Children's Clubs & Activities

Apr 7, 2010

Water Babies


We’ve all seen the images of babies swimming freely underwater, giving the impression that it’s the most natural thing in the world for them to do.

Category: Childrens Clubs and Activities
Posted by: Clare

Fresh from the waters of the womb, babies will take to water like ducks - if introduced early enough. They will gain a small sense of independence, as they are free to move fluidly.  Plus, it will provide those precious bonding moments, with mum or dad on hand to scoop them out the water at precisely the right moment.

When Can I Start To Take My Baby Swimming?
Many swimming schools take babies from birth to three months, although the Amateur Swimming Association advises parents to take their baby to an adequately maintained public pool from the age of six months. Further information can be found at www.asa.org.uk. To familiarise your baby with water, until they are old enough to go to a local pool, it’s a good idea to make bath time fun by gently splashing water over him or her and using fun bath toys to add interest.

Does My Child Need To Be Immunised To Swim In A Pool?
Some swimming schools will accept babies only after they have had their first set of vaccinations. Yet many babies have been taken swimming before being immunised and have suffered no harm. As babies are so individual, it’s best to get advice from your own Health Visitor.  NHS Direct can also give you information on 0845 4647.  It’s worth noting that the NHS immunisation website - www.immunisation.nhs.uk - says babies can be taken swimming at any time, regardless of where they are with their inoculations.

Will My Baby Need To Wear A Nappy?
Yes. It’s crucial to observe good hygiene at a swimming pool, as a ‘leak’ will contaminate the water and this will result in the pool being closed off for hours. Many swim schools recommend using a disposable aqua nappy with a Splash about Nappy on top. Check to ensure that the nappies fit snugly around the tummy and the top of the legs to avoid any potential leakages.

Where Can I Find A Baby Swimming Class?
You can find swimming courses all over the country. Contact your local council for a list of local pools and leisure centres, or go to the Amateur Swimming Association website. There you will be able to find a register of baby-friendly pools.
Check on the size of the classes, and also the qualifications of the swimming teacher who takes the session. Ideally, this should be up-to-date Lifesaver and Red Cross Mother and Baby certificates. As babies get cold very quickly, you should also check that the water temperature is at least 31 degrees centigrade.

How Should I Prepare For The Swim?
Like adults, babies should not exercise on a full stomach, so try to plan a feed 1-2 hours before you go. Dress them in a special baby ‘swimsuit’.  Many look like wetsuits and are designed to help regulate temperature. Then, if you are not attending a special class, plan to visit the pool when it is quiet. In noisy, crowded places, babies can become distressed.

Is Underwater Swimming Safe For My Baby?
Yes it is! Children up to the age of 18 months have a special 'diving reflex' that allows them to go underwater without choking! What happens is - the epiglottis at the back of the throat closes over, stopping any water getting through. The same thing happens when we swallow.

Should I Get My Baby To Wear A Flotation Aid?
Although they should be under constant supervision, babies can comfortably use swim seats or rings.  As they grow older, they can progress to swim vests and finally armbands.

When Is It Unsafe To Take My Baby Swimming?
Babies lose heat much quicker than adults, so if they start to shiver, they should be taken out and wrapped up in warm clothes. Taking this into account, babies should not be in the water for more than 30 minutes at a time. And, of course, babies should never be taken swimming if they are unwell or show signs of any illness.

What Water Safety Tips Should I Know About?
Parents should supervise children constantly at the swimming pool and not totally rely on the lifeguards. Although drowning in pools is extremely rare, toddlers are the most vulnerable. Be especially vigilant in 'leisure pools' where added extras such as flumes, fountains and waves bring distraction.

Further Advice
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority have launched a website about safe swimming. There is advice about how to encourage children to act responsibly at the pool as well as games and puzzles about safety for the children to enjoy. For more information go to www.nc.uk.net/safeswimming.

For essential water safety fact sheets and tips visit:  www.rospa.com/waterandleisuresafety/factsheets/children_swimming