Teaching Baby to Swim (A Parent’s Guide)

All right parents, summer is just about upon us! For some of us that means long days lazing at the beach or by the pool. And for kids and babies, this time of year brings some of the best memories for you and your little one.

But before you jump in, take some time to prepare your baby for the water. First of all, make the process fun, and show them how much you enjoy the water. Splashing and playing in the pool is one of the best pastimes of summer. Here’s how to introduce your baby to swimming and making it fun and safe.

Introduce Baby to the Water

First, get your baby to know the water. Hold her in your arms and wade out. Let her feel the water against her skin. Let her splash and kick while you hold her. The fun thing about this exercise is that you can do it at any age. What’s important here is to get her in the water with you. Let your enthusiasm spill over into her. The first step in teaching your baby to swim is getting her in the water.

Second, don’t rush it. I know—after a long winter you’re just ready to get out to the pool. But don’t rush baby. This is all new to her. Instead, take it slow. Those long afternoons poolside will return when as your baby gets older. Remember, the entire environment may be new to her.

Along those lines she’s not just getting used to the water but also the entire experience. The sun will be strong, and if it’s her first summer, it can be trying. Use approved sunscreens for babies over six months of age. If she’s not that old yet, cover her up and limit her time in the sun.

Accordingly, be sure to have plenty of shade nearby. Set up an umbrella to keep her out of the sun. Keep her hydrated. Namely, the purpose is to introduce her to the water and keep it fun.

Never let your baby go under water. Just a few gulps can introduce more than enough water into her lungs to cause dangerous side effects and even water intoxication.

Swimming Lessons

So, you’re a great swimmer. But how are your teaching skills? For many parents, they may have never taken a lesson or it could have been years since their own lessons. While the basics haven’t changed, approaches to swim instruction have.

Fortunately, swim lesson options abound. The Red Cross, YMCA, high school and college athletic departments, and many swim clubs all offer certified swim lessons for all ages. And for those parents who aren’t strong swimmers, they can enroll in adult classes. Since safety starts with you, brush up on your swim skills. You may never need them. However, a parent’s best mantra is to be ready.

When to start? The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that babies start swim lessons after their first birthday. Why? There is no evidence that infants enrolled in swim lessons have a decreased risk of drowning. However, after their first birthday, many babies have an awareness of what is happening around them. But every child is different. Knowing your child’s emotional and physical abilities and limitations should guide your decision as to when to enroll them.

Still, this doesn’t limit you to not enrolling your infant in a parent-child class. The role of these classes are to introduce your baby to the water. Swim lessons are meant to be fun while instructive for the parent.

What to look for in Swim Lessons

If you’ve decided to enroll your baby in swim lessons, choose wisely. Always be sure that the program uses experienced and certified instructors. When you’re at the pool, also ensure that the lifeguards maintain their CPR and first aid certifications.

The programs should do much more than teach basic swimming skills. Safety around the water is all encompassing. Beyond swimming, see that the courses teach good safety practices around the pool. While babies are still too young to realize all that is going on around them, by the time they are one year old they should understand what not to do around the pool. As their parent, reinforce these behaviors away from the swim lessons.

Finally, watch a lesson before enrolling. Make sure the instructors and learning environment are good for you and your baby. Remember that you will be in the water too. Therefore, your comfort is critical in ensuring that the lessons will have a positive impact on you both.

Swimming Safety Equipment

It’s easy to feel the need to accessorize. However, don’t overdo it. Those swimming aids may actually do more harm than good.

In light of this, always opt for a U.S. Coast Guard certified life jacket or flotation device. These devices will keep your baby’s head above the water. Other devices, like inflatable bathing suits or water wings, won’t do that. Even more, any device can give your baby a false sense of confidence in the water. When non-approved devices fail, the results can be tragic. These devices lack the ability to keep your baby’s head above the water.

Don’t Rush It

You’ve enrolled your baby in swim lessons. Maybe you’ve even taken a refresher class yourself. Just remember that your baby will come to the water at her own pace. Don’t rush it. Lastly, teaching her to swim should be fun. It’s a summer rite of passage that needs to be enjoyable and instructive.

Swimming is one of the best summer activities for families. Introduce your baby slowly, and the water will be a welcome summertime friend for many years to come. At this age your baby isn’t learning to swim. But she is learning to appreciate the fun that awaits her in the pool.

Safety Tips

  • Always supervise children around the pool.
  • Never allow an older child to supervise your baby at the pool.
  • Keep pool areas closed. Drownings typically occur with unsupervised access to pools.
  • Maintain current CPR and first aid certifications.
  • Use swim diapers to keep feces out of the water.

Thanks for stopping by! Before you go, check out another great article from one of our many wonderful Mom Advice Line contributors:

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