Be early birds. The town pool is less of a mob scene in the morning. Plus, your baby will (let's hope) be well rested from a good night's sleep. The sun is also less strong before 10 A.M., lowering her risk of sun damage. She still needs sunblock, though!
Relax. Your baby can sense your mood. If you seem to be enjoying yourself -- even though you may be nervous -- she'll try to follow your lead. Start slowly, dipping your tot's toes into the water so she can get used to the feel of it on her skin.
Get wet. If Baby seems happy, drip water all over her 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.
Have fun. Take in a toy or play a game, such as motorboat. Hold Baby under her armpits and sway back and forth, singing,"Motor boat, motor boat, go so slow." If she's fine with that, pick up the pace and sing, "Motor boat, motor boat, step on the gas!"
If she gets upset, get out. You want 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 she's not ready, wait a month or so and try again.
- Lessons are a no-go until after your baby's first birthday, but feel free to introduce her to an outdoor swimming pool on your own if she is at least one month old.
- Avoid the pool if your baby has eczema. The chlorine may be irritating to her skin.
- Don't use water wings or other inflatable flotation devices. They tend to give parents (and babies) a false sense of security.
- Try to find out the pool's temperature. Babies are comfiest in water between 80 degrees F and 85 degrees F.
Originally published in the July 2013 issue of American Baby magazine.