These days, taking your infant swimming has become very popular, but do we have all the information we need to feel safe about our decision? Let’s have a look at what we know, and what we don’t:
We all know that infant swimming has many benefits:
-It improves confidence in the water, coordination, and balance
-It improves the strength of the heart and lungs
-helps build muscles and joints
-can improve sleeping patterns and appetite
-provides bonding time with a parent and socializing with peers
-helps to develop the brain
Some studies are even suggesting that later, it can also improve reading skills, language development, and academic learning
To my surprise though, there are also a few risks to taking babies to the pool so early. Lung damage from pool chemicals, infectious illness of ears, eyes or skin and hypernatremia are just a few examples. It can also trigger asthma or eczema if the baby has a predisposition for it.
Common sense tells me that some of these risks can be minimized if you choose a reliable place with adequately trained instructors. The organizers should meet all the hygienic and safety criteria for infant swimming. The water should be cleaned with minimum chlorine, and the temperature should be between 32 – 33°C. You should also dry babies’ ears after the lesson and stay indoors until the baby’s temperature has regulated. Don’t introduce any new foods to the babies diet during the first pool visit. If the baby then develops a rash, you will know it’s from water, and not food. And perhaps if you, as a parent, have allergies or asthma, baby swimming is not a good idea.
Most parents think that “infant swimming” means that the baby will learn how to swim and that lessons will prevent the infant from drowning. I asked the swim instructor to clarify this.
Let’s start with what the baby will learn, broken down by age groups:
“Children usually start swimming from the age of 6 months. The name “Baby swimming” is, of course, a bit exaggerated. It is rather positioning. In the first lessons, parents learn how to correctly hold the baby and the so-called “diving alphabet,” thanks to which the baby gradually and safely learns to hold its breath at a specific signal (password). Then we introduce tools.
So during the first course, parents learn to handle their baby properly; children adapt to the swimming pool environment and learn to dive. They are gradually getting used to tools.
Between 6 and12 months, children mainly adapt to the pool environment. At one year old, they already know how to dive, and react to songs and poems which are part of the lessons. They also manage jumps and falls into the water and they learn to crawl over barriers. They use soft moto skills by collecting toys and balloons on top of the water. They also learn to notice other peers.
Between 12 and 24 months, they already have basic skills, and there are not many new things that they need to manage. We support their independence by using tools and train survival instincts through games. They learn to swim to the edge of the pool, hold to the floats, or manage to get out of the pool. Diving starts to be fun for them. Lessons are more fun; we play more.
At 2 to 4 years old, children start to be independent. At four years they can absolve the lesson without their parents. We train floating and freestyle and backstroke kicking using tools. Floating without tools is essential. Children learn orientation above and underwater.
Moving on to the other question, can swimming lessons for such small babies prevent drowning?
“It is prevention to a certain extent, but it depends on which age you mean. Based on the breakdown above, you can estimate how the child will behave in each age group. It also depends on the water temperature and the clothes they are wearing. From time to time, children try to see what it’s like to fall into the water with clothes on. We also train in this.
There are videos available on the internet showing 18 months old babies “swim” across the pool by floating. But a responsible person will never leave a small child near water unattended!”
So, If you are currently deciding whether or not you should enrol your baby into infant swimming classes, i hope the above information will help you decide.
To end on an high note, swimming with your baby is beautiful. If your baby likes it, it’s amazing to watch them improve and see the sparkles in their eyes when they get into the water and see other babies around.