Start Baby Swimming at 6 months of age
Everyone seems to be attracted to the water as soon as the weather starts to heat up, including children without swimming skills. One of the best things a parent can do to keep their child safer around water is to ensure they start Learn to Swim classes as soon as possible, especially with summer fast approaching.
Swim Australia recommends starting lessons from 6 months, but you can and absolutely should practice early water familiarisation before this, so the baby can start to accept and enjoy the water early in life. It is important to make sure your baby has regular baths and showers, and becomes comfortable with the sensation of water being trickled and then poured over their head. Your baby will then accept the water with much less fear than a child who has not had this exposure. Shower with your young child, demonstrating that there is nothing to be frightened of and creating positive early associations with water.
Always put safety first at bath time. With so many of us so time poor, who can blame busy parents from trying to fit as much as possible into a day? Thinking “I’ll just go and grab a towel / hang the washing quickly / answer the door or phone/ go to the toilet / attend to another child / do the dishes” while their child is having a bath, thinking “I will only be gone for a minute”. Sadly, this is plenty enough time for tragedy to occur, even in slightly older children. 14% of drowning deaths of children aged 5-14 years occurred in the bath or spa last year, in addition to 12% of all drownings in the 0-4 age group.
Safety was always my main motivation to get my children into lessons early, however a Griffith University study has proven that there are many other benefits for babies, including the development of gross motor skills and improved strength, co-ordination and balance. Swimming strengthens your baby on the inside, helping to develop their muscles and joints, improving the strength of their heart and lungs, and helps to develop their brain. Balance is improved as a result of much of your baby’s body being supported by water, and as a result, babies who swim tend to have much better balance out of the pool. Plus it’s fun – your baby is less restricted by gravity, giving them the freedom to move in whichever direction they please (with the parents assistance), something young infants seem to enjoy very much judging by their happy noises and smiles in lessons!
Warm water combined with gentle exercise will relax your baby, encourage the release of mood boosting chemicals, and stimulate the child’s appetite, with many parents reporting that their babies usually eat and sleep better after swimming. Additionally, the uninterrupted quality time whilst swimming facilitates an even deeper bond between parent and child, and as swimming becomes a natural part of your child’s weekly routine, a healthy exercise habit is created while learning a skill for life! Don’t delay – just get your baby into the water!