We all know that swimming is good for our physical health. It keeps our heart rate up, builds endurance and muscle strength. And it gets our little ones’ limbs moving so that they have a little workout and they (and us) can get that much-needed shut-eye. But did you know that there are so many more benefits to your baby swimming than meets the surface?
Introducing your baby to the pool can do wonders for their growth. That’s because all the things that we teach your baby in the water are structured to align with their key development milestones. And not just their physical ones, but their cognitive ones too.
When your baby isn’t old enough to walk, it may seem silly to take them to the pool. But there can be so many benefits to splashing around and gliding through the water.
Being in the water uniquely engages your baby’s body, creating billions of new neurons as your baby kicks, glides, and smacks at the water.
Due to their delicate immune systems, doctors typically recommend that parents keep their babies from chlorinated pools or lakes until they’re about six months old.
But you don’t want to wait too long to introduce your baby to the pool. Children who don’t get their feet wet until later tend to be more fearful and negative about swimming. Younger children are also usually less resistant to floating on their backs, a skill that even some babies can learn!
There are many benefits of baby swimming even if it is a slightly daunting experience for most parents trying it for the first time.
For the most part, there is nothing to worry about. Infants can start swimming from birth. Be aware though that baby can chill easily, so consider the temperature of the pool.
Many swimming lessons start from around three months. However, you are encouraged to check with your health visitor before enrolling.
Don’t forget, and you can get your baby prepared for swimming before you go to the pool.
You can use bath time at home to get your baby used to the feeling of being immersed in water and the splashing of the water.
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Here’s the lowdown on the potential benefits of infant swim time
Swimming may improve cognitive functioning.
Bilateral cross-patterning movements, which use both sides of the body to carry out an action, help your baby’s brain grow.
Cross-patterning movements build neurons throughout the brain, but especially in the corpus callosum. This facilitates communication, feedback, and modulation from one side of the brain to another. Down the road, this may improve:
- reading skills
- language development
- academic learning
- spatial awareness
When swimming, your baby moves their arms while kicking their legs. And they’re doing these actions in water, which means their brain is registering the tactile sensation of water plus its resistance. Swimming is also a unique social experience, which furthers its brain-boosting power.
A four-year study of more than 7,000 children by the Griffith University in Australia suggested children who swim have advances in physical and mental development when compared to their peers who don’t swim.
Specifically, the 3- to 5-year-olds who swam were 11 months ahead of the normal population in verbal skills, six months ahead in math skills, and two months ahead in literacy skills. They were also 17 months ahead in story recall and 20 months ahead in understanding directions.
However, the study’s findings were only an association and not firm evidence. The study was also sponsored by the swim school industry and relied on parental reports. More research is needed to explore and confirm this potential benefit.
Swim time may reduce the risk of drowning
Swim time may reduce the risk of drowning in children over four years old. Swimming may reduce the risk in children ages 1 to 4, but the evidence isn’t strong enough to say for sure.
It’s important to note that swim time doesn’t reduce the risk of drowning in children under 1.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), drowning is a leading cause of death among children and toddlers. Most of these drownings in children under four years old occur in home swimming pools. If you have a pool, early swim lessons may be helpful.
Even the youngest babies can be taught swimming skills, like floating on their backs. But for infants under one-year-old, this doesn’t keep them safer from drowning.
Even if your child has had swim lessons, they should still be supervised at all times while in the water.
Swimming may improve confidence
Most infant classes include elements like water play, songs, and skin-to-skin contact with parents or caregivers. Children interact with one another and the instructor and begin to learn to function in groups. These elements, plus the fun of learning a new skill, may boost your baby’s self-esteem.
A 2010 study suggested 4-year-old children who had taken swim lessons at some time from the age of 2 months to 4 years were better adapted to new situations, had more self-confidence, and were more independent than non-swimmers.
