Advice about Infants at Swimming Pools

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Best way to introduce infant to pool

 May 2009

Hi parents, I have a 7 month old son and I am wondering about the best way to get him to feel comfortable in the swimming pool. I have taken him a couple of times and just walked around with him in the water. What fun things can I do with him in the water at this age? Has anyone tried the infant-submerging thing? Is it okay and safe? I know there are infant swim classes available but I was sort of thinking about just figuring it out on my own, (with some advice from BPN). I'd love to know what other parents did with their little ones. Thank you, SJ

Babies have a natural ability to hold their breath underwater until, I believe, around 4 months. With regard to introducing baby to water, make sure the water is warm enough to be comfortable for him/her. Also if you do put baby underwater, do not bob up/down with baby upright. Water will go right up the nose. To put baby underwater you kind of get baby horizontal to water and 'glide' him/her in a way that water doesn't get up the nose. Sandy

The Hercules and Brentwood public pools have a sloped side, like a beach. I just sat on that slope with my daughter, playing and clapping the water, and just moved with her as she decided to go a little deeper. The El Cerrito public pool has shallow steps that work almost as well. The most important thing is that it is fun for the child, and go a regular basis such as about twice a month. I never submerged my daughter, that sounds terrible, she started submerging herself at around 2 years old. My daughter took her first lesson at age 3.5 years and she had a great time, while a few of the kids cried the whole time and never went in the water. She is now 9 years old and still loves the pool, including the high dive. -- mom of a swimmer

I think the best thing is to have fun and be relaxed about it. Let the baby show you how much he or she is interested and excited about the water, and just try to let it be a positive experience. My baby was crazy for water from the get-go; others are more hesitant. If you're in Berkeley the Y has a wonderful baby/toddler time called Tiny Waves when you and baby and other people with little ones can gently explore the water. We really liked that. water babies

The Downtown Berkeley Y has great swimming ''classes'' for kids starting at 6 months. The parent, of course, has to attend too. It's all game-based and geared towards getting kids comfortable in the water and to learn the first steps about safety (only get in once the adult has said okay, things like that). The games are all to encourage them not to be afraid, and you don't submerge them until they are comfortable (if at all). You really only need to go to one round, learn the games, and then you'll know lots of fun things to do with your baby in the water. If you're not a member they have a cheaper ''program membership'' you could buy just to cover the weeks the class meets. I did it with my now-18-month-old and she loved it and still loves the pool. swimming mom

I researched swimming for infants and found that swimming lessons are not really recommended. What you are currently doing - carrying the baby in the water with you is getting him acclimated enough. In fact it seems that they think it is safer for your child not to be too excited about water as that increases the risk that they will try to climb into pools,lakes etc. Maybe go to the beach get feet wet in the waves, but save the swimming lessons for age when they can actually swim. MP

If you're serious about teaching your child water safety then dunking baby underwater is essential, in my opinion. But you won't find that many swim instructors teaching that, because it freaks most Moms out. We went to an excellent swim teacher in Alamo (forgot her schools name) and this is what she taught my baby. Babies naturally hold their breath when you dunk their whole heads in the water. And the point of doing this is so that they get used to it in case they fall in the water. When they fall in, their head goes under, and they need to learn that it's ok. They also need to learn to get themselves to the edge of the pool and hold on. That's the 2nd step. Most babies surprisingly don't freak out when you put their heads under water. There's a certain way you do it, which you'll learn, and it's only for a few seconds. There are many ''swim'' classes where you just swing your baby around in the water and sort of play with them. I don't think that's teaching them anything, and sort of a waste of money as you can do that on your own. Find a good instructor who's mission it is to teach your baby/child how to survive in the water, as that's whats important. leslie

I brought my baby to the Berkeley Warm pool when she was 3 months old,  but she seemed a bit overwhelmed and it ended in a crying fest. I waited a month and brought her to the infant/toddler open-swim session in the warm pool at the Berkeley Y. It was a calmer environment and she loved it. I did that about once a week until I enrolled her in ''swim'' lessons at around 7 months old. What I did with her was not much different from what we do in her swim class. I'd lift her up and down in the water (''bounce'' in the water), hold her and encourage her to kick, splash, blow bubbles. I'd have her ''jump'' from the edge of the pool into the water (while holding her). I'm just now purposefully letting her submerge her head completely (she's 15 months old), and she isn't sputtering or acting distressed. She especially loved having me throw a floaty toy (rubber ducky, ball, etc.) and holding her while she ''swam'' to get it. In the class we also do a lot of singing, but that's harder to pull off if it's just you. I'd say keep it short (20-30 mins max), make sure your baby doesn't get cold, and don't push him/her to do anything he doesn't want to do. Make it fun and light, and do it regularly so that he/she gets used to it. It will be years before he/she learns to really swim, so take your time and have fun! aquatic mommy

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.