Teaching your child to swim will help keep them safe and can be lots of fun. Even young babies can go in a pool, but make sure you follow these tips to look after them when you take them swimming.
When can my baby start to swim?
Newborn babies can’t swim — they have to learn, just like they learn to walk. But most babies enjoy being in water and their reflexes mean they will be able to do primitive swimming strokes.
Babies can go into water from birth. However, they can’t regulate their temperature like adults, so it’s very important to make sure they don’t get too cold. Babies can also pick up an infection from water.
Therefore, it’s generally best to wait until your baby is around 2 months old before you take them swimming. You don’t have to wait until your baby is immunised to take them swimming.
If your baby is younger than 6 months, make sure the pool is heated to about 32° C. A large public pool would be too cold for a baby under 6 months.
New mothers should not go swimming until at least 6 weeks after the birth, or when they have stopped bleeding.
There are lots of risks for babies and young children around water. Babies can drown in just 5cm of water. To keep them safe, never, ever leave young children unattended near water. It is a good idea to learn resuscitation for babies before you take them swimming. You can learn this by doing a first aid course.
If you have a pool or spa, it is important to make sure it is fenced according to the Australian Standard.
It is also important to be careful when using flotation devices such as rubber rings – they can tip over and make the baby’s head go underwater.
Babies can get ill from bacteria or viruses in water that hasn't been treated properly. Try not to let them swallow any water. Use swim nappies, and don't take them swimming if they have diarrhoea.
If you are swimming outside, make sure your baby is protected from the sun with clothing that blocks out ultraviolet light.
Where can my baby swim?
It’s best to get your baby used to the water at home in the bath. You don’t have to put them under the water – just let them get to enjoy floating (while you hold them) and the feel of the water on their skin.
From about 2 months you can take them into a heated pool, but don’t keep them in the water for more than 10 minutes at first. If they start to shiver, take them out and wrap them in a towel. Babies under 12 months shouldn’t stay in a pool for more than 30 minutes.
It’s OK to take your baby into a river, lake or the ocean from 2 months, but it’s very important to make sure they don’t get cold. Choose a spot where the water is warm and clean. Watch out for currents that prevent you from holding them properly. And don’t let your baby drink the water.
Young children should not go into hot spas. Spas are only suitable for children over 16.
About swimming lessons
Baby swim classes are designed to get your baby used to the water, help them learn swimming strokes, and teach them safety and how to survive in the water. Baby swimming lessons generally start at around 6 months.
Usually lessons involve a small group of parents and babies who learn through fun activities and play.
You can find swimming classes in your area by asking at your local pool or visiting the AUSTSWIM website.
Swimming clothes for babies
Before you take your baby swimming, you will need a swim nappy, which has snug-fitting legs and waistbands to contain your baby’s poo. Swim nappies are not designed to contain urine.
A swim nappy is necessary to ensure your baby’s poo does not enter the pool. If poo gets into the swimming pool, it will need to be closed down immediately and cleaned. Public swimming pools often require babies to wear a swim nappy.
There are 2 main types of swim nappies:
Disposable swim nappies. These are like normal disposable nappies but they won’t swell up in the water.
Reusable swim nappies. These are made from stretchy bathing suit material, which allows water to escape, but will contain any solids. Some have a water-proof layer inside the nappy – like plastic pants. Others have an inner mesh layer.
You will also need:
a snack or bottle for afterwards
Kidsafe Queensland – When is the right time to take my baby swimming?
AUSTSWIM – (Parents - FAQs)
Babycenter Australia (Swimming with your baby), Babycenter Australia (When can my baby go in oceans, lakes, or rivers?), Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (Be water safe), Australian Swim Schools Association (Information for parents), Raising Children Network (Swimming pool hygiene), AUSTSWIM (Parents - FAQs), Kidsafe Queensland (When is the right time to take my baby to swimming lessons?), Babycenter Australia (Buying a swim nappy)
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: December 2020
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Resuscitation for babies and children
Sun protection for babies and kids
Water safety for babies
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Baby swimming lessons: When babies can swim
Many parents look forward to taking their children in the water and teaching them how to swim – it's a great way to bond and have fun together, and many babies love the water.
It's important for kids to learn how to swim – and learn about basic water safety – early in life to help prevent drowning. Babies can start learning to swim around age 1, though they won't master swimming skills until they're at least 4 years old.
Can babies swim?
You may have heard a popular myth that babies are born with the ability to swim. This isn't true, though newborns have reflexes that can make it look like they're swimming.
