Swimming with your Baby

It is important for children to grow without a fear of water and an understanding of how dangerous water can be but also how fun it can be. Taking your baby swimming is an ideal way of ensuring your child is happy and confident in water. Swimming is an important life skill, it is fun but it is also good exercise.

How soon can I take my baby swimming?
Your baby can go swimming at any age although most parents wait until their baby is at least four weeks. There is no need to wait until after he has been immunised as the chlorine in the water will protect your child by killing all germs.

However, it is not advisable for the mother to go swimming until after the six-week-check-upas there is a risk that you may pick up an infection if you go earlier. If you suffered from a tear during childbirth, required stitches or delivered via caesarean section then you may need to wait longer to heal properly and you should speak to your doctor or health visitor before entering the pool with your baby. This means that if you want your baby to start swimming earlier, then you will need your partner, a family member or close friend to take her.

Can we go to any pool?
If you are planning to take a young baby swimming (under 6 months), you should only use pools suitable for babies with a temperature of approximately 32 degrees C. Most of the larger, public pools will be too cold for your baby. Swimming pool water temperature needs to be tested regularly and therefore you will be able to ask at the swimming pool how warm or cold the water is before attending.

Your baby may still get cold quickly whilst swimming and to start with you may need to limit your swimming session to as little as 10 minutes. This can gradually increase with each visit although babies under six months old should not stay in the water for longer than 30 minutes at a time.

However, you should closely watch your child and if you notice your baby is shivering, turning blue or has goose-bumps then you should leave the pool, wrap your baby in a towel before getting her dressed and warm.

If your baby is unwell, has a cold or temperature or is over-tired then it is best to not go swimming and go when your baby is better. If your baby has had a tummy-bug of any kind, it is advisable to wait at least 48hours before going swimming with your baby.

If your child suffers from eczema, rashes or skin complaints of any kind, you should speak to your doctor before taking your baby swimming to ensure that the chorine will not affect your baby or cause any irritation.

What do I need to take with us?
Any outing with a baby usually means a bulging bag of necessary stuff and swimming is no exception. Here is a list of the main things that you will need to take when swimming.

  • A swimming nappy – These are available in both re-usable and disposable variety. You may want to take a spare one in case your baby has an accident whilst swimming.
  •  Swim wear – You may want to put swimming trunks, shorts or costumer over the swimming nappy although this is not vital.
  • A soft towel – you will probably find a towel with a hood very useful and will help to keep your baby warm.
  • Your own swim wear and towel.
  • You may want to use arm bands or a swim seat with your baby.
  • A few toys – your baby may feel more relaxed with a few bath toys from home which she recognises.
  • Milk or food – babies and children can often feel hungry after swimming. If your baby is bottle fed, you should take the necessary milk and bottle with you. If your baby is on solids, you should take a snack for the.
  • Your usual changing bag and changing mat.


How can I help to make our trips successful?
A large, noisy swimming pool can be very confusing, bewildering and scary for a baby. Therefore it is important that you ensure that your baby is used to water before going swimming. You should try to make bath time as fun as possible. You should not be afraid to splash water over your baby’s body and face. You should have plenty of smiles and giggles throughout bath-time to help your baby feel confident. You could also try bathing with your baby so that your baby can feel confident whilst being held by you in the water.

If you have never been to the pool, you should find out about whether the pool as parent and child changing rooms, whether they have changing tables, baby seats or a safe place to put your baby while you get changed yourself. You may want to know if you can take you pushchair or infant car seat carrier into the changing rooms or to the pool side.

You may find it best to attend the pool at a quieter less busy time. This is often during the school day although if you phone the pool, the staff will be able to advise the best time to attend with your baby. The pool may even have special sessions especially for parents and young children.

Once you are at the pool and ready for swimming, you should ensure your baby is kept by wrapping her in a towel. Most pools allow you to take towels to the pool-side and leave them there whilst you swim.

As you enter the pool, you should hold your baby close to you in a face-to-face position to ensure good eye-contact.

You should continue to talk to your baby, smile at her and praise her.

Once you are in the water and when you feel confident, you should gently sway in the water and gradually extend your baby away from you and glide her through the water.  You should make this fun and continue to smile and talk or giggle to your baby.

You can let your baby play with her bath toys, involve lots of splashing and giggles.  You could try throwing the toy a short distance away and letting your baby chase the toy by gliding her through the water towards to it.

If your baby can already sit, you could try sitting your baby on the side and gently lifting your baby up into the air and then into the water with a gently splash and lots of giggling. You could also try timing this with well-known nursery rhymes such as Humpty Dumpty or Pop Goes the Weasel.

You could also try holding your baby so that you are face-to-face, lower your mouth into the water and blow bubbles. Most babies find this to be a funny experience and often results in giggles. It is also an important skill which you child can learn at a very young age.

If you feel confident in the water with your baby, you could try pushing your baby under the water for a few seconds and pushing her forwards. Babies up to the age of six months have a strong natural gag reflux (laryngospasm) which causes the epiglottis to cover the larynx should the baby take any water into her mouth. This means that no water is able to enter the lungs as a water-tight seal is automatically created to allow the baby to be underwater for short periods of time.  However, do not feel that you have to participate in this action.

After your swimming session, you should hold your baby close to your chest and exit the pool carefully. Most swimming pools have warm showers for use after swimming, if your baby is comfortable under a shower with you, you may find it a good idea to clean off the water containing chlorine to avoid irritation. Wrap your baby in a towel as quickly as possible and continue to hold her close to you. Most parents prefer to dry, change and dress their baby before drying and dressing themselves but you may prefer to do the opposite as long as your baby is safe and warm. You should never leave your baby unattended on a changing table or raised surface such as a bench.

You may find it best, to not go alone on your first visit so that you can figure out exactly how the logistics of changing work best. However, if you need to go alone with your baby it is important to stay calm and relaxed and continue to talk to your baby to help reassure her.

The most important thing about taking your baby swimming is to keep it a fun experience for you both.

To find out more about swimming classes across Essex click here

by Jenny, mum to William and James

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