Memorial Day has come and gone, temperatures are rising and while June 21 — the official start of summer — is still a few weeks away, most of us are ready to get poolside for some fun in the sun! As a new mom, it’s your job to worry about your Baby’s Firsts, and summertime begs the question, “when can babies go swimming?”
For many doctors and moms, six months old is a popular recommendation, but there is actually not a hard and fast rule, no perfect age for when babies can go swimming. It really depends on your preference, your pediatrician’s recommendation and your comfort level. As you are making this decision, here are some factors to keep in mind.
- 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 in control and less like a bobble-head and as a parent, 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 as it is more likely that the water will be comfortable for the 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 take in account where your baby will be swimming, such as a public or an indoor pool. Speaking of chemicals, you always want to protect your child’s delicate skin so children under the age of 6 months should not wear sunscreen – again, making it sometimes difficult to go out by the pool until they’re at least 6 months old.
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’re actually at the pool, lake or ocean. Before you find yourself overwhelmed, we have a few parenting tips that will give you the confidence and the comfort level 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 she 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 still 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 her 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 her swimming experience. So, go easy – start by sprinkling some water on your baby’s fingers and toes, then graduate to dipping those chubby little feet in the pool. Once you have your baby in the water, keep her low and against you so that her body is covered and she’ll stay warmer. If your baby is shivering or her lips are turning blue, that doesn’t mean she’s “getting used to it.” Rather, you want to take her out and wrap her in a big fluffy towel so she can warm up. Some babies take to the water right away; for others, it takes more time. Go slow and steady, 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 feel of free-floating and being out of control that is stressful. When you have your child in the water, ensure you have a firm grasp on her. 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 could stay at the beach or the pool forever? Well, this is not that! 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 don’t 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, it’s also wise to avoid the hottest part of the day from 10 am – 2 pm.
Be Prepared: As a mom, you’ve heard this time and time again and swimming is nothing new. When you pack for the pool, lake or ocean, be prepared. Bring soft, fluffy towels, sunscreen and sunhats ((Top 5 Sunscreen Questions), snacks and water, and a good supply of water toys that will make the experience fun. Swim diapers will be your new best friend, and it’s always good to have a change of clothes. It may seem like a lot for a short amount of time, but as a mom, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
“When can babies go swimming?” is just the first in a long list of questions that new parents have when it comes to fun in the sun! These helpful hints will ensure you and your baby have a pleasant “first time” water experience and loads of summer fun this year.
The Baby Pibu Team