Q: My baby’s due next month and I want him to learn to swim as soon as possible. At what age can babies safely go to a public pool, and how should I introduce him to water?
M&B expert Alison Duff, director of a swimming facility for pregnancy to preschool in Cambridgeshire (calmababy.com), says:
Babies can go swimming at any age
Babies can go swimming at any age. But because public pools are busy and noisy, you may want to start the process of preparing your newborn for swimming at home. A relaxing bath with him the day after birth can be a wonderful welcome to the world.
Fill the bath 20cm to 30cm deep with warm water at 32°C to 33°C, and ensure the bathroom is warm (above 24°C). Get in the tub and have someone pass you your baby. Spend some time cuddling him on your chest and enjoying the skin-on-skin contact.
Then try laying him on his back. Cradle him initially, keeping him close to you and bringing his hands to the midline of his chest. If he’s happy, gradually lessen the amount of support and offer him the freedom to float with you, placing one hand under his head, and the other under his bottom. Let his ears submerge and use just enough support to stop his head sinking underwater. Take a breath, relax your arms and shoulders and let him float.
Trust your instincts about how he’s responding to the experience and adjust the position or amount of support you’re giving him as necessary. Ten minutes of fun in the bath is plenty for the first session.
Typical responses to newborn floating can be intense eye contact, kicking, wriggling, smiling, crying and even complete stillness. But don’t worry if your first session isn’t a wonderful experience. If your baby cries then get out, wrap him in a warm towel and try again another time.
After a few weeks, and before going to a public pool, seek out qualified baby-swimming teachers to help you introduce your little one to the water.
When you’re confident enough to visit a public pool (with a temperature no less than 32°C), choose a quiet time. If he’s unsettled, keep him close, use a rhythmic bobbing motion and ensure his ears are submerged when back floating to help filter out any noise.
If your baby was born prematurely, then be sure to consult your health professional before visiting a public pool.