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  • Apr 3 2014

    Baby Swim Class – Quick Dos and Don’ts

    Baby swim class is a fun and fantastic way to get you back in shape, meet other moms and get your baby used to the water. But before you dive in, here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind to make sure you both have a terrific time.

    Do ask questions

    Start with other moms: Where are the best classes? The cheapest? City-run classes may cost less, but their pools might not be as well-heated, and their staff not as well-trained. Find out the teacher’s approach. Some classes emphasize the “diving reflex,” and will train parents to safely dunk even the tiniest babies. If it sounds scary, plenty of teachers don’t. Submerging your baby probably won’t guarantee an Olympic-level swimmer later on, though it may mean a greater comfort level.

    Do time it

    A dear friend of mine who is a swim coach recommends that for public pools, wait until baby is 6 months old as his/her body needs to be able to handle the chemicals. However, if it is your personal pool then when you’re ready, your baby’s probably ready. Most experts don’t suggest swimming with a baby younger than six weeks, and that’s about when your body may be ready as well. Then again, if you’ve had a c-section, or your baby was born prematurely, that timeline doesn’t apply to you. Talk to your doctor and your baby’s to find the best time to jump in.

    Do look for routine

    Some babies take to the water like little fish – others, not so much. Especially with nervous babies, you’ll want to find a class that offers a calm, reassuring routine. Depending on the teacher’s approach, this could include songs, flotation devices and toys. Some classes use music; others don’t. Some use half the class for games with the babies and half for grown-up exercises in the water while the babies float safely within arm’s reach. There’s no right or wrong, but the routine shouldn’t vary much from class to class.

    Don’t bother with salt vs chlorine

    Even if all your friends swear by salt-water pools, there’s no evidence that it’s better or safer for babies. Salt-water pools still use chlorine, though the strong smell may be gone. According to this CNN report, “the salt is used to generate chlorine in the water instead of a pool operator adding chlorine directly… the water chemistry is very similar.” Swallowing salt water may even cause tummy troubles for babies.

    Do swim when it’s quiet

    Some pools get very busy in the evening and on weekends, and busy equals noisy, which can be terrifying to tiny ears. Look for classes at a time when the pool isn’t too crowded, especially with kids. A seniors’ lane swim is fine; dozens of kids practicing fancy dives or racing each other on the waterslide isn’t. A smaller or private pool generally only offers one class at a time. Once you’ve chosen a class you think you’ll like (ask for a free or reduced-price trial!), here are two final guidelines to help you follow through and make it a great experience every single time.

    Don’t share your germs

    If your baby is not feeling well, please don’t count on the chlorine to keep everyone else safe. A little sniffle is one thing, but gastrointestinal upset can lead to big problems. Also, time breast- or bottle-feedings carefully before class; young babies often dirty their diaper during or right after eating. According to this fun scienceblogs post on fecal accidents, the pool may need to be shut for up to 8 hours afterwards, and you don’t want to be the embarrassed mom with that on her conscience.

    Do be consistent and have fun

    Attend class as regularly as possible. Play with your baby in the water just like you play outside of the water; the more normal your tone of voice and mannerisms, the quicker your baby will take to this new watery playtime. Sing the same songs as at home, and learn the new class routine together. Consistency doesn’t have to mean the same parent every time! If dad’s off work one day, and it’s allowed, let him have a turn to enjoy baby swim as well. If you both work from home, or have flexible work hours, maybe you can alternate weeks. You can definitely do an underwater pass with baby but not right away — it’s all repetition and practice at a young age so show and guide him or her on how to do things — for example, kicking: you may have to help baby in the beginning then he/she will catch on quickly!


    Finally, even the most even-keeled baby has off days – maybe after an immunization, or when teeth are starting to make an appearance. Especially if it’s not a regular occurrence, try not to think about what you’ve spent on the class. If your baby is uncomfortable, seems disturbed or out of sorts, or starts shivering more than usual, it’s time to get out of the water – for now. You’ll both be back in the swim in no time – ready to make a splash in this watery wonderland adventure together!

    Remember to just get baby comfortable with the water, bring in some bath toys and have him or her reach for them. Go over kicking and bubbles and let water run over his or her face and head.  Keep it peaceful and playful and most of all FUN for baby! Nothing too crazy at this age as it’s all about exploration and positive experiences.


    photo credit: ukko.de

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