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Babies and Swimming: Answers to 4 Common Questions

Babies and Swimming: Answers to 4 Common Questions

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.”

Join The Conversation
chedda chedda 4 years
We took our bub at 2.5.months... It gets him So tired and calm after ;-) This was our first time.
autumnj autumnj 6 years
My 8 month old loves to swim
SapnaPuri58011 SapnaPuri58011 6 years
Vani started when she was 7months old...and she loves it
MelissaCobbin MelissaCobbin 6 years
My daughter Alice started swimming lessons at 12 weeks old. Since she turned 2, she has had private one on one lessons weekly and loves it. She is almost 2.5 and although she can't swim on her own she is almost able to do the doggy paddle and aims for the edge of the pool. Swimming lessons are so important. She has sensitive skin and we have had no trouble. A shower after lessons and a long soapy bath at the end of the day!
VanessaBrooks32575 VanessaBrooks32575 6 years
My little man started at 4 months he's now 22 months and had his first big boy lesson yesterday with no mummy or daddy in the pool. Our swim centre teaches without floating aids too!! Which I think is the best way!!
NicoleNewpher NicoleNewpher 6 years
I have 2 kids. A 3 yr old little girl and a 1 ur old little boy. I am a strong believer that you children should NOT swim in a pool until age 1!!! The pool water can carry a tom of bacteria and I don't want my baby getting seriously sick. The risk of upper resiliency infections, ear infections, and eye infections are so much higher before the age of 1. That's my choice. My daughter has had 4 sets of swim lessons and ALWAYS wear a life jacket.
RachelKutach RachelKutach 6 years
Since we have a pool in our backyard, we put him in the pool immediately. I have a two yr old that does great i in the pool now and my 4 month old is doing as well as he can for his age. I wouldn't recommend a public pool until they have had immunizations though.
RebeccaDepke RebeccaDepke 6 years
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.” I completely disagree with the above statement and challenge anyone who spends time with their child around water to investigate ISR Program and just go to a class near you and watch. Children as young as 18 months are swimming very successfully. There is no substitute for parent supervision around the water, but it is better to be prepared then to assume it couldn't happen to your child.
TonileaWrigley TonileaWrigley 6 years
It is safe after their first injection after birth my 2 girls both started at 12 weeks old as they were both born in a birthing pool too the sooner they get back into water after birth the better I say as long as it was a healthy uneventful birth too :-)
RachelAdams6850 RachelAdams6850 6 years
i started swimming lessons with my twin girls at 4 months old and we are still going well ,
PamelaBlackie PamelaBlackie 6 years
Im a infant swimming instructor .. both my kids started at 3 months in the Uk I teach kids under 3 years old with their parents. At the start its hard to teach the baby but its all about getting them used to the water and removing that fear a bath and a pool are very different and its not until 2.5 that a baby can really truly understand that they are similar. its all about safety at this age and its important to teach your kids to hold ion to the wall and climb out themselves an this means pushing them a little but and encourage them.. all I aim fro as a teacher is to make sure the child can swim to the edge and hold on for dear life and climb out if possible ( depending on age and strength). we also work on face submersion, floating on their backs, kicking and bubbles so they have that understanding for the next stage of swimming. xxx I love teaching my babies to swim ( and they are all my baby's I have had some every week for 3 years )
DeenaFries DeenaFries 6 years
I am a little different on this subject as I taught swimming lessons for 15 years and coach swim team. I took all three of my children swimming when their belly buttons fell off. Really more like hanging out in a giant bath tub at that age :)
AlfredaWellsMorrissey AlfredaWellsMorrissey 6 years
I have the luxury of having my own pool, so I started both kids around 7 months. I was terrified of them escaping out into the backyard and falling into the pool. I would never let them in the backyard unsupervised because of the pool, but things can happen beyond my control. Initially I started sitting them on the side of the pool, saying humpty dumpty sat on a wall, humpty dumpty had a great fall and slowly lowering them into the pool. As they adjusted, I would move them lower and lower letting the water move up their face until I could put their face under the water. After I had them jumping and going fully under the water, I started swimming lessons. My oldest was 3 and my youngest was 18 months. The swimming lessons taught them nothing and they began to almost revert to not wanting their face under water. I took them out of swimming lessons on taught them myself. I put my 18 month old in a life jacket while I taught my 3 year old. I would just have her push off from the steps of our pool and gradually move farther and farther back. Then, when she could swim the length of the pool, at 3, I started with my 18 month old. My 18 month old would swim but still couldn't get her face out of the water. For some reason, she just likes being under water, and I didn't feel comfortable backing up past a certain point, because I was scared. By the end of that summer my 3 year old could swim doggy paddle laps of the pool and fetch a toy from the bottom of the deep end. My 18 month old could swim with her face in the water. This summer we started again. Now my 4 year old is learning to do the front crawl, and swims under water like a