When should I start teaching my baby to swim?
Young babies have natural affinity with water - in fact they often relax more in the water than out of it. It makes sense to use this positive relationship and expose your baby to a warm, secure, loving water environment as soon as possible after birth.
Begin with a warm, quiet, soothing bathtime. Make the bath as deep and warm as is comfortable for you and baby. Talk to your baby; sing to him, maintain close eye to skin contact; feed, caress and massage him; sway him through the water supporting him while on his back, and also on his tummy with his chest and chin resting gently in your hands. Very young babies need stimulation but beware not to overload the senses. Focus on one activity at a time, regularly changing the position and type of stimulation.
Aim to start your baby in a quality swimming program from around 4 to 6 months. Your baby should be immunized in a good health. If your baby was premature - check with your doctor first.
From as early as 10 months your baby may start becoming wary of unfamiliar people and places. By 18 months babies are developing an imagination and may even start waking after bad dreams. To prevent the possibility of water related fears, it is important to expose your baby to regular pool sessions in a playful, secure environment well before this stage.
Babies who swim from an early age are relaxed and confident in the water and avoid the emotional stress that may come when starting later. From as early as 4 months babies can safely and happily enjoy shared water experiences with their parents in a quality baby swim program.
" A good aquatic program will educate parents to start activities in the bath with their baby from birth. In this safe water environment a very young baby who still has little voluntary movement on land can start to experience a wide range of movement - with lots of wonderful stimulating sensations, all of which reinforce the learning process. Once baby is old enough to move into the group programs at the pool (usually from 4-6 months) - the social aspect adds another new and wonderful dimension. "
By Julie Zancanaro, B App Sc OT,
World Congress Presentation, France 1999