A reflex called the bradycardic response (also called the diving reflex) makes babies hold their breath and open their eyes when submerged in water. (You can cause this same reaction by blowing in your baby's face.) This reflex starts to go away after six months, but may last for up to a year.
Many baby swim classes rely on these reflexes to help babies "swim," but babies aren't old enough to hold their breath intentionally or strong enough to keep their head above water. They won't be developmentally ready to learn how to swim until they're older.
Even though your baby can't swim yet, you can bring them into the water with you once they're about 6 months old. Some babies really enjoy getting in the water, so feel free to make playing in the pool or splashing in a lake or river a family affair. Just make sure to put your baby in a well-fitting infant life jacket anytime they're near water or on a boat.
When to sign up for baby swimming lessons
When your baby is 6 months old, you can join a parent-child swimming class. You'll be in the water with your baby during these classes. Swimming classes can help babies become comfortable in the water, and can be fun for you both. Babies are too young at this point to learn to swim, however.
Once your child is a year old, early swim lessons can help them gain confidence in the water, teach them water safety basics, and prepare them for independent swim lessons when they're older. Experts say taking your toddler to swim classes at this age can help reduce the risk of drowning.
By the time your child is 3 or 4 years old, they're likely ready for independent swim lessons. They'll learn basic skills like floating, treading water, and figuring out how to get out of the water. Kids can learn more advanced skills, like various swim strokes, when they're 5 or 6.
The most important thing is that your child is comfortable and having fun during swim lessons. If you take them and they're consistently scared of the water or uncomfortable in a class setting, take a break and wait until your child's more comfortable in the water before going to formal lessons. (Instead, get a small kiddie pool to play in at home, or spend some time together at a pool.)
If you're not sure whether your child is ready for swim lessons but you want to start, your pediatrician can help you decide what's best – and help you find a good swim program.
Here are some things to look for in a good swim class:
Experienced, qualified instructors and on-duty lifeguards with CPR and first-aid training.
Lessons on safety around water as well as while swimming.
Lessons on emergency water safety – what to do and how to get help if you or someone else falls into water unexpectedly.
Multiple sessions so your child can build on the skills they're learning.
For baby and toddler classes, look for touch supervision, where an adult is within arm's reach of a child at all times.
If you want to sign your child up for swim lessons but can't afford it, your city government may have a scholarship program to help cover swimming lessons at your local public pool. You can also talk to individual swim programs about payment plans or scholarships.
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Baby swimming - articles from the specialists of the clinic "Mother and Child"
Arefieva Natalya Yurievna
Dentist, Dentist-therapist for children, Dentist-therapist for adults
Lapino-1 Clinical Hospital "Mother and Child"
Immediately after birth, the child from the aquatic environment enters the air, where he begins to breathe on his own . But for some time after the birth, the child retains the breath-holding reflex, and sometimes he can even swim and breathe properly at the same time. Many methods of infant swimming are based on this, especially the technique called diving, when diving and breathing under water are fixed. Therefore, supporters of infant swimming believe that in the first months of a child's life, the swimming reflex and the ability to hold the breath must be developed and consolidated, otherwise they will simply be forgotten and in the future the baby will have to be taught everything again.
And of course, being in the water hardens the baby, trains his cardiovascular system, develops the musculoskeletal system, in general, strengthens the child's health in every possible way.
Opponents of infant swimming, especially diving. have their own, and very weighty, arguments.
The ability to stay afloat and hold your breath are protective reflexes, they are saved only at first for use in critical situations, which adults recreate in the pool. In other words, this is an artificial simulation of a critical situation, which is accompanied by stress for the baby.
From the point of view of physiology, if the reflex of holding the breath in water should die out, then it must be allowed to do so - after all, this was conceived by nature for a reason.
It is not necessary for a child to swim for physical development. This can be too stressful for a baby who does not even know how to crawl yet.
Baby swimming (especially in public pools and baths) can lead to inflammatory diseases of the ear, nasopharynx, respiratory tract, and in some people even weaken the immune system. And swallowing water can cause indigestion.
what to choose
Bathing and swimming itself is not harmful, but rather useful. It is harmful to carry out this procedure incorrectly, not to take into account the developmental characteristics of the child and use the wrong methods. Pediatricians, neurologists and neurophysiologists believe that, for example, the so-called diving (when a child’s head is immersed under water so that he learns to dive) leads to brain hypoxia (albeit short-term), and it is not known how this will affect the condition of the baby. In addition, the stress that occurs at this moment is also likely to affect the child negatively. Both hypoxia, and stress, and simply extra loads often lead to some kind of developmental disorders. One child will start to get sick more often (and not necessarily with colds), the other will become more excited than necessary, or in the future it will be worse to concentrate.
