By Dr. Noreen Sherazi
Most newborn, though not all will reflexively hold their breath when submerged to protect their airway and can survive immersion in water for short periods.
Kids can also be given swimming sessions.
Although this may be done to decrease their risk of drowning, the effects on drowning risk are not reliable.
Can newborn babies swim?
No, newborn babies cannot swim on their own because they’re still physically unable to imitate swimming motions and moves. However, when fully supervised by the mother or father, a newborn may enjoy the swim moments and develop strong arms and legs quicker.
It is essential to note that while babies can imitate swimming motions and reflexes, they are not yet physically capable of swimming.
Infants can start learning moves and safety in the pool from two months onwards. In the initial phase, they will be attached to the parent and learning to love the water.
From there, they will learn how to back float, something which babies do not have the inborn talent to do. They only need are swim diapers, and they are ready to swim!
Babies have two reflexes that make it look as if they aware of swimming. The diving reflex, which means your baby, will naturally hold their breath when it goes underwater.
It will vanish after six months of age, and that is why it looks so incredible in kids who are a few months old.
The other reflex is the swimming reflex. If you keep a little one stomach-side down in the pool, they will move their hands just like they’re swimming. This will start to disappear after about six months of age.
After six months of age, they can participate in swim lessons that will begin introducing them to baby learning games, back floats, and rollovers.
By this time, they are quite comfortable in the pool, and they will enjoy the vibrations and movements in the water.
It will be a fun time while in the water, and the babies will be swimming with you. Children learn at various stages, same as they crawl and walk at different milestones, too.
Introductory swim classes have multiple levels for different talents. Most of all, your baby will be learning water safety techniques.
Children usually love their bath time, and being in the warm, conducive pool environment is an extension of bath time, in a sense. The water should be comfortable and warm, making it easy to teach them about movement, safety, and balance in the pool.
Infants may not be well aware of the freestyle or breaststroke swimming techniques just yet, but there will be learning phases where they will be more familiar as they grow older.
It’s incredible what children learn, and the ways they learn can have a significant effect on their overall development as they grow.
Your baby does have an inborn talent to swim, but she needs your help, of course!
Her innate ability comes from a pair of reflexes she has when she’s in the water. These reflexes are sharpest in the initial six months and consist of:
- Swimming reflex. If you help your baby in the pool stomach side down, they will move hands and legs in a swimming style.
- Diving reflex. Your kid will hold the breath and open the eyes when they are underwater. You will get the exact reaction by carefully blowing in the baby’s face.
Researchers found that the dive reflex doesn’t cause the water to inhale or choked when they were underwater. They are not worried about diving. In fact, some seemed impatient to dive further!
So, take your baby for swimming. They may love splashing around in the water and its excellent physical activity for them and for you.
But before you both get in the water, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- How excited you are to take a dive with your kid, if you’ve recently delivered, never go swimming. Hold until six weeks after your baby’s birth before you get in the water. If you go earlier, you can pick up an infection from the pool. Anyone close to you can introduce your baby to the water while you observe.
- If you have had stitches or a cesarean operation, your doctor or healthcare visitor may suggest waiting until your postnatal check.
- Large, public pools will be cold for your less than six months old baby so, use only a pool that’s heated to about 32 degrees C. Keep in mind that not all kids are fond of water, despite having the reflexes that protect them. Check before diving that is your baby happy in the pool or not.
Make your baby swim
There can be so many advantages of splashing around and sliding through the pool.
Swimming as water sport is very engaging for your baby’s body in a different way, forming millions of new neurotic synapsis as your baby glides, kicks, and smacks the water.
Due to their developing immune systems, experts recommend that parents keep smaller babies away from chlorinated pools or lakes.
Children who don’t get wet until later are more fearful about water. Few children are also usually less resistant to floating on their backs, a skill that even some babies can learn.
Here are some points on the potential benefits of swimming for your baby:
1. It may improve and develop brain function:
Simultaneous cross-patterning movements, which use both sides of the body to carry out a move, help your baby’s brain to develop.
Multiple movements develop neurons throughout the brain, but mostly in the corpus callosum.
This increases coordination, feedback, and communication from one side of the brain to another. Eventually, this may improve
- Various skills like reading, language development
- Academic learning
- Spatial awareness, etc.
During swimming, your baby moves their arms while kicking. And they make these moves in water, which shows their brain is recognizing water’s tactile sensation plus its resistance.
Swimming is also a great social experience, which increases its brain-boosting power.
A study of 7,000 children from Griffith University in Australia recommended children who swim are ahead in physical and mental development when compared to their peers who don’t swim.
