April 27, 2010
Yesterday at a play date we were talking about swimming and babies--with summer approaching it is a great activity to do as a family.
My son is a swimmer. We have been swimming together since he was 6 months and he loves the water and is very comfortable in the water. I know that I am lucky. Another one of our friends has a daughter who goes in the water but needs to grip onto her mom when in the pool. Another one of my friends had to take her son out of classes because she thinks he was reacting to the chlorine in the pool. Another mom has her husband take her daughter to swim classes while she watches from the side. A mom yesterday was debating about when to start bringing her daughter to the pool...
So much to think about!
I used to teach swimming lessons to little ones and parents/babies and I think it's a personal decision as to when you start bringing your child in the water. The only things I think you should consider is that you have to be ready and according to the research you want to make sure that your baby is ready too.
Here is a great article:
When your baby is young they can't self-regulate body temperature so if they are very young, make sure it's a warm environment or really pay attention to their cues. (most babies can regulate body temp somewhere between 5-12 mths--12 months being on the higher end)
Pools can be breeding grounds for germs/viruses so many docs recommend that they have their shots or be between the ages of 4-7 months before bringing them in. This is just for immune system reasons. in the study Swimming for Babies, physiotherapist Antonio Bretones Fernández (www.efisioterapia.net), concludes, "It's best to wait until the fourth month, since, at that time, the baby's immune system has finished developing, and the possibility for colds and infections like otitis is significantly reduced."
You need to be comfortable in the water with your child. If you are nervous, the baby will sense this. That being said, I have seen many totally calm parents have very nervous babies in the water.
Make it fun, not traumatic. A controlled environment for the first time may be best. Eunice from Eunice's swim school in Toronto told us that she recommends that babies start, if at all possible, taking classes during the week when the pool is quieter instead of weekends. Songs, games and toys distract babies and make the experience more enjoyable. My friend told me that her daughter is now bringing a whale toy to class which I think is great. At Eunice's, the children are offered little foam toys that they seem to love.
Take your baby swimming on your own as well. There are many very affordable options for leisure swims and it's a great way to get some exercise. When it's just the two of you, take it easy and maintain lots of eye contact.
And most of all, take from your baby's cues. If they need to be held close to you, or soothed, that's fine. It's a new experience.
I think that parents who introduce their children to new things are doing something really great for their children.
And here is a vote of confidence to parents who have babies who don't LOVE the water or aren't 100% comfortable: A child in our class hated the first day, held on tight to his mom the second class and then by week 3 he was loving it! The mom was great--she just let him lead the way and took her time and didn't force anything.
So go out and enjoy the water when you are ready!
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