Therefore, it is possible for a baby to swim, you just need to take into account several factors.
find a swimming pool and instructor
Being a swimming instructor is very important. As such, there is no specialty “baby swimming coach”: most likely, the instructor will take some short-term courses. The main thing here is his experience and your trust in him. Before the start of the lesson, talk to the instructor, or even better, go and see how he conducts the classes, how he relates to the desire or unwillingness of the child to do some kind of action, how comfortable the baby is with the instructor. First, the child must get used to the instructor, and only then should classes begin. No sudden movements, haste and discomfort. Both parents, and the kid, and the instructor should be on the same wavelength.
As long as the child is small, you can swim at home, in your own bath; when the baby grows up, look for a clean and warm children's pool with a good water purification system, with pleasant conditions and a benevolent environment.
listen to the child
It is impossible to find out from the baby himself how much he likes what is done to him while swimming. There are children who smile and laugh while in the water; there are those who scream and cry even during a simple bath, especially when swimming (and certainly when diving). And it happens that the baby, as it were, freezes emotionally during swimming - here it is generally difficult to guess about his reaction. Therefore, starting water procedures, listen and look closely at the child. And accept his wish. Start with a regular bath in a bath, then gradually move into an adult bath. And you can immediately dive into a large bath with the child, holding him in his arms or at his chest - this way he will be even calmer (though, for this, you will first need helpers). If swimming brings positive emotions to the baby, you are on the right track. If the child is naughty and nervous, the more clearly he demonstrates his unwillingness to swim, give up this idea and postpone swimming until better times.
You can train with the baby on your own, just do the following exercises:
steps in the water - an adult holds the child upright, helping him to push off from the bottom of the tub;
wiring on the back - the baby lies on his back, the adult supports the head of the crumbs and leads the child along the bath;
wiring on the tummy - all the same, only the child lies on the stomach;
exercise with a toy - you need to lead the child after the toy, gradually accelerating and explaining: our toy is swimming away, let's catch up with it.
When swimming, don't aim for anything spectacular, as long as your little one's health, safety and enjoyment are paramount.
There is no unequivocal opinion whether a baby should swim or not, because the experience of each family is individual. There are children who, even before the age of one, easily and joyfully master the aquatic environment, and there are those who do not like water for a long time and agree to classes only at a conscious age. Therefore, focus only on the desire of your child.
Be sure to show your child to a pediatrician and a neurologist before starting lessons to rule out possible contraindications for infant swimming
Quite often, children who have been engaged in infant swimming, at a more conscious age, have to be taught swimming again, according to standard methods
Often diving is perceived by the child as a potential danger
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Swim before you walk: all about infant swimming
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Home All events
October 03, 2017
Blog for parents Swimming pool
Why is it important to practice baby swimming? What are the benefits of classes and what are the pitfalls? We analyze all the nuances and aspects of this exciting process together with Olga Filina, the swimming coach of the Magis Children club.
MAIN QUESTION: WHY IS IT NEEDED?
The benefits of baby swimming leave no doubt. Swimming baby develops all major systems of the body: cardiovascular, respiratory, muscular, nervous. Swimming stimulates blood circulation and strengthens the child's immunity. Children who are accustomed to water from an early age are distinguished by stronger immunity and physical endurance.
Learning to swim at an early age is an excellent prevention of scoliosis, postural disorders, and muscular dystonia. In addition, swimming gives the child pleasure and joy, and also affects the development of personal qualities: discipline, self-control, courage, determination, independence. Children who swim from birth are more sociable. Psychologists have established that children, diving and swimming at a depth, overcoming the water column, develop in themselves such personality traits as purposefulness, determination and courage.
CHANGING THE STEREOTYPE: SWIMMING DOESN'T MEAN SICKING MORE
Children who go in for swimming at an early age harden their bodies. The water temperature in the baby pool is 36 degrees. Gradually, the children move into the pool with a temperature of 32 degrees. How exactly does this happen? Of course, smoothly and gradually. We advise parents to combine pool activities with swimming at home. When the baby has been swimming in the pool for up to three months, studying at home, the parents gradually make the temperature lower, gradually lowering it from 36 to 32 degrees. This process lasts about 2 weeks, then the children move to a small pool with a lower temperature, and a hardening effect occurs. It is important to follow all hygiene rules after being in the pool: wipe the whole body dry, especially the ears, warmly dress the child, do not walk in the wind and do not get caught in drafts. Then the child will in no case get sick after classes in the pool.
