If you’re a swimmer yourself, chances are you want your baby to learn to love the water as much as you do. Although your child won’t be ready to start learning formal swim strokes for several years, even a newborn can get accustomed to being in the water. (But do check with your paediatrician before you begin.)
You can help get things off to a good start by making a gradual, low-key introduction to the water.
– Start in the bathtub. Don’t make bath time strictly business. Provide fun bath toys and get your baby used to playing in the water, splashing around and getting wet all over. You can even join your baby in the bathtub and play together.
– Be prepared when you head to the pool. Minimize stress by taking water toys, swim nappies, a towel (with a hood) or terry-cloth robe, snacks or a warm bottle, and moisturizer to apply after rinsing off.
– Make sure the water is warm enough. Babies can’t regulate their body temperature as well as adults, so the water should be about 32°C. If your pool doesn’t have a special baby and toddler pool and the water is cooler, you’ll need to get out and warm up every 10 minutes or so, or if you see that your baby is shivering or has bluish lips, fingers or toes.
– Keep things relaxed and fun. Hold your baby close as you get into the water, maintaining eye contact. Then begin moving your baby gently through the water so he or she can get used to the feel of the new environment. Sing songs, play with floating toys and blow bubbles under water to keep your baby stimulated. If you’d like a bit more structure and guidance, you can sign up for a mums-and-babies swimming class.
– Follow your baby’s cues. Although most babies have a natural affinity for water, every child is different and you’ll need to follow your baby’s lead if he or she is more hesitant. Babies shouldn’t be forced to do anything they’re not ready for, so be prepared to take a break and try again later if your baby starts to cry. Insisting too much can create a negative association that may make it harder for your child to learn to love the water.
Spending time in the water with your baby can be a good bonding experience, and the sooner you start playing in the pool, the more comfortable and confident your child will be when it’s time to take proper swim lessons.
Do you have any other tips for introducing babies to swimming?