Taking a baby to the pool can seem like a daunting challenge. After all, getting out of the house with a baby is sometimes challenging enough! Here are a few tips to get you started.
First, buy a non-disposable swim diaper. These can be ordered for very little at swimoutlet.com. Go ahead and order two! That way, you can keep a dry one in the car or in the diaper bag. With my first children (I have 4), I went for convenience and bought the disposable swimmy diapers at the grocery store. Talk about throwing away money and filling up landfills! Not to mention, some pools will not let babies in the pool without a rubber pants cover. The non-disposable diapers are lined and come in cute prints!
This next tip is helpful if you have a baby with a toddler in tow. If your baby is used to being carried in a front carrier, buy an extra one at a consignment sale. Use this carrier to hold baby close to you in the water and free up your hands to keep hold of other little ones.
Once you make it to the pool, have baby dressed, and are ready to get into the pool, remember that the first goal is to make sure baby is safe and secure. Enter the pool by way of steps if possible. Hold baby close to you. Enter the water slowly, especially if the water is cold, to let the baby's body adjust. I always start by holding baby with his head near my head, facing me, with both arms wrapped around him in an embrace. I talk in a soothing voice and let my enthusiasm for the water be known. Smile and tell baby how fun swimming is. Walk around the shallow end; gently bounce up and down; swish gently through the water. Once baby seems relaxed, you can work on other skills.
Try turning baby facing outwards. Hold baby high on your shoulder and move his legs up and down in an alternating, kicking motion. Babies tend to draw their legs in towards their body, so you want to help them stretch them out a bit. Hold your baby high in the water and show him how you blow bubbles. Walk around and talk about what you see (I always make notice of the lap swimmers and swim team swimmers!).
Next- what to do with older babies...
Early introduction to the water is very important, but that does not mean you need to rush out and sign up for Mommy and Me swim lessons this summer. Most babies are very comfortable in the water, especially when introduced to it in a gentle way. Start with bath time.
I was given a really cool baby bath tub for my baby shower last year. It was extremely cool! Unfortunately, it didn't get much use. That's because I know that little babies are much more comfortable in the bath when held close by their mom or dad. Yes, this means you must get in the tub with your baby. But it's only for 6 months or so. By the time your baby is sitting without assistance, he or she will be comfortable being placed in a bath without you in the tub (under CLOSE supervision, of course). Once your baby is is sitting (without constantly toppling over), fill the tub with toys. You want the water to be something the baby associates with fun and excitement. Bath toys should be bath toys. This means that you leave the bath toys in the bathroom when bath time is over. It will give baby something to look forward to (as though the warm water isn't enough).
Spend the first 10-20 minutes in the bath holding or playing with your baby. Then, in the last 5-10 minutes, soap up and do the washing. That way, you'll keep from getting soap in his eyes so easily and it won't be a drying on his skin.
Coach Mandi has been teaching and coaching swimmers at the USA, summer league, high school, and Masters