It was a frigid winter for many of us, but the temperatures have risen and now our thoughts turn to the lazy, hazy days of summer! Well, as a new mom, “lazy” is not a word that ever describes you and the only “haziness” you experience is that continual fog of fatigue. But summer is upon us and that means most of us are finding the nearest lake, pool or ocean – a great way to enjoy some fun in the sun with your little one!
As a new mom, it’s your job to worry about your baby’s Firsts, and summertime begs the question – when can a baby go in a pool? Never fear – we have some answers and advice for you!
Interestingly enough, there is no hard and fast rule, no perfect age for when a baby can first go swimming. However, many doctors and moms recommend 6 months of age for several reasons.
- Head and neck control: An older baby – for example, 6 months – is going to have more head and neck control, and it will be easier and more comfortable for both of you. For your baby, he’ll feel more secure and less like a bobble-head. From your perspective, you’ll have a better, firmer grasp on your child when you’re in the water.
- Water temperature: Babies are not able to regulate their body temperature so the younger a child is, the greater the chance that a pool, ocean or lake may be too cold for him. For this reason, parents sometimes wait until their child is several months old so that the water is a more comfortable experience for a baby. Ideally, you want the water to be in the mid-80s (Fahrenheit) when you take your baby swimming.
- Immunity: Young babies are still building up their immunities so pools (especially those with lots of chemicals) may not be the best environment in those early months. Definitely consider where your baby will be swimming, such as a public or an indoor pool.
- Sun Protection: Whenever you go outside, you always want to protect your baby’s delicate skin. However, children under the age of 6 months should not wear sunscreen so this can be another good reason to wait on an outside swimming environment. Once a child is at least 6 months old, sunscreen is fine – as long as it is appropriate for babies (best sunscreen for babies).
While deciding when to take your baby swimming for the first time may seem like a big decision, it pales in comparison to the responsibilities once you are actually in the water. Before you find yourself overwhelmed, we have a few parenting tips that will give you the confidence and the comfort to have a great time this summer!
Touch Supervision: When your child is in the water, you want to parent using touch supervision. Recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), touch supervision means that your child is either in your arms or at least within arm’s reach of you. Ideally, you should have both hands and eyes on your child, whether he is playing in the zero-entry section or floating in a tube. However, this can be challenging – what if you need to chase down a toy, you have more than one child in the pool or you need to get something out of your pool bag? Regardless of what you need to do, just ensure that you can always reach your child. If you need to get out of the pool for a moment, take your baby with you. You never want to rely on a flotation device or even a lifeguard. It only takes a moment – another child racing by, a big splash, or just a turn of the head – for your child to lose his balance.
Not too Hot, Not too Cold: As mentioned above, you want to be aware of the temperature of the water and keep in mind that it will probably feel colder to your child than it does to you. The warmer the temperature, the more likely your little one will enjoy his swimming experience. So, ease into the experience. Sprinkle some water on your baby’s fingers and toes, and then graduate to dipping those chubby little feet in the pool. Once you have your baby in the water, keep him low and against you so he’ll stay warmer. If your baby is shivering or his lips are turning blue, that is your cue to take a break and find a big fluffy towel so you can warm your little one up. Some babies love the water immediately; for others, it takes time. Go slowly, remembering there is no developmental milestone that says your child has to love the water by a certain age.
Safety and Security: For many babies, being in the water brings a feeling of being out of control. When you have your child in the water, ensure you have a firm grasp on him. Carry your baby close to you, providing that feeling of security. It is also important that you stay balanced, so you want to be in water where you can comfortably stand on both feet.
Know When to Stay When: Remember those days when you stayed on the beach or by the pool forever? Well, that was then and this is now! Your little one does not have a long tolerance for the sun or the water, so you want to do this in small doses. When outside in the heat, ensure your child stays hydrated, but also know when to take a break. It is easy for children to become dehydrated or overheated, so do not assume that another layer of sunscreen or a dip in the pool is the answer. If you live in a particularly hot climate or it is a rather warm day, you want to avoid the hottest part of the day, 10 am – 2 pm.
So “when can a baby go in a pool?” While there is not one single answer, rely on your common sense as a mom, your pediatrician’s recommendation and your comfort level. These hints and how-tos are here to help you prepare and be ready for yet another in a long line of your child’s Firsts. Enjoy, have fun and be safe!
The Baby Pibu Team