Break out the swimsuits and sun block- summer’s here! For parents of infants, this can be a wonderful time to introduce your little one to the weightless wonders of water, and the introduction of swim lessons.
Benefits of water
For babies, the transition from the womb to a warm bath or swimming pool is quite natural. Water provides a weightless environment, which promotes greater freedom of movement and resistance. Gifted with reflexes that allow for breath holding and the ability to “swim” short distances, babies often enjoy swim time as much as bath time. Warm water has also shown to increase blood flow, immune response, oxygen to the brain & mental alertness.
Babies as early as 3 months old can benefit from swim classes. Studies have shown that early aquatic experiences help increase infant psychomotor abilities, develop spatial awareness, and improve visual perception, balance, coordination and stability. Another benefit of swimming with your baby is the strengthened self-confidence they gain as they learn to operate in a social structure. Learning how to cooperate with others, to share and take turns provides greater social confidence and heightened self-esteem. Many babies flourish to become more independent, adaptable and confidant. For parents enjoying swim time with their little ones, the tactile bond of skin contact and the resistance of water help to strengthen feeling of connection and attachment between parent and child. Finally, if you swim with your baby outdoors, don’t forget to slather on the sunscreen, don the hat, rash guard or the “sun-suits” and keep your eyes peeled for blue lips, shivers and fatigue. For non-potty trained children, swim diapers are necessary, and you can find a wide selection of non-disposable diapers with fun prints and patterns online. (Much better than Huggies “Little Swimmers”) Our personal favorite is Myswimbaby.com. The fit should be snug, especially around the legs and in the back above the buttocks. A proper fitting swim diaper should be snug enough to make it difficult to slide your finger under the elastic around your baby’s leg.
Be water smart
Swim lessons are a wonderful activity that both parent and baby can participate in, and are just one “layer of protection” to guard against a water emergency. Creating a safe environment involves multiple layers, including proper barriers to pools & spas (fences, alarms, and locks), knowing CPR and first aid, and never allowing children to swim unsupervised. Sadly, the Center for Disease Control reports that drowning is the leading cause of death for children under the age of five years of age, however, a 2009 research study concluded that swim lesson participants ages 1-4 reduced their drowning risk by 88 percent!