An older study reinforced these findings, illustrating that a program that included early, year-round swimming lessons for preschool-age participants was associated with:
- greater self-control
- a stronger desire to succeed
- better self-esteem
- more comfortable in social situations than non-swimmers
Increases quality time between caregivers and babies
Even if you have more than one child, swim time that involves a parent in the water promotes one-on-one bonding. During a lesson, it’s just you and your little one focused on each other, so it’s a wonderful way to spend quality time alone together, point out experts who offer swim lessons.
Swim time helps promote important muscle development and control in babies at a young age. Little ones will need to develop the muscles needed to hold their heads up, move their arms and legs, and work their core in coordination with the rest of their body.
Swimming.org points out that not only does swim time for babies to improve their muscle strength and ability on the outside, but the exercise provides internal benefits as well by getting those joints moving.
Swimming is also great for cardiovascular health and will help strengthen your little one’s heart, lungs, brain, and blood vessels.
Improves coordination and balance
Along with building muscle, time in the pool can help your baby improve their coordination and balance. It’s not easy learning to move those little arms and legs together. Even small coordinated movements represent big leaps in your baby’s development.
A 2003 study trusted Source found that swimming lessons may help improve the behaviour of children as they grow. The study didn’t say why children who have lessons may behave better outside of the water in a pool environment. Still, it may be that they’re trained to listen to an adult instructor before getting in the water and prompted to follow instructions.
Improves sleeping patterns
As we mentioned before, pool time takes a lot of energy for babies. They’re in a new environment, using their bodies in completely new ways, and they’re working extra hard to stay warm.
All of that extra activity uses up a lot of energy, so you may notice that your little one is sleepier after a swim lesson. You may have to schedule in time for a nap after time in the pool or move up bedtimes on the days that swim time is in your routine.
There’s nothing like a day in the pool or at the beach to make you leave hungry, and babies are no different. All of that physical exertion in the water, as well as the energy it takes their little bodies to stay warm, burns a lot of calories. You’ll probably notice an increase in your baby’s appetite after regular swimming time.
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Can Newborn Babies Swim?
You may be surprised to hear about newborn babies or little ones under six months of age taking swimming lessons. Can babies swim, you wonder? You’ve seen pictures and perhaps videos of babies underwater, and you may be curious about it.
Newborns can begin learning movement and safety in the water from two months of age. Initially, they will be bonding with a parent and learning to love the water. From there, they will learn how to back float, something which newborns do not have the innate ability to do. All they need are swim diapers, and they are ready to go!
Infants do possess two reflexes that may make it look as if they know how to swim. The first reflex is the diving reflex, which means if your baby goes underwater, they will naturally hold their breath. You won’t see this reflex after six months of age, and that is why it looks so remarkable in babies who are just a few months old.
The second reflex is the swimming reflex. If you place a little one stomach-side down in the water, they will move their arms just like they’re swimming. This reflex, too, will begin to fade after about six months after birth.
By the time your little one gets to be six months old, they can participate in swim lessons in Phoenix, that will begin introducing them to baby learning games, back floats, and rollovers. Imagine that! By this time, they are perfectly comfortable in the water, and they will love the feel and movement all around them.
Babies at this age will be swimming with you, so get ready for a fun time with your little ones while in the water. Children progress at all different stages, just as they crawl and walk at different rates, too. Introductory swim classes have different levels for different abilities. All the while, your baby will be learning water safety skills.
You are always in the water with your infant, learning right along with them. Children usually love their bathtime, and being in the warm, conducive pool environment is an extension of bathtime, in a sense. The water is warm and comfortable, making it easy to teach them about water safety, movement, and balance in the water.
Infants and babies may not be doing the breaststroke or freestyle swimming just yet, but there will be baby learning games they will be processing as they grow month to month. It’s amazing what children learn, and the ways they learn can have a huge effect on their overall development as they grow.
Benefits of starting your baby swimming
Start your baby swimming early for lifelong benefits! Deciding when to take your baby swimming for the first time can be a daunting decision for parents, but the benefits of starting swimming early are amazing. Here, we run through our top 10 benefits of starting your baby swimming as soon as possible.
