Before you bring your baby into the pool for his first swim, there are several things that you should know.
Infants get cold very quickly. Therefore, you should make sure that the pool is heated to a suitable temperature for babies. The water should be at least 85 degrees F (or 90 degrees F for babies under 3 months old). Water temperatures below 82 degrees, though they might feel warm to you, can cause your baby to chill too quickly and can pose a risk of hypothermia. If your baby shivers or his lips turn blue, take him out of the water immediately, wrap him in a warm towel and offer a bottle (or your breast) to help raise his temperature.
Avoid peak hours at the pool -- you want a quiet environment, if at all possible. For your baby's first swim, you need to keep the session short and sweet. A 10- to 15-minute dip in the pool is the perfect way to introduce him to the water. After the first three or four times in the pool, you can work your way up to 20 to 30 minutes.
Having something familiar for your baby to play with -- such as his favorite bath toy -- will make your baby more relaxed and comfortable in the pool. Plus, you can use the toy to boost his confidence. Try blowing a ball along the surface of the water and encouraging your little one to reach for it.
When first starting out, keep your baby's face close to your own and keep eye contact while in the water. This will help your little one feel more secure. Bounce him up and down while singing his favorite song to help put your baby at ease.
Avoid taking your baby swimming during the hottest parts of the day -- from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Talk to your pediatrician about using sunscreen on your little one if he is under 6 months old. For older babies, use a sunscreen product designed for babies and reapply often. Sun-protective swimsuits and wide-brimmed hats are also great ideas to help protect your baby from the sun's harmful rays.
Swimming isn't just fun, it also has many benefits for your baby. Because of all the skin-to-skin contact, it's a terrific bonding activity to enhance the connection between you and your little one. Plus, because your baby can move without the restriction of gravity while in the water, he can use muscles that he never uses on land. Swimming can benefit both your baby's strength and coordination. Learning to swim and how to be safe around water is also the best defense against drowning.
To prevent accidents in the pool, your baby will need a swim diaper. You can find swim diapers almost anywhere and they are normally sized by your baby's weight. Some swimsuits for babies also come with washable swim diapers built in.
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