Oh my – we LOVE our swim class! I thought I’d share a bit about the benefits of early introduction to water along with a glimpse of how much fun we have!!!
— Our little swimmer at 9 months old —
— Playing on the stairs at an indoor hotel pool – 7 months —
Babies can be introduced to water as soon as you feel they are ready (and you are ready), as long as their umbilical cord stump has fallen off and circumcision is healed.
Being in the water is comforting like the womb. Pay attention that the water and air outside the water are the proper temperature. Babies still need help regulating their temperature, and both becoming chilly and overheating can make an experience bad.
There are intrinsic reflexes that can be seen when a baby is in water. Facilitating the functional use of these motor reactions can help babies learn to swim and feel comfortable in water.
Water is a fabulous sensory-motor experience. Babies can experience wet/dry, warm/cool, sink/float, water assistance/water resistance, splashing, pouring, streaming through the water, bobbing, breath control, etc. The natural properties of water allow for strengthening, facilitate smooth movement, assist in movements that would be against gravity when on land, and support weak muscles. What this means is water is a great medium for a multitude of learning.
When introducing water play, be respectful of your baby as an individual. Each baby will react differently to water, and some may take more or less time to feel comfortable. Follow your baby’s lead to create a positive experience.
Baby C took to water immediately. She likes baths so much that we do nightly baths, rather than the recommended 2-3 times per week. (We don’t always use soap, and when we do we use a natural product – like Angel Baby and Honest Company). We use a mix of baths in her infant tub and bathtub, as well as showers. She still needed to be held by a parent in the tub and shower until she was sitting confidently.
TIP: be VERY careful in the shower as babies are SLIPPERY when wet! We have a bench we can sit on to reduce our risk of slipping. The other parent is always ready with towel to take Baby C when we are finished. Make sure you are comfortable holding on to your child – you are assuming a risk when you choose to shower with your baby. Make sure you are making a safe decision for YOU and YOUR CHILD. I can also guess that many babies would not be ready to tolerate the sensation of shower water spraying in them.
Consider using a bathroom with a ceiling heater for all means of bathing. Use sponges, cups, and washcloths to create a calm, but invigorating experience. Try just one new experience per bath! Bath sponges (that the baby lays on) are helpful in infant tubs and bathtubs.
— Bath with very low water and 100% supervision to allow tummy time (7 months) —
When bathing/showering together, hold baby against your chest. This is great skin-to-skin time, and helps baby to relax. You can nurse in the shower or tub as well, which was helpful for us on fussy nights!
Don’t stop there! Get a baby pool for nice days on the patio, use your kitchen sink (we love the feeling of the sprayer!), or just a plastic bin at the kitchen table to splash hands in!
— It’s easy to find water toys – This Easter egg has a couple of holes where water drains. —
Don’t stop there! Look for swim lessons in your area. Emler offers swim classes beginning at 2 months, called Bathtime Babies. For us, this was an eye opening experience, as we had never taken Baby C into a pool environment. This class focuses on introducing baby to the water while playing and bonding. At 6 months, you can move up to Waterbabies, where swimming underwater is explored in a safe environment with well educated teachers. According to the National Institute for Health, children 1-4 enrolled in swim lessons have a drowing risk reduction of 88%, plus you and your baby get the benefits of water listed above.