- Babies are born with a kicking reflex. They lose this reflex around six months of age, so be sure to take bub swimming before then to see this incredible reflex in action.
- Swimming is a gentle exercise that works the whole body, encouraging your baby’s muscle, lung and heart development.
- Babies that begin swimming early show long term health benefits in the form of better balance, catching and grasping skills
- Swimming encourages mental development. Babies that start swimming early are up to 15 months ahead of their peers in math, counting and language by the time they start school.
- The whole family can enjoy swimming together as part of an active lifestyle. With obesity levels rising it is important to establish healthy habits early in life
- Exercise can benefit the mental wellbeing of exhausted parents. Increase your workout by walking in the pool or place baby in a SWIM TRAINER “classic” flotation aid and swim along beside her
- The pool is a place free of distractions where you can focus exclusively on your baby. Enjoy those precious bonding moments with lots of skin-on-skin contacts, cuddling and splashing.
- Gentle exercise will help your baby to eat better and sleep longer. Need we say more?
- Lavishing praise on your child as they begin to master their swimming strokes is great for baby’s self-esteem.
- Sadly, drowning deaths are common in Australia. Taking your child swimming from a young age will teach them to become more aware of water safety.
There are many ways of teaching your baby to swim. Formal swimming lessons are great for meeting other parents. Online videos can instruct you how you can teach your baby to swim. The SWIM TRAINER “Classic” flotation aid places babies from 3 months in the correct swimming position and is a great tool for practising kicking. Whatever method you choose to enjoy the wonderful moments as you watch your baby splash and giggle and enjoy the water. Learning to swim is a wonderful journey!
Newborns and infants should never be left alone around any body of water, like bathtubs or pools. It’s important to keep in mind that a child can drown in even just 1 inch of water.
For children under four years of age, it’s best to do “touch supervision.” That means that an adult should be close enough to touch them at all times.
Here are some other tips to keep in mind when your child is around water:
- Be aware of even small bodies of water, like bathtubs, ponds, fountains, and even watering cans.
- Always make sure your child is being supervised by an adult while swimming.
- Enforce safety rules around the pool, like no running or pushing others underwater.
- Use a life jacket while in a boat. Don’t allow inflatable toys or mattresses to be used instead of a life jacket.
- Completely remove the cover of your pool before swimming (if your pool has a cover).
- Don’t drink alcohol, and eliminate distractions (talking on your phone, working on a computer, etc.) if you’re supervising children swimming.
Signs of drowning
The AAP gives clear guidelines on the possible warning signs of potential drowning. Signs that may indicate a person is in danger of drowning include:
- the head is low in the water, and mouth is at water level
- the head is tilted back, and mouth is open
- eyes are glassy and empty or closed
- hyperventilating or gasping
- trying to swim or trying to roll over
Swimming clothes for babies
Before you take your baby swimming, you will need:
- swim nappies (take some spare)
- a towel
- change mat
- nappy bag
- a snack or bottle for afterwards
If you are swimming outside, make sure your baby is protected from the sun with clothing that blocks out ultraviolet light.
There are lots of risks for babies and young children around water. Babies can drown in just 5cm of water. To keep them safe, never, ever leave young children unattended near water. It is a good idea to learn resuscitation for babies before you take them swimming. You can learn this by doing a first aid course.
If you have a pool or spa, it is important to make sure they are fenced according to the Australian Standard.
It is also important to be careful when using floatation devices such as rubber rings – they can make the baby tip over so that their head goes underwater.
Babies can get ill from bacteria or viruses in water that hasn’t been treated properly. Try not to let them swallow any water, use swim nappies, and don’t take them swimming if they have diarrhoea.
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As long as you’re taking all the necessary precautions and giving your baby your undivided attention, swim time can be perfectly safe.
Another benefit to infant swimming is that it’s a wonderful parent-child bonding experience. In our hectic, fast-paced world, slowing down to enjoy an experience together is rare.
Swim time with our babies brings us into the present moment while teaching them important life skills. So grab your swim bag and wade in!