Swimming with infants: 8 Things You Need to Know
Swimming with infants can be a fun experience for you and baby
When you have a newborn baby, and summer is approaching, you begin to contemplate swim lessons. We all have seen the videos circulating on the internet of an infant falling into a pool, only to turn on their backs and start floating. Those videos make some people anxious or uncomfortable, while they make others feel empowered. “YEAH! I’m going to do that to my baby,” or “NO! That’s child endangerment!” I naturally felt uncomfortable seeing such a small child fall into a pool, swallowing what seems like too much chlorine water. However, I sat and thought about why this was necessary. Swimming with infants is a life lesson that all of us parents, new or old, need to know.
Our First Swimming Experience
Last week, we took Jaxon swimming for the first time. At only 8 months, we felt like it was time to introduce baby Jax to the swimming pool. Before he was born, I had every intention on beginning swim lessons, also known as infant survival swimming lessons, when he was old enough. Starting anywhere from 6-8 months, parents are able to enroll their infants in infant survival swimming lessons. No, the babies will not actually be learning how to swim. Instead, they will be learning how to float in case they fall into a pool. Not only will they simply learn how to float, but they will also become acclimated with being in the water, learn basic breath holding techniques, and learn how to have fun in the water.
Living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it is imperative that we get Jaxon accustomed to being in the water, which means he has to actually LIKE the water. The experience was fun for Daddy and Baby, but Mommy? Not so much. Jaxon wanted to splash around and dip his face in the water. I spent the entire time gasping for air. My heart dropped every time it looked like Jaxon’s face was too close to the water, Y’all! However, I did not WANT to be that way. I wanted to enjoy the experience just as much as Jaxon and Marquis did. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking about the possibility of dry drowning, or him getting an ear infection from water getting in his ears. Dry drowning is a rare occurrence, however, causing only 1 to 2 percent of drowning incidents. It is natural for me to feel that way because I am a first-time mom. But, I do not want other parents to miss out on enjoying the experience. To avoid that, here are 8 things you need to know about safely swimming with infants.
Start in the bathtub
As a newborn, Jaxon HATED taking baths. No matter what the temperature of the water was, Jaxon was not feeling it. He screamed his cute, curly head off. The best way to combat that issue, was for Marquis to take a bath with him. Eventually, Jaxon began to like the water, and now he will take a bath on his own. Before your baby is old enough to begin swimming lessons, allow them to become familiar with the water by making bath time fun. It will also make your baby feel secure while they are in the water. Try filling a cup with water and pouring it over your baby’s head, allowing it to flow over their face. This will get them used to the feeling of water on their heads and faces.
You can introduce your baby to the pool when you feel like they are ready. Most infant survival swim classes will not accept infants under 6-8 months. The younger your baby is, the sooner he/she will begin to become comfortable with the water. To be on the safe side, wait until your baby’s belly button and/or circumcision has healed. Also, be sure to check with your pediatrician.
Check the temp
Babies are not able to regulate their body temperature, which causes them to get colder, faster. Before you decide to take your baby for a dip, check the temperature of the water. The ideal temperature is anywhere from 85 to 92 degrees. Get out every 10 minutes if you think the water is too cold, and warm them up. If you notice your baby’s lips, fingers, or toes turning purplish-blue, take them out, and warm them up. You do not want to risk them getting hypothermia.
Bond, and keep eye contact
This should go without saying, but your baby should never be in the water alone. Your baby should also be held while they are in the water. Skin-to-skin contact creates a sense of safety for your baby. Eye contact is also important to establish security.
Bring toys and have fun
We bought a small floatie for Jaxon to play with, and luckily, the pool we went to had a kiddie pool that was free of kids. However, floaties create a false sense of security for your baby, and they position your baby vertically when horizontally is the ideal position for swimming. Jaxon is a funny child and did not want to be vertical. So, he kept laying down in his floatie. We stood close to him, so for us, it worked. Bringing baby’s favorite toy along will give them something familiar to have while they are experiencing this new adventure. When he began to cry, we started singing his favorite song, “Baby Shark.” His face lit up! We kept singing the song, and it encouraged him to kick his little baby legs around and splash more. This assured us that he felt safe and comfortable in this new environment.
Position them correctly
As stated previously, you want your baby to be positioned horizontally, because that is the swimming position. You can also hold your baby on their back while supporting the back of their head and butt. Another position is to hold Baby under their armpits, while face-to-face, or with their back towards you. Move around the pool so that Baby can feel the movement of water on his/her body. Because we were in a shallow kiddie pool, we were able to squat/sit to achieve this.
Protect them from the sun
No matter how old or young you are, sunscreen is always a must. Avoid taking Baby during the peak hours of the day which are 10 am- 2 pm. If your baby is under 6 months, discuss with your pediatrician what is best for them. Otherwise, use a sunscreen that is designed for infants, that you can reapply often. Also, opt for hats and sun-protective swimsuits. We got Jaxon’s cute little swimsuit from Old Navy.
Follow your baby’s lead
All babies are different. Some will adjust to the water quickly, and more naturally than others. It is important to pay attention to the vibes your baby is giving out. Never push them to do something that they are not ready for. If Baby begins to get fussy, take them out.
All in all, we loved Jaxon’s first experience in the swimming pool. Hopefully, our work schedules will be more accommodating next summer so that we can put Jaxon in official swim lessons. Until then, we will continue to acclimate him to the joys of swimming.