You can try baby swimming lessons really early, as long as the umbilical cord stump (and any circumcision) is completely healed and your child is above certain weight limits (usually around 9 lbs (4 kg)).
But be a bit more patient. It is far more likely that your baby and you will have a great time together swimming if your baby is a little bit older. I’ve seen so many 3-month-old babies crying and so many 6-month-old babies screaming out of joy in the swimming pool.
If you want to give baby swimming lessons a try, check our tips to make it a successful activity.
Successful (i.e. FUN) Baby Swimming
- Don’t start too early
- Go to a small place
- Ask about the water temperature
- Check the air temperature
- Choosing the time of the day
- Bring something to eat and drink
- Choice of swim diaper
- Baby oil to prevent dry skin
- Bring a camera
- Don’t shower your baby before bathing
- Don’t push it!
- Books on teaching baby to swim
Don’t start too early
This needs to be repeated. You are in no hurry!
You might have heard that the diving reflex disappears already at around 6 month. Most recent studies show, however, that this is wrong. The reflex remains well after 6 month, up until the baby is 1 year old.
The diving reflex is an inborn diving reflex that helps babies to hold their breath when diving. However, after some 10 dives or so, your baby will have learned to hold his breath by himself instead of relying on the diving reflex.
I’ve started baby swimming with my kids when they were around 6 months old, and the reflex certainly was still there. So start when you are ready and remember – chances are much higher that your infant will enjoy the baby swimming if he is at least 4 months old.
How do I know? I know from experience and from talking to other mothers.
Go to a small place
For young babies, a large swimming pool can be quite frightening. Go to a small place! There will be fewer kids and less noise. Much nicer for a young child.
Ask about the water temperature
The temperature needs to be much higher than usual for baby swimming. Babies get cold really quickly. The recommended water temperature is at least 90 F (32 C) but preferably 93-95 F (34-35 C) degrees.
Check the air temperature
If the air by the pool or in the changing room is cool or draughty, choose another place. You will have a very cold and sad baby and stressed mom or dad in no time. Not nice at all!
Choosing the time of the day
If possible, try picking a time of the day when your baby is usually awake. If your baby has no routines yet, pick a time that is convenient for yourself and your spouse if you plan to go together.
If you have no preferences, go baby swimming in the afternoon or early evening. If you are lucky, your baby will be so exhausted afterwards that he or she will sleep for a long time, maybe even for the night. I’ve seen parents bring the pajama for their babies after an early evening baby swim class.
Time for dinner and no children awake afterwards..? Not so bad, maybe 🙂
Bring something to eat and drink
Baby swimming makes you and your baby thirsty and maybe hungry. Bring water and a fruit for both of you (or formula) unless you breastfeed.
Choice of swim diaper
Your baby will need a swim diaper to prevent accidents in the pool. They don’t stop urine, but poop.
Without going into details, these swim diapers work. I know from experience…!
Baby oil to prevent dry skin
The chlorine in the water can really make both your and your baby’s skin very dry. To prevent this, smear baby oil on your baby’s body before bathing.
Putting on the oil before the baby swim lessons and not after is important. This way the oil will protect the delicate skin from the chlorine. After the swimming it is already too late.
Remember – oily babies are slippery! Be careful!
Bring a camera
From time to time, bring a friend (or your spouse) and bring a camera. Either buy one that you can use under water or at least take some picture above the surface. It’s a wonderful memory.
Many infant swim classes also offer to take pictures of your baby. Even if it might seem extremely expensive, buy a picture from time to time. It really is something extra to have an underwater picture of your baby.(The picture at the top of this post is of my daughter during a swim class.)
Don’t shower your baby before bathing
Babies get cold very quickly. Even if you have to shower before hopping into the pool, don’t bring your baby into the shower.
If no mattresses are available, put him or her on the floor on a folded towel while you take a shower. Or have someone else hold him or her.
Don’t push it!
Many babies love organised swimming for babies. Some hate it. If your baby doesn’t like swimming after a few tries, give it up. At least for now. Maybe your baby is too young, the room too noisy or he or she is just not into baby swimming.
Books on teaching baby to swim
If you want to try swimming with your baby and there are no classes close to where you live, or if you simply want to learn more, here are some good book and DVDs to check out:
- Learn to Swim: Step-by-Step Water Confidence and Safety Skills for Babies and Young Children
- Learn How to Swim – Swimming Lessons for Babies and Toddlers (DVD)
- How to Teach Your Baby to Swim: From Birth to Age Six
If you have experience of baby swim classes or if there is something you wonder, please leave a comment below!