AGAIN ABOUT IMMUNITY
There are several stages of development and strengthening of children's immunity. The first stage is from 0 to 1 month, the second stage is from 2 to 3 years, and the third stage is at the age of 6-7 years. This is the time when children in principle start to get sick, regardless of whether they go to the pool or not. And swimming is exactly the tool that will allow the child to get sick much less often due to hardening and general strengthening of the body.
WHEN AND HOW TO START?
Baby swimming can be practiced at home approximately 7 days after birth. In the pool, a child can start exercising when his umbilical wound has completely healed: depending on the characteristics of the body, this happens after 3 weeks - 1.5 months.
The most comfortable age to start classes is 1.5 - 3 months, when the child has not yet lost the unconditioned swimming reflex. From 3 to 6 months, this reflex fades.
WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU TO LESSON?
For swimming in the pool, you need to take a special swim diaper, a diaper for changing clothes on the changing table, a towel. When the baby's hair begins to grow, you need to take a bathing cap to class. In groups of advanced infant swimming, children who have been practicing in the pool from the first months wear swimming goggles from the age of 4 months.
WHAT CAN YOU LEARN?
The main task of infant swimming, in addition to health improvement, is the acquisition by the child of the skill of independent swimming. It can be easily mastered up to 1 year if you start practicing from birth. By 4-5 months, the child can begin to swim independently and without support.
HOW DOES A CLASS WORK?
Like any other activity, it is built from a warm-up, the main part and a cool-down. At the warm-up, we do special rocking exercises and prepare the child's body for the main part of the lesson. The structure of the main part of the classes includes a set of exercises for all muscle groups, swimming on the stomach, on the back and diving (diving). In the final part of the lesson, we do relaxing exercises, hydromassage, massage with special balls.
CHOOSE THE CORRECT POOL
First, be guided by the territorial features: a big plus is the pool's walking distance.
The second important point is the choice of a coach. Before choosing someone, study it - according to reviews on websites and social networks (many trainers maintain their own blogs and pages), according to the recommendations of parents with experience, according to information about the achievements of the trainer presented on the swimming pool sites. It is important to study the trainer before training with the baby so that you do not have to change the teacher if you do not like his teaching method. Beforehand, be sure to meet with the coach and talk with him about what his methodology is, how many years he has been practicing teaching infant swimming, what are the principles of his life. Align your training goals with the goals that the trainer sets in his classes.
The third point is the technical conditions in the pool, hygiene and water purification system. The safest water purification systems do not use chlorine, which is not found in every pool.
IMPORTANT! WATER PURIFICATION SYSTEM
When you enroll your child in the pool, find out which water treatment system is used in it. As we have already mentioned, the safest water purification system is without chlorine, which, for example, is used in Magis Children pools. Water is disinfected around the clock with an ultraviolet lamp, quartz lamps, and is processed with a sand filter. In addition, the Italian HTH water quality control system is installed in our pools: every two minutes a sample of water from the pool is taken and its quality is determined. The system automatically adjusts the quality level: thanks to a perfect filtration system, the water is completely renewed once every 30 minutes. Every day, 30% of the water in the pool is drained and the water is manually cleaned by technical staff: special reagents are added and water is added to the desired level. Water is taken daily for chlorine content: it is always 0.
HOW LONG IS THE CLASS AND HOW OFTEN SHOULD I ATTEND THEM?
Toddler session lasts 30 minutes. To achieve your goals, you need a system and regularity of visits: 2-3 times a week. If the training is prescribed by the doctor as the minimum course that you need to complete for recovery, we also recommend that you complete a full course with a frequency of visits 2-3 times a week.
ACTIVITY GROUPS WITH MOTHER: WHAT ARE THEY FOR?
The main focus of the baby's activities with his mother is to support tactile contact. Often mum's group sessions are seen as helping with the transition from swimming at home to swimming in the pool. With mom, you can get the initial swimming skill, a lot of useful emotions, and start getting used to the water. The first crisis, which happens when a child is teething, is much easier if the child is engaged with his mother. Since mom is not a professional swim teacher, naturally, the best results can only be achieved with a personal trainer.