We've received a lot of questions from parents, asking about what age can a child learn how to swim and if you're planning your baby's first dip in the pool, experts say you can begin introducing your baby to the water as early as you feel comfortable, as long as his belly button or circumcision has healed.
Between 1-3 months of age, babies begin the transformation from being a totally dependent newborn to becoming an active and responsive infant. Many of the newborn reflexes are lost by this age. At this stage, a baby's vision changes dramatically; he/she becomes more aware and interested in his/her surroundings. The human face becomes more interesting, as do bright, primary colored objects. A baby might follow a moving object, recognize familiar things and people at a distance, and start using his/her hands and eyes in coordination. At this age, babies usually turn toward familiar voices and smile at their parent's faces or other familiar faces. They also begin to make musical vowel sounds, such as ooo or aaa.
The ability for babies to swim — “baby swimming” — and a sense of calm and ease in the water, is important for your child. The scary fact is, two children under the age of 14 drown in U.S. pools, lakes, or oceans every day. The first line of defense is to teach your infant to swim. There are several techniques, but most agree — including a Navy SEAL who knows a lot about these things — that you should try to stay away from dependence on personal flotation devices. Yes, they’re as necessary as flippy floppies when you’re on a boat, but if relied upon during all pool, lake, or beach time, they give children a distorted sense of buoyancy. The first time they throw a sweet cannonball without them and sink instead of bobbing up like a cork, they’re going to panic.
Step one is getting the baby comfortable under water. That might be strange to you and the child, but only the baby is allowed to show it. As the parent, your job is to make the whole thing fun, no matter what. Try placing the infant face down in a pool of water and their response should be to paddle and kick in swimming motion. You can also count to three and blow into your baby’s face; they’ll instinctively hold their breath and make a funny face. At that point you can quickly dunk them, bring them back up, wipe their face, and laugh. A couple rounds of this, along with some floating toys, will eventually get them comfortable going under. Soon, you’ll be able to glide the kid under water. Of course, it's safer to have a coach with you in doing this with your baby.
The younger your baby is when they get into the water, the more likely they'll instinctively move their arms and legs in swimming motions. The older they get, the more you’ll have to teach them. In doing so, you have to relax because your baby can sense your mood. If they see you enjoying yourself — even though you may be nervous — they'll try to follow your lead. Start slowly, dipping your toddlers toes into the water so he/she can get used to the feel of it on their skin. Another thing you can try is to get wet. If the baby seems happy, drip water all over their body, gradually increasing the amount. Once you're in the pool, stay where you can stand easily and hold on to her at all times. Even in the kiddie pool, always be within arm's reach.
In relation, you might ask, "How many times per week should I take my baby swimming, and for how long each time?" Our answer is as many times as possible! As for how long, it really depends on the child - until he gets either cold or bored. Another concern might be, "What is the best age to start swimming lessons?" Our response is when it comes to using a swimming pool, we recommend waiting until after the baby's first set of immunizations, which is at the age of two months. If your baby gets upset, get out. You want him/her first time in the pool to be a positive experience. Trying to force her to take to the water can do more harm than good in the long run.
If it seems like he's/she's not ready, wait a month or so and try again. And if you might ask, "Up to what age do babies automatically hold their breath underwater?" It's actually until about 6 months (the mammalian dive reflex will stop water from getting into a baby's lungs) but even after that age, a baby will not try to breathe once she is under the water. So you just have to get your baby to hold her breath as she is about to go under. To do this, blow on her face hard, right before putting her under.
You can get all the professional advice you need at The Noodies Swim School, and as long as your kids are enjoying themselves you’re well on your way to having a swimming child.
Additional Resources: Cerebral Palsy Guide