Swimming is a great activity to do with your baby. Babies naturally love being in water, it encourages skin to skin and you’re guaranteed a nap at the end of the lesson. Despite the many benefits of taking a baby swimming, many parents still put it off though because of the effort, worry and dreaded changing room meltdowns. Fear not, we have the answers to your questions regarding taking your baby swimming for the first time as well as some top tips to make the process as fun and effortless as possible.
What are the long term benefits of taking a baby swimming?
The long term benefits of taking your baby swimming are actually staggering. Being in the water will engage your baby’s body so when they kick and splash around: they’re creating billions of new neurons throughout the brain. Specifically the cross-lateral movements in the water (alternating actions on either side of the body) help specifically with reading skills, language development and spatial awareness as your child grows.
Griffith University in Australia suggest babies who swim are at an increased advantage than those who do not. Studies have also shown that swimming appears to improve confidence; one reason for this is because learning a new skill is thought to boost your baby’s self esteem therefore making them more confident. Swimming will improve your baby’s muscle strength and has internal benefits by getting their joints moving. Additionally, it’s a wonderful exercise for cardiovascular health and will help to strengthen their heart, lungs, brain and blood vessels.
What are the short term benefits of taking your baby swimming?
One of the best benefits is the quality time it gives you and your baby. being in the water with your baby will really promote that one-on-one bonding between you without other distractions. Being in the water takes up lots of energy for babies: it’s a whole new environment to take in, they’re working hard to stay warm and they’re using their body in a totally new way. Therefore, your little one is likely to sleep better after their swim which of course is a wonderful benefit to you too!
As well as improving sleeping patterns, swimming will also improve your little ones appetite. So you may notice your baby feeds for much longer after their time in the swimming pool and if you’re weaning they may be more keen to try new food.
Swimming.org is one fantastic resource which goes into greater detail about the incredible benefits of swimming.
When can babies go swimming for the first time?
Contrary to some myths, your baby can be taken swimming immediately after giving birth. There’s a misconception amongst some that you must wait until your baby has been vaccinated, but the NHS advises that babies can be taken swimming at any age. To avoid infection, it’s advised that mum should wait until around 6 weeks after the birth before going in the pool: but your baby can go in much sooner with your partner or relative if you wish.
Babies are actually born with the remarkable ability to control their breathing in water and they have a reflex reaction that moves their limbs in a swimming motion. This natural ability disappears around 6 months. Babies love water – being in warm water will be a familiar experience to them after 9 months in the womb so you are likely to find the experience settles your baby. If you’ve had a caesarian birth it is advised to allow someone else to swim with your baby until your GP has advised it is safe to swim.
What should babies wear in the pool?
Swim nappies are essential when taking your little one to the pool. A standard nappy is designed to absorb water- so if your baby wears it in the pool it will become waterlogged and uncomfortable. Whereas a swim nappy is designed to provide protection against leaks in the water but don’t swell. On top of the swim nappy, a swimsuit, trunks or wetsuit is recommended. Inflatable arm bands are not recommended.
- Special absorbent material that doesn't swell or fall apart in water, so it won't weigh baby down
Also read: Don’t forget to read other related articles such as best oils for babies, best nappy bins for your nursery, monitors to keep an eye on your baby and bottles to feed your little one, and bath time safety for babies.
What do I need to take my baby swimming?
So, as well as your baby’s swim nappies and swimsuit or trunks you will need towels (hooded ideally or even their towelling dressing gown), your own changing mat and nappy bag, their hat to pop on after the swim as you head outside, a warm bottle if bottle feeding and snacks if your baby has started solids.
You may want to take toys to distract your baby while you are getting changed. It makes sense to take the car seat in to the changing room with you to sit your baby in safely once they are changed while you get ready. If you wish to shower your son or daughter then take your baby’s usual toiletries for this.
For yourself remember your towel, swimming costume or trunks and dress in clothes which are easy to take off and put back on afterwards. Taking all of your items in your rucksack can be helpful for entering and leaving the changing rooms as it will free up your arms.
Is it worth paying out for proper baby swimming lessons?
The benefits of signing up for an official swim class designed for babies is that the lessons will keep your baby entertained and engaged in the water, you’ll feel safer knowing that the pool temperature is ideal and that there’s an expert guiding you through and it can make what would otherwise be a daunting activity for you, a lot of fun.
The downside is generally the cost: swimming classes will be amongst the most expensive of the baby groups you go to. It’s definitely worth talking to other mums and even asking for a free trial to see how you feel and how your baby responds to the experience.
How to plan a successful swim trip?
Organisation is key when it comes to a successful swimming experience for you and your baby.
- Pack your bag in advance and tick the items off your list and you’ll feel far more confident on the day.
- Dress yourself and your baby in items that are easy to get on and off – such as baggy sweatpants or a maxi dress for yourself and an all in one for your little one.
- Ring ahead and check the facilities- take a foldable changing mat to lay your baby on.
- Think through the changing room procedure before you get there; decide who’s getting changed first and have all the items laid out before you start undressing.
- If you can, take another adult with you to either change the baby or hold them while you get yourself ready.
Who provides parent and child swimming classes?
Here is a list of recognised organisations which offer parent and baby swimming classes. We can not guarantee their availability in your area and we are not affiliated with them in any way but it is worth searching through to see if any are local to you.
If you run baby swimming classes and would like to get mentioned here please send us a message and let us know.
Taking your baby swimming can be a wonderful way to develop your bond and is excellent for their physical and mental development. With preparation and practice, it’ll be an experience you both enjoy and benefit from. Research local classes and pools and consider signing up for a term of structured swim classes or pop along to your local pool for a more relaxed water experience. We hope you have found these tips useful and you and your baby create lots of happy memories in the pool.
Baby Swimming FAQs
Can newborns breathe under water?
No. It is a myth that babies are born with the ability to swim. Although it is true that a baby is born with collapsed lungs which don’t take any water in, as soon as they come up from water (either in the womb or with a water birth) they will gasp for air and from then on can drown.
Are babies born with the ability to swim?
No – babies are not born with the ability to swim or much else or that matter. As far as swimming’s concerned, your baby neither posses the buoyancy or the strength to do so and will not be able to swim unaided until at least 4 years old.
Is a chlorine pool safe for babies?
Some doctors do recommend avoiding chlorinated pools until your baby is around 6 months old due to their delicate immune systems. It is worth looking online to see if there are pools nearby with reduced chlorine levels. These will likely be a little warmer too and smaller pools which is ideal if your baby is younger than 6 months old.
The most obvious reaction to chlorine in babies can be a skin irritation in the form of dryness, red or itchy skin. If you are taking your baby to a pool that contains chlorine you may wish to add a thin layer of moisturiser or vaseline to your child’s skin first. Immediately after swimming, rinse your baby’s skin with warm water before applying their moisturiser.
Is it safe to dunk a baby under water?
It is safe to dunk a baby under water but it is not a nice experience for them without getting them prepared for it. If you dunk baby’s into water not in the proper way they can grow to dislike swimming and may even fear it which can seriously put them back with their ability to swim as a child. A baby who is not expecting to be dunked is likely to take in more water which can lead to secondary drowning and water intoxication in extreme cases.
We highly recommend to never dunk your baby at any point and instead join a structured class so that you and your baby can learn how to safely submerge.
Can babies get sick from swimming pools?
Sadly, yes. Swimming pools can still carry germs despite the chlorine which can lead to gastrointestinal, ear and chest infections. Ingesting too much water can also lead to your baby vomiting and being unsettled so there’s also that.