Before You Go: Infant Swimming and the American Academy of Pediatrics Recommendations
Your baby has arrived! You’ve grown to love them, care for them, and know all about them. Here in Texas, you know that, even if “Summer” is coming to an end, the hot days will not, and perhaps you’d like to venture into a pool or two with your baby! As nerve-wracking as that may be, we’re here to help you ease into the pool with your new infant with confidence and comfort.
It’s understandable that new parents are wary of the water, especially with infants. After all, drowning is the number one cause of death amongst young children every year. Preventing drowning and enforcing water safety, then, should be a priority among parents who expect their children to be around water during their infancy. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the most important layer of safety when introducing an infant to the water is the aspect of “touch supervision” (AAP, 2019). Touch supervision includes constant bodily contact with the infant anytime they are near or in the water. Remember, infants can drown in as little as 1 inch of water, so it’s important to enforce touch supervision not only in or around pools, but also during bathtime.
One popular study was circulating the internet and shocking parents across the world which caused a lot of hesitation when it came to introducing infants to pools in particular. This study suggested that parents should hold off until children are at least 4 years old before they enter into the water. However, as this study has since been flawed, it is important to take note of a few things before entering a pool. Since it has been flawed, the American Academy of Pediatrics has released several statements on infant and child drowning including the risks and has found that their recommendation circles around waiting for swimming lessons until around 1 year of age.
Above all, the safest place to introduce an infant to the water in the bath or in the sink, where the water is fresh and doesn’t have any lingering bacteria or chemicals. The next safest place for the infant would possibly be a freshwater environment with running water, such as springs or spring-fed rivers. Another close contender in terms of safety is a chlorinated pool. It’s important to remember that if you can smell the chemicals in the pool strongly, it’s likely going to irritate the baby’s airway. Before you enter a pool with your infant, check the surroundings, smell the air, and assess as to whether or not you feel comfortable with the environment.
Over exposure to chlorinated pools, such as visiting them daily, can lead infants to have respiratory problems such as asthma in the long run or bronchitis. Do not fear, however, as going weekly to the pool or even a few days a week shouldn’t be harmful to an otherwise healthy baby. Talk to your pediatrician if you have any remaining concerns about your child’s respiratory issues.
Another concern of parents are recurring ear infections. Many children who are exposed rapidly to water and spend a lot of time in the water may require tubes to be inserted into the ears. However, these tubes are more common than they seem, and if your child has recurring ear infections after being in the water repeatedly, see a doctor and ask them about tubes.
Walking into the first infant swimming class can be a bit intimidating, but do not fear! We are here to help. There are a few tips and tricks to remember so that class can run as smoothly as possible for you and your baby. The first step is to trust your instructor. Trust is difficult, especially when you have a new baby, but it’s important that you be prepared to trust your instructor. The second step is to constantly smile and make eye contact with your baby. It’s important that your baby knows that you’re there and that they know that you are just as confident as the instructor. The baby will be comfortable and can read your facial expressions, so seeing you happy will reassure them that they’re in a safe space. Following exactly what the instructor is showing you and the baby is also super important because each exercise and each song has a purpose and a benefit.
The thing most parents are worried about with infant classes are submersions, but don’t worry, as here at MGR we do progressive submersions with small steps, making sure both you and baby are fully ready for submersions. As many parents know, babies have several reflexes when they come into contact with different objects or when they hear loud noises. When submerged in water, it is a baby’s reflex to close the mouth and not inhale. If they don’t pick this up on the first submersion, they will learn quickly.
Above all, be ready to partake in this adventure with your child as they begin their journey towards water safety. Who knows, your child may be a natural and has a future in the Olympics! After learning about the recommendations, learning some tips, and taking proper precautions, you and your baby are ready to decide if it’s time to start your first swimming lessons together! Good luck and have fun!
Source: “AAP Updates Recommendations to Prevent Drowning in Children.” AAP.org, 15 Mar. 2019, www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Updates-Recommendations-to-Prevent-Drowning-in-Children.aspx.