As a new parent the thought of taking a new born baby swimming can be daunting but increasingly new parents are taking babies swimming earlier, even at a few days old.Today more than 100â€™000 babies a week take baby swimming lessons at an organized specialist class and many thousands more visit pools with parents and siblings for an informal dip. Babies can swim in pools from birth but the average age of a first time swimmer in classes is 6 weeks old.
Teaching babies to swim turns out to be more than just fun. Baby swimmers have better balance and are also better at grasping at things than non-swimmers. This difference persists even when children are five years old, when babies who have been taught to swim still outperform their peers, research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) shows.
“Practice makes perfect,” say Hermundur Sigmundsson, a professor of psychology at NTNU.
Now Sigmundsson and Brian Hopkins, a professor of psychology from Lancaster University, have shown that baby swimming is good for developing balance and movement in infants and young children.
The study involved comparing 19 baby swimmers against a control group of 19 children who had not participated in baby swimming. The only factor that separated baby swimmers from the control group was swimming. All other factors, such as the parents’ education, housing and economic status, were the same.
The baby swimmers had participated in swimming classes for two hours a week from the age of 2-3 months until they were about 7 months old. A typical session might involve helping the baby do a somersault on a floating mat, having the baby dive under water, jump from the pool edge, and balance on the hand of a parent while reaching to pick up floating objects.
At approximately age 5, both baby swimmers and the control group were tested with similar exercises. The exercises included walking on tiptoes, balancing on one foot, skipping rope, rolling a ball into a goal and catching a beanbag. The results were crystal clear, the researchers say.
“We saw very clearly that baby swimmers were the best in exercises that related to balance and the ability to reach for things,” says Sigmundsson.
All of your questions answered
The simple answer is yes, as long as you take sensible precautions and always check with your health professional if you are concerned. Make sure baby is warm in the water, by using a special baby wetsuit and gently start to introduce them to the water. Be very careful not to try underwater swimming as this should be done under supervision in a specialist baby swim class. There are many of these now in the UK and we have a great list on our website, simply enter your postcode for the closest results.
You need to think about whether you want an organized class with other mums and babies, or whether you want to go alone, or with a friend. Itâ€™s a personal choice. We would always recommend taking baby to swim at least half an hour after feeding and waking up, so they are neither to full or too sleepy. We would also suggest you checked with your local pool when the quietest times will be.
We recommend and most pools and schools insist on a Happy Nappy to keep poo out of the pool! Itâ€™s essential piece of your swim kit. Leaks can close pools and the bacteria can lead to severe tummy bugs. So take it seriously and wear a Happy Nappy, either over a disposable swim nappy or with a Happy Nappy system. They are available from birth up to toddler and we also offer a range for older children and adults with disabilities. Make sure baby is warm enough. A cold baby wonâ€™t enjoy swimming and will make it miserable for both of you. There are a number to choose from. Either core body warmth from the Baby Wrap or a Baby snug which also covers the arms, we even have a full baby wetsuit called the WarmInOne specially designed for babies with Eczema, to not only keep them warm but to hold barrier creams in place. Take a look at our selection. Pack a changing mat. There is nothing worse than having to change a cold and wet baby on the floor of a changing room or on a wet towel. Our mats offer antibacterial protection and they are made from a material that warms quickly and reflects that warmth back at the body. They are very soft and easy to roll up and carry.
Babies can swim from birth, as advised by the NHS. We even have a Happy Nappy wearing 24 hour old baby, who was introduced to the pool by his father. There really isnâ€™t a reason why baby shouldnâ€™t go swimming, but a new mum is a different matter. You should always wait until you have had your six week check and until any stitches have healed or been removed, to prevent against possible infection, or discomfort. It is not a competition, do things when you are ready.
No they donâ€™t need their inoculations before you can swim. The Department of Health has issued guidelines to reassure on this point. However itâ€™s worth discussing with you GP if you are anxious about it. The most important thing is that baby is well and is kept warm. Unless you have access to a specialist Hydrotherapy pool always make sure baby is wearing a baby wetsuit.
Our Top Tips
Here are our top tips for taking your baby swimming. We hope you find these useful!
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Make sure baby is warm. The best way to do this is use a soft baby wetsuit. Many pools are a little bit too cool for a young baby to be comfortable in. Make sure they maintain a core body heat so baby will be happy in the water.
Wear a well-fitting Happy Nappy, leaks into pools are not only embarrassing but are also a source of nasty tummy bugs. You will find that organized classes will insist on this essential piece of swim kit before you can take baby in the water.
Don’t spend too long in the water. For the first few sessions 15 – 20 minutes is ample. Remember, there are lots of new things for baby and you to get used to.
Don’t be too adventurous, a bit of splashing is fine but never submerge your baby underwater outside of supervised lessons.
Relax, try and make sure you keep eye contact with baby, smile and reassure them.
Like every other skill, babies learn at their own individual pace. So take your time and keep the experience short and fun.
What’s the difference?
A cold baby is a miserable baby and thatâ€™s never truer than in the water. Babies get cold far faster than we do and as they are not actually swimming they donâ€™t warm up like we do. So we recommend you use a soft and comfortable baby wetsuit, unless you are swimming in a specialist Hydrotherapy pool. You will be glad you invested in a wetsuit when you donâ€™t have to miss out on half the lesson, as baby wants to get out!
Choose the right one for you:
Warm rating â€“ Full warmth â€“ for the baby who gets cold quickly. Full body and arm cover. Great for colder babies. No separate Happy Nappy required so great value 2 in 1 product. Great choice for babies who feel the cold.
Warm rating – mid warmth â€“ for the active baby who needs a bit of extra warmth. Perfect for getting on a wriggly baby as it opens totally flat. Covers core body leaving arms and legs free. Great choice for bigger babies.
Warm rating â€“ Maximum warmth for cold babies, perfect for smaller babies and babies with Eczema or dry skin conditions. Super warm all over body, arm and leg coverage offering maximum warmth. Fleece lined to hold barrier creams or Eczema creams in place.
- Incorporates a form of the Happy Nappy
- Choose from great new fashionable designs for the ultimate pool outfit
- Warm babies are happy swimmers, make sure your baby is warm with Splash About
- Made of super soft neoprene . Opens totally flat for easy on and off.
- Keeps babies core temperature warm so you can enjoy lessons to the full
- Recommended by swim schools
- Excellent for babies with sensitive skin, eczema or dry skin conditions
- Keeps barrier creams and eczema cream in place, for comfort and peace of mind swimming
- Easy change on and off with deep back opening.