How to Introduce a Baby to Swimming

Getting your tot used to the water and teaching baby to swim can be fun for both of you!

Start in the bathtub. It's an easy and convenient way to get your baby accustomed to the water. Hop in there with him to create a safe and fun environment. To get him used to the feeling of water on his head, fill a cup and gently pour it over his hair, letting it cascade over his face too.

Time it right. You can begin introducing your baby to the water as early as you feel comfortable, as long as his belly button or circumcision has healed. The younger a child is when she starts, the more comfortable she's likely to be in the pool. Always check with your pediatrician before you start, though.

Check the temperature. Babies can't regulate their body temperature as well as adults, so 92?F is ideal because it's close to Baby's natural body temp. If the water at your pool is cooler, you can still take your baby in, but you may need to get out every 10 minutes or so to warm up. Pay attention to lip, finger, and toe color and if it turns purplish, take Baby out of the pool.

Bond with Baby. You or another adult should always be in the water, holding your baby. Not only is it safest, carrying your baby skin-to-skin and interacting with him in the water will strengthen your bond.

Say no to floaties. Water wings and other flotation devices give a false sense of security. Plus, they keep Baby in a vertical position, but horizontal is best for swimming.

Take a stance. Once in the water, choose a position that's comfortable for both you and Baby. One example: Hold your baby on his back, supporting the back of his head and buttocks. You can also hold your baby under his armpits, either face-to-face or with Baby looking out. In any position, move about the pool so Baby can feel the sensation of the water on his body. In a kiddie pool or other shallow water, hold under your baby's armpits and squat so you're at his level.

Make it fun. While you're in the water, sing songs or play games such as motorboat to keep Baby entertained. Keep a smile on your face and talk or sing in a soothing voice, especially if your baby is reluctant to be in the water. Seeing your smiling face will assure him that this is a safe and fun environment.

Follow Baby's lead. Some babies take to the water immediately; others are more hesitant. It's important to follow your baby's cues, and not push her to try anything she's not ready for. If your baby starts to cry or get fussy, take her out to warm up, offer her something to eat, and let her rest.

Follow these pointers to keep learning to swim safe and fun.

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