“My baby is two months old, and I was wondering how soon I can start getting her accustomed to the water?”
Parents with newborns often ask this question – how soon can the baby be introduced to the water? There are a number of issues involved with introducing a child to water. So what are things to watch out for? Here are 5 ways to look at taking the newborn to the pool:
1) Wait until the time is right. According to Babycenter.com, a big issue is exposure to infection and illness. The site recommends that if the child is younger than two months, parents should not be taking the infant into a swimming pool or other body of water. Since pools are easily contaminated with bacteria – some able to cause diarrhea, the danger of a baby getting sick from exposure to the water is very real.
Another issue is the temperature of the water. Babies can’t regulate their body temperature until they are about 6 to 12 months old. The water needs to be warm enough for the baby. An easy test – if the water feels chilly for the parent, it will be very cold to the baby. It is suggested that water temperature be at least 84 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The reverse is also true – too much heat can be bad for a baby, so hot tubs or pools heated to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit are not recommended for children younger than 5.
2) Keep in touch. The adult needs to be within arm’s reach of the infant or toddler at all times in or near a swimming pool or body of water. If in the pool itself, always be holding the baby, and avoid water that is too deep for the parent to maintain firm footing. But while holding the baby, the parent can allow the baby to experience the freedom of movement afforded by water. Hold the baby securely under the arms and allow them to enjoy the sensation of movement in lessened gravity. Some tiny babies can sense it is fun to move in the water, especially when securely held by the parent.
3) Get them used to the water. Parenting.com suggests a gradual introduction of the baby to the water. Start them getting used to water by taking baths with them. In the bathtub, let them play with a washcloth and splash around – of course babies enjoy that – and enjoy floaty toys. Trickle water over the baby’s forehead and face to acquaint him or her with the feel of moving water. Allow the baby to snuggle against the mother’s chest while reclining in the tub, and even nurse while taking a bath. The main thing is to make the babies first impression of water – “Hey, this is fun, and it feels good to play in!”
4) Swimming lessons. Around 6 months of age, the parents might want to think about enrolling the baby into swimming lessons. Many cities have infant swim classes taught by qualified instructors. Parents can be a part of the instruction process and help the child feel comfortable in the water. It is suggested that by 9 months of age, a baby can be taught to “swim” between two adults for a few seconds. Going back and forth from parent to instructor will give the child the experience of water, while in a safe situation.
5) The realities of a pool. Parents should avoid pools that are heavily loaded with chemicals. Although necessary to keep down bacteria, overexposure can be unhealthy to a baby. The skin, eyes and breathing passages of a baby are more sensitive to chlorine than an adult. A simple test – if the parent smells chlorine immediately upon entering the pool area – assumes it’s too strong for the baby.
Since babies might have a bowel movement in the water, sensible precautions must be taken. Swim diapers, specifically designed for the water are recommended. Clean the diaper before going into the pool, and common sense would suggest not taking the baby into the pool immediately after a feeding.
If the parent conveys a love of and comfort with water at an early age, it will help the child have a positive experience with swimming, and make pool time the fun it is supposed to be.
Written by Becky Flanigan
Becky Flanigan is a freelance writer for InTheSwim.com. She has 3 kids with her wonderful husband – two boys and a girl – and two lovely golden retrievers. Since they were babies, she has spent hours at her local above ground pools, and now enjoys watching the kids and dogs splash and play. She is also a runner, and diligently training for her first half marathon.