by Rob Cox, October 1, 2010
Swimming Babies, Concerned Parents
Before introducing your child to a pool, please make sure your baby is over 6 months old. Before 6 months of age, the fear is that babies immune systems are not developed enough to handle the illnesses that can be spread while swimming. The wait should be even longer if you are considering introducing them to a lake or an ocean - around a year or more. There is also an issue when it comes to babies being able to regulate their own body temperature. Of course, all children are different and will adjust to the water differently, but just about all babies are ready to learn to swim after 6 months.
That out of the way, now its time to consider getting your baby into the pool. Typically, you will want the pool to be warm, 82-84 degrees, and monitor your childs reaction to it. If the water feels chilly to you, it will seem really cold to your child. Make sure to monitor whether your child feels cold or starts shivering, and if so, you should get him out of the water immediately. Too much heat can be a danger also! Children overheat much faster then adults, so hot tubs, spas, and really heated pools should be avoided. This is actually true for most children until the age of 5!
Most pools now require babies to wear a swim diaper. These will help ensure the health of all swimmers in the pool. Pay attention to your babies schedule of bowel movements. The best time to enter the water may be after a good cleaning and a fresh diaper.
While outside of the pool, always hold your baby and avoid fast movements. This of course implies to inside the pool as well, but accidents outside the pool can also pose as huge threats to your baby. Never go past areas in the pool that are deeper then your hips, as you might lose good footing in the pool and this provides a cushion of safety for your child if something is to happen. Unmonitored children in water is the leading cause of drowning death for young children. Always hold your baby. Using a baby pool float can be a good transitional "vehicle" to help both baby and parent enjoy the water safely.
Recent studies about the effects of chlorine and byproducts found in some sanitizing products have some parents concerned. Further studies by the European Respiratory Journal have shown that children that spent many hours in a pool before the age of two were twice as likely to suffer from bronchiolitis or suffer from asthma. On the other hand, pools or bodies of water without chlorine may lead to bacteria that can cause diarrhea - painful and dangerous to an infant. Babies should be thoroughly cleaned after all swimming activities as well to make sure they are not carrying around anything they may have picked up from the pool. This is especially true of chlorinated pools as the fumes may still affect a baby once it has dried on the skin. Make sure to stay cautious with your child and keep your pool time less then twenty hours until they are at least two of age. And no hot tubs!
Children with serious illnesses should not be introduced into the pool at all. Sick children tend to be most susceptible to waterborne bacteria and airborne illnesses. This is because their immune system is already struggling with a painful and serious illness. This includes sick children who are coming out of cancer related remissions, as hepatoblastoma. By no means should these children enter a pool at all!
Teaching your baby to swim is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give to their child. See our related blog post on how to teach infants to swim. While you are teaching your baby how to swim, teach yourself how to be a safe parent! Safely Monitoring your baby in the pool requires focus and effort. Even if they are in the baby pool, only 1' deep, you should be on the edge of the pool with them, enjoying this time together.
Be cautious of the distractions in our daily lives that can cause you to lose focus on your child in the water. As their confidence level grows in their swimming ability, don't allow your own confidence of their ability to create a false sense of security.