Swimming for Babies; Benefits and Best Age to Start

Swimming for babies; is it beneficial, and if so, at what age is it best to start? Let’s dive into some FAQs when it comes to swimming lessons for babies.

Introduction

Swimming has incredible benefits1 for the human body: it’s a low-impact sport that also provides great fitness results, helps maintain your weight while also keeping your heart and lungs healthy, can alleviate stress, and can improve coordination, balance, and posture. Though these advantages are geared more toward older children and adults, swimming can be just as beneficial for babies.

Baby swimming classes9 can help with both physical and cognitive development, but it can also be a fun, social activity for both parent and baby. Let’s also not forget one of the most important reasons to start swimming lessons; for the development of water safety concepts and to reduce the risk of drowning.

water safety, swimming for babies
Water familiarity and water safety can prevent the occurrences of drowning!

What is the best age for babies to start swimming?

It is up to you when you feel comfortable starting your baby in swimming lessons but a baby can start to learn to swim from birth. There are some recommendations for mothers that have given birth to stay away from the swimming pool for at least 6 weeks so as to not increase the risk of infection for the mother, but this is nothing to do with the baby starting to swim. If another family member is available to go into the pool with the baby, then it can be done sooner than 6 weeks.

There are certain swim reflexes2 present in babies, that start to disappear around the age of 5-6 months, which is why many experts recommend starting lessons before the age of 6 months. Many swim schools, however, won’t enroll your baby in swim lessons until 3 or 6 months of age, but do recommend water familiarity before the age of 6 months.

Is it safe for a 3-month-old to go swimming?

Let’s just start by saying that it is never safe for a baby to swim by themselves. Yes, this should be common sense, but even once your child is showing proficiency toward swimming, their safety can never be taken for granted. As for whether it is safe for a 3-month-old to go swimming is really up to you, the parent, but certainly it’s important for young babies to develop that water familiarity.

If you or someone you know is teaching your child to swim, there are certain measures that will contribute to your child’s safety3:

  • Never leave your child alone in the pool.
  • Know CPR in case your child takes in water and is unable to clear their airways. (You can read my review of the Kids First Aid course, which includes CPR, HERE)
  • If they’re wearing a personal flotation device, make sure your child doesn’t tip over, causing baby’s head to go underwater. 

If you’ve enrolled your child in a swim class, here are some ways to alleviate concerns:

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  • Tour the facilities.
  • Meet your baby’s instructor(s) and have them explain what they’ll be doing during class.
  • Take the class with your baby – not only will you be right there with your child, but this will also be a bonding experience for you both.
swimming for babies
It’s up to you when you feel comfortable starting your baby in swim lessons, but water familiarity from an early age is very important.

Can babies go in chlorine pools?

Babies can go in chlorine pools, yes. However, keep in mind that chlorine can be very harsh on the skin and can cause these issues10:

  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Can make hair dry by stripping it of its natural oils
  • Aggravate existing skin conditions
  • Leave a strong smell on skin and hair

It’s always a good idea to wash your baby in fresh water after they have been in chlorine.

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kids first aid

Is swimming good for baby development?

Yes, swimming is good for your baby’s development. Just as the benefits of swimming for older children and adults was mentioned above, some of these can translate to your child as well. Keeping their little hearts and lungs healthy as well as helping them develop coordination, motor skills and balance is just as important if not more so for a child.

What are the benefits of swimming for babies?

Here are several reasons why swimming may be beneficial for your baby:

  • Can alleviate the fear of water, and improve sensory awareness
  • Teaches them safety measures around water
  • Improves cognitive functioning
  • Reduces risk of drowning
  • Develops social skills leading to higher self-esteem and confidence
  • Bonding moment between parent and child
  • Builds muscle while also helping with coordination, motor skills and balance
  • Can improve sleeping and eating habits
baby swim lessons
Your baby will likely be very tired after a swim as they will burn lots of energy in the pool!

How do you put a baby in the pool for the first time?

When you first put your baby in the pool, be right there along with them4, holding them secure, keeping eye contact. This way they know they’re safe and can relax enough to enjoy this new experience. Once your baby knows they’re safe, you can try playing with them a bit: moving them out and back with your arms, blowing bubbles, singing nursery rhymes as they bob through the water, and introducing some toys to the pool. Pools at swim schools are heated pools so your baby should feel comfortable in the water, as it will be a similar temperature to their bath at home.

Should I feed baby before or after swimming?

It’s a good idea to feed your baby before a swim lesson, but only up to an hour prior5. Keep the feed small and nothing too heavy, as a full stomach may make their bellies hurt or make them lethargic and ready for a nap rather than a swim. After swimming, however, an extra feed is a great way to soothe your baby as they’ve burned a lot of energy in the water.

Why is my baby so tired after swimming?

