When should I start teaching my baby to swim?
You asked and you shall now receive. It’s only fair for us to share all of this stored up knowledge about a baby and what happens once the baby is born until they are no longer called a baby but a toddler! We now will answer, in a very public forum, all of those burning questions about babies and those first 12 months. Each Tuesday, we will tackle a commonly-asked-question from the point of view of a new parent. Chiming in to give her feedback will be an expert who has been there and done that as well as has oodles of professional experience with babies. Earmark, share and add your own input to today’s question; it’s good karma.
When should I start teaching my baby to swim?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend swimming classes for babies under 12 months of age. It says there is no scientific evidence of efficacy of water survival programs for infants this age. However the AAP says “babies and toddlers between one and three years of age benefit from swimming instruction.” The AAP says, “Studies show early swimming instruction at this age lowers drowning rates in children.”
However the AAP says, “children need to learn to swim but even advance swimming skills cannot “drown proof” a child of any age. Parents must supervise their children around water and know how to perform CPR.”
That being said babies less than 12 months can benefit from splashing and playing in the water with other babies and/or parents. There are baby-parent classes where babies learn to socialize and play in the water with their parents and other babies or parents can just play with their baby in the water. It’s important to help babies feel comfortable in the water and not afraid so later on when they are 1 year or older and start taking swimming lessons they feel comfortable and calm in the water.
When children take swimming lesson there are two important things that need to be in place, one the child needs to feel comfortable in water so they are cautious but not afraid and have to trust the swimming instructor. Parents spending time with babies between 6 and 12 months in the water playing, socializing and teaching the babies to trust them gives support for success in swimming instruction later on when they are older than 12 months.
Please remember that safety is the most important priority when in the water with babies and children. Babies “should always be an arms length from a parent or caretaker according to the AAP with “touch supervision” when infant or toddlers are in the water”. Parents or caretakers with babies in the water should be certified in CPR. Remember a young infant or child can drown in as little as a puddle of water. You can never be too cautious around children and water.
Now that summer is here enjoy your time in the water with your baby and toddler while keeping these safety ideas in mind. There is nothing more fun and playful as being in the water with your baby or toddler. Even more exciting is when you see your toddler learn to swim! One of my greatest joys has been watching my daughter since 2 years of age learn to swim. At 3 years of age she radiates with joy and excitement whenever she swims. I am also comforted by the fact that she has some awareness and understanding of water safety whenever around water and whenever she swims thanks to her early swimming lessons.
Expert: Dr. Gina Lamb – Amato MD
Gina is a general pediatrician and developmental pediatrician who works at Village Pediatrics and Agho Medical practices both in Manhattan, NY. She has a masters in child therapy and works with a child psychologist Rosa Vasquez PhD performing office and home consultation for newborns and parents, office and home developmental assessments, school consultations and parent child playgroups where play and art along with baby massage and other techniques are used to help parents bond and support their child’s development. Formerly, Gina was the Director of Pediatric Special Medical Needs before she went into private practice where she cared for medically fragile infants and children. She is also a Early Intervention Pediatrician for Early Intervention which assesses and treats infants from age zero to 3 years. She has extensive experience in Early Head Start programs which work with infants from prenatal to 3 years of age. She is the mother of a beautiful daughter who is 3 years old and the joy of my life. Her husband is an artist, producer and owns Synchronicity Space, a non-profit arts organization that supports emerging artist in fine art and theatre. Finally, she is also an artist who paints mainly babies and children.