Advice about Infants and Swimming

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Taking an infant to the pool

July 2004

now that it is summer and the weather sizzling i am hoping to take my baby to the pool....but she is only two months old. does anyone know how soon i can take my baby to a pool? also what about swimming lessons? is there a time that is too soon? and where are good swimming lessons for infants to be had (or can u easily teach them yourself?) finally, what's up with sunscreen and wee ones? i heard u should not use suncreen until they are 6 months this true? H20 confused....

We took our 8 week old daughter to Hawaii in January and had a great time. We took her in the ocean and the hotel swimming pool and she loved both. We didn't stay in the water for very long - maybe 15-20 minutes. We purchased a diaper cover at a local shop and it was fine. When not swimming we dressed her in lightweight long cotton pants and a long-sleeved shirt and kept her in her car carrier under the canopy most of the time. We did put regular adult 30 SPF sunblock on her when she was swimming and there were no side effects. At the end of the day I washed her off with soap and her skin didn't break out or anything. And she didn't get anything even close to a sunburn. avernetti

Concerned about Chlorine

March 2002

I am thinking of signing up for a swim class with my baby this spring. Does anyone know if there are health concerns surrounding the chlorine in swimming pools? If so, can you recommend a source to learn more about it? My son will be about 10 months old. Thanks. Aimee

I don't know about any specific health dangers of chlorine, however we found out the hard way that if we didn't shower immediately after using the shallow pool at the Berkeley YMCA, my daughter started developing skin rashes. These rashes did not appear as long as we showered right after getting out of the pool. Daphne

Infant Swim Gear

My daughter loves the water and we are going on a beach vacation in June. Any recommendations about what to take with us to maximize her experience? Has anyone found any toys/floaties/swimgear that helped their baby play in the water or down the road, learn to swim? I'd love the names of the toys as well as the stores where they can be found. Sorent

When my son was nine months old I have used Funnoodle, by Kidpower. One under every arm. In the summer you can find it in Longs Drugs and in Costco. I have used two of them, one under every arm, and I was with him in the water, making sure he still holds them. Yoram

One of the best things is an infant Personal Flotation Device (PFD) or life vest. Infant models feature a crotch strap to keep it from floatin off of the child, and a big collar to support the head. The one we used had a handle strap on the top of the collar and you could easily pick the child up out of the water with it. It also featured a zipper up the front. Our kids learned to put in on by themselves, by stepping through the crotch strap and putting it on like a coat. It should fit Very Snuggly. The snugness will make them feel more secure in the water. Wearing one of these vests your child should float like a cork with their head comfortably above the water. Ours was decorated with little Mermaid characters, so I'm sure you'll find a cute one. Always carry your child into the water and hold them until they feel comfortable. It may take many exposures to the water to get there, or some kids take to it like they were ducks. Roger

My daughter loves her Learn to Swim 123 at Toys R Us. It is a bright yellow swimsuit with a built in and very tough inner tube. It gives me and her more confidence but pools like the YMCA prefer you use only approved life saving devices, so where we can use it is a little limited. Lorane

Infants in Swim Classes

From: Seth (7/98)

We take out children to swim class and they love it. Noah has been going since he is 7 months old, Ella since she was 2 years old. The class is mostly hanging out in the water with some organized songs and some one-on-one with the teacher. The teachers, here at least, are good about getting the kids aclimated to the water, to putting their heads under the water, and generally having a good time. I highly recommend it. (Wish I could recommend a place in Berkeley, but this has all taken place after we left.)

From: Molly (7/98)

I am a credentialed teacher, so my undergrad work was all Child Development. I also taught swimming, and have had my kids in swim lessons for a couple of years. The bottom line is, infants, toddlers, and even some 3 and 4 yr olds don't have the cognitive ability to judge their own safety in water. They can get used to water, and learn that they can go underwater and come back up safely, but they can't be truly water safe until age 7, about. (That's what the director of the Montclair Swim Club told me, when I was first starting to teach there.) Of course, water safe shouldn't be a factor, especially with infants, since parents will never leave them alone. But swim teachers worry that parents of babies who seem confortable in the water will be complacent about their babies around water. (Home pools, going to the beach, etc.) In terms of helping a kid get comfortable in the water the best thing is for the people he/she is most comfortable with get in with them. So the mom/toddler classes are great. I wouldn't bother with official swim lessons until age 2-3 though. That's my two cents.