With summer upon us, Circle of Moms members are asking all kinds of questions about babies and swimming. When can you safely take your baby in a pool? What’s the best age to start swim lessons? (What is a baby swimming lesson like, anyway?) And how do you protect sensitive baby skin from sun and chemicals?
Here we’ve compiled Circle of Moms members' best answers to these four frequently-asked questions about safely introducing your baby to water — beyond the bath.
When Can You Bring Your Baby in the Pool?
One of the main concerns parents have about bringing a newborn into a swimming pool is the risk of contracting an infection or illness. As Liz W. advises: “Most pool staff and the doctors, etc. will tell you not to take your child swimming till they have had all their immunizations.”
Water temperature is also a concern, because infants don’t regulate their own temperature well. As Ebony S. shared: “We found that the pool needed to be a little warm as their bodies loose heat VERY quickly and it was too cold at first.”
The consensus: wait until your baby is 3-4 months old.
When Is the Best Time to Start Swimming Lessons?
“Now is the best time...the sooner they learn the better [the chance] they will be Olympians,” jokes Coleen K. But many moms agree with the first half of her statement — and swim instructors offer swimming lessons for babies as young as 4-6 months old. Some Circle of Moms members, such as Daniele B., even began at 3 months.
As Tawna M. shares: “The younger they are when they start, the easier it is to learn.” Why is that? One reason is that a younger child is likely to be less fearful of the water than a child who is first exposed at an older age. The feeling of floating may also still feel familiar on a instinctual level as well. After all, they did recently spend 9 months swimming in the womb!
What is a Baby Swimming Lesson Like?
In addition to getting your baby comfortable in the water, baby swimming lessons often introduce babies to floating and submerging, and teach parents best practices for water safety. Kelly B. relays: “They also educate the parents on water safety and drill in about not becoming complacent around pool and water safety just because the kids are having lessons.” And Lauren N. concurs: “They teach you and the baby to blow bubbles in the water, [to] hold your breath, and CPR, just in case.”
While some programs teach baby self-rescue skills like back-floating, the American Academy of Pediatrics contends that such methods have not been proven effective: “Generally, children are not developmentally ready for swimming lessons until after their fourth birthday. Aquatic programs for infants and toddlers have not been shown to decrease the risk of drowning.”
How Can You Protect a Baby’s Skin During and After Swimming?
The main skin dangers to worry about when bringing a baby in the pool are exposure to the sun and to chlorine.
“I would DEFINITELY worry about sun exposure," advises Cathralynn C. "Their skin is soooo delicate. They do make baby sunblock…I would also recommend a hat." Or look for "hats and swimwear that have built in UV blockers,” as Nicole A. suggests.
To protect your baby’s skin from chlorine, take Ashley G.’s advice: “Be sure to rinse the baby afterward to remove any chlorine.” Colleen W. also recommends following up with a baby moisturizer: “Chlorine can be drying for their skin, so you may need to put some lotion on him afterwards.”