How old should your baby be before he or she has their first dip in the pool? Some sites suggest as young as 6 weeks, while others suggest waiting 12 weeks.
Most Mommy & Me classes begin at 6 months of age, but if you have a pool in your backyard, you can go in together nearly anytime conditions are good.
Infant swim programs don’t really do much swimming, the focus is on calmly enjoying the water; building up to some breath control and movement control, surfacing and rolling over for air, and where to find the pool exit.
To help your baby enjoy their first pool experiences with you, I’ve put together a quick list of five things to keep in mind for baby’s first swim, and a list of ten swim lesson ideas for babies or toddlers.
1. Warm Pool Water
Mothers the world over know that the bath water has to be right, or else you face a fussy bather. When the water is warm however, 85-90° F, all is right with the world, and everyone enjoys bath time. It’s the same with pools, although, when you are holding baby close to your skin, you may also enjoy pool water in the 80-85° range. If your water tends to stay cooler, consider a solar blanket, which can add 10° to the water.
2. Swim Diapers
Whether in your own pool, or another pool, a Swim Nappy, as the say in the UK, is a required piece of swim gear for babies and toddlers. Swim Diapers aren’t poo-proof, and they won’t contain large, um… outbursts, but they fit snug around the waist and legs to buy you enough time to quickly exit the pool. Wearing a secondary thin diaper underneath can also be a good idea.
3. Water Sanitation
Make sure that your pool water is balanced, sanitary and well filtered, so that you can be reasonably sure that no germs are in the water. Test your pH, alkalinity, calcium and cyanuric acid levels, and be sure that a Free Chlorine residual exists of 1-3 ppm. Skip the lesson this week if the water looks cloudy or if you spot algae growing.
For sensitive baby skin, use a sunblock cream that won’t wash-off in the water. Avoid using sprays which your baby may inhale. A thin fast drying swim shirt or tank suit with a cute little sombrero can be an alternative to potions and lotions. Umbrellas that can be placed near the pool can also give some shade while you bounce in the water.
5. Well Rested & Well Fed
But not too well-fed! Avoid feeding within 30 minutes of going into the pool, to prevent spit-ups. And if baby needs a nap, this swim lesson for baby may turn into nap time on your shoulder!
Baby Swim Lesson Ideas
Here’s a quick list of ideas for helping babies become accustomed to the new world of water. Take it slow and steady, and keep baby within her comfort zone. Repeat the same routine for each ‘swim lesson’. And most importantly, always be within arm’s reach of your baby while in the pool area.
1. “Sitting on the Steps”. Starting out slowly, baby-steps you know… (sorry!).
2. “Water Walking”. Just walking around the shallow end with babe in arms.
4. “Humpty Dumpty”. Sing the song and help baby ‘fall’ safely off the wall and into your waiting arms.
5. “Superman”. Hold firmly onto baby’s forearms and pull her thru the water.
6. “Back Float”. With your arms supporting back and head the entire time.
7. “Blow Bubbles”. At close range, put your mouth in the water and blow bubbles.
8. “Look at Me”. Holding baby close, slowly go under water, and look at each other for just 1-2 seconds before resurfacing again.
9. “Underwater Superman”. Same as #5, but underwater for 2-3 seconds, pulling her slowly thru the water, and into your arms.
10. “Roll-Over”. Rolling over from a front float to a back float, with support and help from you, until they can do it safely on their own.
Take your baby swimming this summer, a clean backyard pool is the perfect place to start familiarizing your baby with underwater breath control, spatial awareness and how to float and move in water.
>>For everyone’s safety, have another adult present during baby swim time, or invite another baby and caregiver to the pool for a regular ‘swim session’.
>>Always remember to hold a baby securely while in the pool, or stay within arm’s reach at all times. Never leave a child alone in the pool area.
InTheSwim Staff Blogger