The weather is heating up and you’re dreaming of lounging by the pool — but how can you safely involve your baby in a bit of poolside fun? Getting your baby used to water from an early age is essential from a safety standpoint and it also provides a host of benefits for your little one. “Swimming is probably the best activity you can do with baby,” says Barbara Walsh, a swim instructor and owner of baby swim school Duck and Dive.
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Here are some tips for taking your baby swimming:
Tips for Keeping Your Baby Safe in the Water
1. Wait until your baby is 3 months old
According to Rita Goldberg, the founder of British Swim School, an international swim school franchise, the best time to get your little one in the water is any time after she reaches 3 months old. By that point, her immune system is built up enough that she isn’t at an increased risk for infection from any bacteria she could pick up in the water.
2. Start out slow
Start off with quick 10-minute sessions and work up to 20 or 30 minutes. Swim with your baby once a week or more if possible. “Babies that are introduced early to water and attend regularly (even in winter) are pretty much guaranteed to ace it in the pool,” says Walsh.
3. Make sure the pool is warm enough
Aim to swim in water that’s around 89 degrees Fahrenheit. Your baby will have a much more comfortable experience rather than being plunged into cold water that can be a shock to his delicate system.
4. Put your baby in a swim diaper
Have your baby wear a disposable swimming diaper with a neoprene cover, so any accidents stay in place — not in the pool.
5. Always hold your baby close
Whenever you’re in the water, hold your baby close to you and maintain eye contact. “There is no substitute to close supervision,” says Goldberg. Never let your baby out of your sight — or reach — whenever he’s near water.
Benefits of Swimming With Your Baby
1. Teaches life-preserving skills
“For years, people felt that water was only for play time for babies and toddlers, but our organization pioneered the idea that you can turn it into a survival skill if you start early,” says Goldberg. With the assistance of a professional instructor, your little one can learn valuable life-saving skills, such as being able to roll onto her back and attracting attention from those on shore.
2. Improves motor skills
Swimming has been shown to help develop balance and coordination. “Being in a three-dimensional environment allows babies to execute a whole range of movements not possible on dry land,” says Walsh. Water also provides slight resistance that helps tone and strengthen your baby’s muscles.
3. Boosts mental development
Taking your baby swimming also helps develop early learning skills. According to Walsh, “Getting kids in the water from an early age accelerates intellectual and emotional development.” It also boosts kids’ self-confidence and sense of accomplishment.
4. Strengthen your bond
Spending time enjoying the water with your baby helps you bond with your little one and creates valuable memories for both of you. It’s also a great way to meet new mom and baby friends.
5. Increase baby’s confidence around water
Swimming from a young age will increase your little one’s confidence and awareness around water for the rest of her life.
6. Types of swim classes
Baby swim classes are usually made up of a small group of parents and babies. Some facilities also offer one-on-one training. Most baby swim teachers make their sessions relaxed and fun. In fact, according to Goldberg, “When the classes are more fun, the results are so improved.” Often, these classes include activities with songs and nursery rhymes. Other classes offer a more structured approach with skills being built upon each week.
Prices can vary greatly depending on location, type of program and the experience of the teaching staff. Do your research and ask plenty of questions to ensure you choose a school that’s right for you and your baby.
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