Your baby is so tired after swimming because they burn lots of energy in the pool. Most of us usually feel a bit tired and/or hungry after a swim, and babies even more so, as they are still growing.

Should you shower a baby after swimming?

Yes, you should shower a baby after swimming. Chlorine can cause skin irritation if not washed away, and it’s also a good idea for hygiene reasons, as babies can also pick up germs around pools too.

I know when I was taking my son Andy to swimming lessons when he was a young baby, he benefited greatly from these, but he was also getting sick quite often. My doctor recommended pausing the swimming lessons for 6 months, which we did, and we then resumed them after about 8 months, observing an improvement in his overall health.

What should babies wear in the pool?

Swim nappies should be worn in the pool. Swim schools will usually insist on this for hygiene reasons anyway, and it’s usually a good idea to put your baby in long sleeves or a suit that is firm and can keep the swim nappy easily in place.

Do babies still need swimming lessons if I have a pool at home?

Most definitely, children still need swimming lessons if you have a pool at home. In fact, they need them even more so because now they have daily access to water. If babies are able to learn basic survival skills, this could reduce the risk of tragedy in your own backyard. 

swimming for babies
The price of baby swimming lessons can vary a lot so make sure you shop around and look properly at their facilities too!

How much do baby swimming lessons cost in Australia?

Baby swimming lessons cost anywhere from the low twenties to mid-thirties range. Star Swim Schools6 charge $21.99 for a 30 minute session and provide a free assessment prior to your baby beginning lessons. Duck and Dive Swim School7 charges $33.00 for their baby swim lessons, which are 30 minutes long as well. Waterwise Perth Swim School8 actually offers a newborn water familiarization course, $24 per lesson, that ranges from the age of 6 weeks to 6 months. Their baby and toddler classes also cost $24 per lesson.

Make sure you shop around within your local area as prices for lessons can vary quite a lot. It’s also a good idea to take recommendations from others you may know, as there are some swim schools that are definitely better than others for several reasons. These might include:

  • Physical facilities (cleanliness, inside/outside, washroom access)
  • Instructor skills and experience
  • Price of lessons
  • Location of swim school
  • Availability of lessons and timetable
  • Management and organisation
  • Policies re: make up lessons, absences etc
  • Number of babies per class
  • Swim philosophies and safety protocol

Summary

Just like when your baby learns to crawl, walk, jump, and play, swimming can be another exciting milestone they conquer as they grow. Swimming for babies can be very beneficial physically, mentally, developmentally, and socially. It can be a great bonding experience for both you and baby and swimming fun is also a great way to burn energy and make new friends.

The most important reason, though, for your child to partake in swim lessons is to help your child not fear the water while also learning safety and survival skills. If you’re around water frequently, have a pool in your backyard, or just want your child to experience the water, swim classes are a great way to begin. Starting your child in the water at an early age can enhance their developing bodies and minds and be a time of joy for you and your little one.

Find the baby swimming class, local pool or swim instructor that works the best for you and your baby, and begin your swimming journey!

Reference List:

  1. ‘Swimming – health benefits’, BetterHealth.vic.gov.au. Accessed online at https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/swimming-health-benefits on April 25, 2023.
  2. Reflexes Involved With Submerging Babies in Water, State Swim. Accessed online at https://www.stateswim.com.au/news-events/reflexes-involved-with-submerging-babies-in-water/#:~:text=When%20a%20baby%20is%20placed,the%20age%20of%206%20months on April 25, 2023.
  3. Babies and swimming, Pregnancy, Birth & Baby. Accessed online at https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/babies-and-swimming on April 25, 2023.
  4. Swimming with your baby, Megan Rive, Baby Center. Accessed online at https://www.babycenter.com.au/a539332/swimming-with-your-baby on April 25, 2023.
  5. WHAT TO FEED YOUR CHILD BEFORE AND AFTER A SWIMMING LESSON, Sports Generation. Published: March 14, 2023. Accessed online at https://www.sportsgeneration.co.uk/what-to-feed-your-child-before-and-after-a-swimming-lesson/ on April 25, 2023.
  6. https://www.starswimschools.com.au/enrolnow.html
  7. https://duckanddive.com.au/program-schedule/mondays/
  8. https://waterwiseperth.com/swimming-lessons-perth/swimming-lessons-kids-perth/newborn-swimming-lessons-perth/
  9. Swimming Lessons and General Information, Austswim. Accessed online at https://austswim.com.au/parents#general-info on April 25, 2023.
  10. The benefits of baby swim lessons and the effects of chlorine on their skin, Fiona Wright, Bounty parents. Published: Jan 13, 2020. Accessed online at https://www.bountyparents.com.au/expert-advice/benefits-baby-swimming-lessons-effects-chlorine/ on April 25, 2023.

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