mermaid. My 2.5 year old can fetch a toy from the bottom of the shallow end and can awkwardly get her face out of the water for a breath. This allows her to swim the length of the pool, although I still have to be very close to her at all times because she still sometimes struggles to get her face up. I have had much older kids come over to my pool and be unable to get their face in the water. I think waiting past 5 is a great detriment because it is a lot harder for them to get over their fear at this point. They will learn, but it is a lot more difficult. I will probably try swimming lessons again at some point, but I am looking for a place that will not assume my kids can't swim due to their age. When reading the programs for kids, they specify they don't teach kids to swim unassisted until 5 years of age. It is frustrating because I want my daughters to be taught at their skill level and not by their age. Perhaps private lessons are the answer.
LoriLowe54603 LoriLowe54603 6 years
My daughter started swimming when she was 10 months old. Most swimming schools allow from 6 months. i say the earlier the better.
RebeccaBrothwell RebeccaBrothwell 6 years
I've just started my son having swimming lessons ( he's been twice one 1/2 hr lesson per week) and he's 18 months. I wouldn't exactly call it lessons as such it's more water awareness and a whole lot of fun! He thoroughly enjoys all the singing of rhymes and songs, loves splashing around and just generally being in the water with me. He isn't so crazy about submerging under water but he can do it without too much fuss. I figure he's only been twice so he will get more confident as time goes by. The pool is heated and it's indoor...feels like a lovely warm bath!
TherezaHahn TherezaHahn 6 years
We started with swimming lessons at 9mnths, my little one is 2 and a half now and she can swim doggy paddle for about 10meters and when she gets tired she turns on her back to float, she can also jump in turn around and swim to the side and get out. She also recently started diving right to the bottom of the pool and come back up again. Very glad we started so early!!
GeorgiaParsons GeorgiaParsons 6 years
As a retired swim instructor and a mother of a two year old I think that infant swim lessons are essentially a cash grab. Sorry but it is true. Sure the kids have fun (some of them, the rest are terrified) but they don't get much out of it other than mommy/daddy and me time. I taught a ton of infant and toddler swimming lessons over the years and it wasn't until children were 2/2.5/3 that children were actually understanding what they were doing and getting anything out of it other than a gigantic bath. Also, something to make note of is that most children I encountered during my 6+ years as an instructor that had to get tubes in their ears were children that started swimming lessons as infants and kept going regularly and ended up having to get tubes at 4/5. I say if you really want to take your children swimming do it yourself on your own schedule and do what you feel comfortable doing. Sure if you get the right instructor at the right swimming pool you will get more out of it like learning proper holds and water safety information but not all instructors and swimming pools have the same program. Having worked at oh god like 5/6 in the same city I saw a variety of different infant swim classes over the years. I was hesitant to put my son in a class for all the reasons mentioned but I eventually did when he was one and yeah it was a huge waste of money. Now that he is 2.5 I just take him to the pool myself and he is awesome in the water. Anyway, long rant (and I could go on) but just wanted to offer a different perspective.
RuthFarr RuthFarr 6 years
we started our daughter at 5.5 months and she has never looked back (shes 21 months now) we do our lessons through the local hospitals physio department the pool is the perfect temp due to what its used for its like getting in to a big bath and its like that all year round and you dont need to worry about sun exposure as its indoors
BarbaraMoloney BarbaraMoloney 6 years
I started my daughter with lessons at 6mths. She is now 2 1/2 and loves going to the pool every week. Very confident and can now kinda swim on her own with the help of a noodle.
JeannineRussell JeannineRussell 6 years
With ds1, I felt that he grew out of the bath tub at about 4 months (he'd grown to big for the baby bath tub before 3 months old). I started inquiring about mum's & bub's swimming classes at about 3.5 months old. Some pools wouldn't start him until he was 6 months old. I finally found one that allowed him to start at 4 months and I'm so glad I did. I never even had gave illness or infections a passing thought. Before 6 months babies have an automatic response to water where they will hold their breath, but at 6 months babies get a "fear" of being dunked and babies will pick up on your hesitancy on dunking them. If you can teach your child before this what to do with water, they'll continue at the 6 month mark. My son did go through a stage at 6 months of hating being dunked, but I think it had more to do with the asserting his opinion. He's now 3.7 and is so water confident that he can swim pretty much by himself (Yes I still have to supervise him) and he loooooooooves the water so much! I say the earlier the better!!!
BrookeDryden15470 BrookeDryden15470 6 years
We do Infant Aquatics, which is a nation wide program and is AMAZING. You can google it.
ShilohSanders ShilohSanders 6 years
My mother in law lives up the road from me and my son has been swimming with us all summer in her pool and loves it. I would love to take him to swim lessons but the closest place that does it is 80 miles away. Is there anywhere online that I can lookup to teach hike some things?
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