When Can Baby Go Swimming?
Getting your little one comfortable in the pool.
Every new parent is getting ready to ask the same question before summer starts, "When can baby go swimming?" In an effort to help you best prepare for all that summer has to offer your family, I'll help you tackle everything from newborn swim safety to those adorable baby swim accessories.
With summer just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to begin thinking about enjoying the warmer weather with baby. Going for walks, playing on the swings, and spending time in the pool are some of our favorite summer activities.
But exactly how early can a baby learn to swim?
With every new baby, we’ve stopped to question whether s/he is ready to swim. Sometimes we’ve attempted a first swim only to have a crying, unhappy baby. Other times, like with our youngest, we’ve been surprised with calm contentedness.
After introducing several babies to the pleasure of the pool, we’ve learned a bit about baby's first swim, how to dress baby for the pool, and a few products that help us out.
Preparing for Baby’s First Swim
We gauge baby’s readiness for swimming by how much he enjoys bathtime. With the biggest difference between bathtime and swimming being water temperature, we will gradually decrease bathwater temperature and do a trial run. Does baby need bathwater to be close to body temperature or can he tolerate, and even enjoy, when it’s cooler?
Water temperature can fluctuate in our backyard pool, so we wait for a nice sunny day when the water is warm for baby’s first swim. We’ll hold baby close and slowly get into the water instead of handing baby down to someone already in the water. The slow introduction has been key for our babies.
Skip the baby swim gear for this first swim and enjoy just being together.
If baby is content, switching his position from facing inwards to outwards is the next step. Often times our children haven’t been comfortable with this on the first swim and that’s okay. As the summer goes on you’ll ease towards helping baby lay on her belly and kick her legs.
Swim Gear for Baby
Until our babies are potty-trained, they always wear a swim diaper in the pool. When we’re swimming at home, we wear reusable swim diapers. They are easily washable and just get thrown in the laundry with our dirty swimsuits and towels.
When away from home, disposable swim diapers are lifesavers for us. While still containing accidents, they’re perfect for being able to toss when dirty instead of carting home to clean.
For the new mom: swim diapers don’t contain urine, only fecal matter, so you may want to change baby into a regular diaper shortly after swimming.
Sometimes we find that our bigger kids are easily entertained in the pool while our littlest ones soon get bored of being held and watching them. We’ve found that keeping a supply of bath toys handy for the swimming pool is just enough to entertain baby (and sometimes even those older ones)! We’ve also found a love for jellyfish sinkers that float for a few seconds before slowly sinking.
Dressed for Success
My littlest ones seem most comfortable swimming when they have swim shirts on. These help protect baby from the sun and are stretchy and comfortable to be worn for a long time.
On hot sunny days, we keep a sun hat handy for our pool time. While protecting from the sun, it also shades baby’s face and makes it a bit easier for him to see without squinting.
Part of baby’s swim outfit includes sunscreen; make sure you don’t rush through this part! Spending time deciding what sunscreen is best for your baby will put your mind at ease when you’re outside this summer.
Newborn Swim Safety
As I think through swimming with my children, safety is at the forefront of my mind. Although we get lots of swimming experience at home, my children are enrolled in swimming lessons as soon as they’re old enough so they can formally learn this skill.
Until that time, we have firm rules for water safety. An adult is always present, physically and mentally, when our older kids are swimming. Our phones are put away and we’re enjoying summertime together.
Our non-independent swimmers are only allowed in the pool area while wearing a personal flotation device, such as a puddle jumper. This is non-negotiable and something we’re stringent about. By the time our kids are toddlers they know this rule and can relate it to friends, grandparents, and babysitters.
Ultimately, there is no defined age on how early a baby can start to swim. Getting used to the water starts in the bathtub and progresses as both you (the parent) and your baby feel comfortable. But regardless of the age, having the proper swim accessories and safety essentials at the ready are essential.
As you think through swimming with your little one, gather your gear, decide on your swim rules, and grab the camera for a memorable summer experience!
Jess Wartinger resides in rural New York with her husband and five children. Formerly an early elementary teacher, Jess currently spends her time loving her kids and holding down the fort at home.