Specifically, the 3- to 5-year-olds who swam were 11 months ahead of the healthy population in verbal skills, six months ahead in mathematics, and they were also 17 months advance in story recall and 20 months ahead in navigations.
The study was also supported by the swim school industry and relied on parental reviews. More research in this sphere is needed to find out and confirm these benefits.
2. Swimming may reduce the risk of drowning:
Swimming may reduce the risk of flooding in children older than four years. Swimming may decrease the risk in children ages 1 to 4, but the proofs aren’t well enough to confirm findings.
It’s vital to note that swimming doesn’t decrease the risk of drowning in children under one.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), drowning is the foremost cause of death among children and toddlers.
The majority of these drownings happens in swimming pools at homes. If you have a pool, start early swim lessons, which may be beneficial. Even the youngest kids can be taught swimming skills, like floating on their backs.
But for infants under 1-year-old, this will not keep them safe from drowning. However, if your child knows how to swim, they should still not be left unsupervised while in the pool.
3. Swimming may enhance confidence:
Children mingle with each other and begin to learn the importance of teamwork. These points, plus the fun of learning a new skill, may increase your child’s self-esteem.
Another study in 2010 suggested that children’s taken swim lessons from the age of 2 months to 4 years had better to adaptability, had more self-esteem, and were more confident than the children who were non-swimmers.
An older study reporting that a program that included early, swimming lessons for preschool-age participants was associated with:
- Higher self-esteem,
- A stronger desire to succeed
- More confident and more comfortable in a social circle than non-swimmers.
4. Give quality time to your babies:
Even if you have more than one kid, swimming that involves a parent present in the water helps one-on-one bonding and understanding.
During a session, it’s just you and your little one focused on each other, so it’s a beautiful way to spend quality time alone together, point out experts who offer swim lessons.
5. Builds baby’s muscle
Swimming helps strengthens muscle development and control in babies at a younger age.
Kids will need to increase the muscles required to hold their head, move their hands and feet, and work their core in coordination with the rest of their bodies.
Swimming is also an excellent exercise for cardiovascular health and will help develop your kid’s heart, lungs, brain, and blood vessels.
6. Improves coordination and balance:
Along with building muscle, time in the pool can help your baby strengthen their coordination and balance.
It’s not easy to move those little arms and legs together. Even small movements represent big leaps in your baby’s coordination and development.
Another study found that swimming lessons may help improve the behavior of children as they grow.
The study didn’t point out why children who have experienced may behave better outside of the water in a pool environment.
Still, it may be that they’re trained to listen to an adult instructor before getting in the water and prompted to follow instructions.
7. Organize a baby’s sleeping hours:
As we’ve earlier stated, pool time takes a lot of energy for babies. They’re in new circumstances, using their bodies in an entirely new style, and they’re working hard to stay cozy.
As swimming takes lots of energy due to vigorous coordinated movements of the muscles, you may see that your little one is much tired and sleepier just after a swim session.
You may schedule a time for a nap after swimming or move up bedtimes on the days that swimming is in your schedule.
8. Helps improving appetite:
There’s nothing like a day in the water or at the beach to make you feel hungry, and babies are no different.
All that physical effort in the pool, as well as the energy it takes their little bodies to stay warm, burns a lot of calories. There will be an increase in your baby’s appetite after regular swimming time.
Baby’s safety tips in the Pool
Infants should never be left unsupervised in bathtubs or pools. It’s vital to remember that a child can drown in even just an inch of water.For children under 4 years of age, “touch supervision” is the best.
That means that an adult should always be much closer to hold them.
A few tips to remember when your child is in water:
- Be careful of even small bodies of water, like bathtubs, ponds, and fountains.
- Always make sure your kid is being supervised by an adult while swimming.
- Ensure safety rules around the pool, like no running or pushing others in the water.
- Use of a life jacket in a boat. Never allow inflatable toys or foam to be used instead of a life jacket.
- Altogether remove the cover of your pool before swimming (if your pool has a covering).
- Don’t drink liquor and remove distractions (like your phone, or laptop, etc.) if you’re monitoring the children swimming.
Signs of drowning in babies:
The AAP gives clear guidance on the danger signs of potential drowning. Symptoms that may indicate a person is in danger of drowning include:
- the head is low in the water, and mouth is at water level
- the head is tilted back, and mouth is wide open
- eyes are glassy and empty or closed
- Gasping while trying to swim.
If you’re taking all the essential precautions and giving your baby your undivided attention, swimming time can be perfectly safe.
Another benefit of infant swimming is that it’s an enjoyable parent-child bonding moment.
In our busy schedule and the fast-paced world, there is less time for a pleasant experience together.
Swimming with our babies brings us into the present moment while teaching them essential life skills. So, grab your swim bag and go for it!