a safe and supervised environment when attempting something you might be nervous about for the first time.
Submersion is a super interesting topic, and is something I plan on covering in a lot more detail in future blog posts. In the meantime, if you have any questions about submersion or infant swim training sessions please reach out to me at [email protected]. I’m happy to help!
How long should I take my baby swimming for?
Honestly, when you are starting out even ten minutes is a great time to be in the pool for. When your baby is around six months old, and is comfortable in the water you should be able to have sessions lasting around half an hour.