Four tips for parents considering teaching baby to swim
Teaching your baby to swim can seem like a daunting idea if you’re a first time parent or a bit of an aquaphobe; you probably have no idea where to start, or you might even be scared of hurting your newborn. If this sounds like you, we encourage you not to be put off by swimming and to give our article a read today. Not only could this core skill save your child’s life one day, it has plenty of useful benefits for your baby now. In fact, the NHS recommend the activity because it is fun and healthy. Just like adults, babies use different muscles in the water, so it’s great for their development.
If you’re considering taking your baby to swimming classes and you’d like to learn more, here are our four top tips:
1) Start early: there’s no minimum age for teaching a baby to swim
If you’re a first time parent, you’ve had a lot to plan and think about; teaching your child to swim probably hasn’t been a priority. As such, like most first timers, you may assume baby has to be certain age before they can learn this skill? Maybe a month? Six months? Two years? Nope - babies can begin learning how to swim at any age, right from birth! One baby swimming website cites that their instructor taught her child to swim at two days old, but six weeks old seems to be the average.
Fact: The NHS advise that you can take baby swimming at any age, before OR after vaccinations.
2) Don’t worry - babies are well suited to swimming. They have a natural dive reflex, which they later grow out of
It’s true! Babies can naturally swim underwater for very short distances because of a reaction known as the “diving reflex”, or to give it the proper title: “bradycardic response” which seems to disappear as baby gets older.
Back in 2002, Swedish researchers studied 21 infants under 12 months of age and they found that none of the babies inhaled water or choked when underwater in the pool. They also noted how babies were eager to continue diving and weren’t put off by being pulled underwater by their parents!
So, how does it work? It’s simple; when the baby goes underwater the epiglottis closes over, blocking water from going down the throat.
This natural response is the reason many photographers manage to capture pictures of happy babies swimming under water with their mouths and eyes open.
Of course, this reflex doesn’t mean babies are immune to drowning, so parents should always exercise caution when teaching their child to swim, and it’s wise to never immerse a baby without a qualified instructor.
3) Don’t stress about accidents, that’s what “swimming nappies” were invented for
This tip puts to bed one of the more prominent concerns parents have before teaching a baby to swim: “what if baby has an accident while we’re in the pool?” Let us reassure you by introducing you to a very handy invention: the baby swimming nappy! Again, new first time parents might not even realise such a thing exists, but they do and they’re very useful!
Swim nappies, such as the ones we make at Splash About, are specially designed to limit leaking as much as possible, and they’re available for all ages, from birth to toddler.
The Happy Nappy is a leading product, most baby swim schools insist on their use in classes.
4) Weigh up your options: should you attend a class or just go for a splash around at the local pool?
Think about whether you’d prefer to attend regular baby swim classes or just head down to the local swimming baths to have a splash around with baby. Both have their merits, so it can be difficult to decide!
Qualified teachers supervise baby swim classes, so this usually appeases nervous parents. In swim classes, you’d receive structured lessons, with the objective of your baby learning how to swim at the end of the course. The only downside of taking regular classes is the price: this could be an added expense for families already counting the pennies.
On the other hand, heading to the pool on your own with baby is low cost – but beware: you should never fully submerse baby when not in the presence of a qualified instructor. However, if you do opt to take baby swimming by yourself, there is still a lot of fun to be had splashing around in the pool and bonding with baby as you play!