Summertime is finally here! Nothing says Summertime Family Fun quite like enjoying a beautiful sunny day waterside. There’s just something wonderful and nostalgic about slathering on some sunscreen and joyfully splashing all of your cares away. But, if you’re anything like me, you may be having some anxiety about introducing your baby to water for the first time. Even if you’re a seasoned parent, it’s important to know the basics when it comes to pool safety; so we combed through the depths of the internet to find you the very best Tips & Tricks for *Safely* introducing your child to water.
Before we start listing ways to keep your little ones safe, let’s take a moment to take a nice deep breath. No, seriously… BIG breath IN...and OUT. Good. Now, Mom to Mom: You are doing a great job! Raising tiny humans is hard and stressful work but you are rocking it like a champ! Remember that going forward, and let’s discuss some ways we can make this process fun for both you AND your little one!
The first and most important thing when introducing your baby to water is to RELAX. As you probably know by now, body language is everything when it comes to communicating with your baby. If you are stressed and tense, your baby will feel that and become stressed themselves. If you are calm and having fun, they will follow your lead. That said, every baby is unique and some children may require MANY introductions before they are comfortable in the water. As with everything else in parenting- be patient. Reassure them that you are with them and they are safe. Most importantly, never push. If your baby becomes overly fussy, today may not be the day to try water play - AND THAT’S OKAY. It doesn’t mean your baby will never be ready.
The American Academy for Pediatrics (AAP) recommends first exposing your child to water play in a bathtub or small children’s pool. Generally, you can begin doing this as soon as your baby’s umbilical cord has healed and your doctor has given the go ahead for bathing. This does not mean you should be submerging your baby’s face in any way or exposing them to the sun for long periods at this stage of their lives. That time will come, for now, start small. Studies have shown time and again that simply exposing babies to water and letting them splash and explore allows them to grow more comfortable with the sensation of water faster as they continue to develop. Below are a few fun activities to try with your little ones that will help them become strong independent swimmers in no time.
- Kick Those Legs! Hold your baby just above the water so their feet are submerged. This new sensation will encourage your baby to move their legs around and help them adjust to the resistance they feel when they move in water. The splashing from their little kicks will also help them get used to those sensations before their whole body is submerged, allowing for a much less stressful transition to deeper waters.
- Tummy Time - Swimming Edition. Using a foam floating kickboard and (with a firm hold on your baby, of course!) guide your baby around the pool allowing them to kick or paddle whenever they feel the urge. This exercise not only strengthens their back and core muscles, but will act as the foundation stones for learning proper swim techniques in the years to come. As your baby starts to kick more consistently, encourage it! Move them a bit faster when they’re kicking hard, and slow down when they’re not kicking. This will reinforce the idea that kicking is one of the vital components that make you “GO!” in the water.
- Follow the Leader! As your baby gets a bit older and more comfortable with the water, encourage your child to try new things. The best part? You can try this game with anything! From something as simple as dipping your toes in the water, to using your mouth to blow bubbles; your baby will love the interaction, and you’ll love that they’re learning AND having fun! Plus, this exercise will grow with your child, as they advance to more exciting milestones like jumping into the water!
Once your little one has been introduced to and is comfortable being in the water, the REAL fun begins! (Or, in my case, the anxiety levels increase!) While this is an amazing time full of curiosity and discovery for your child, your job of keeping them safe has just changed in a big way. According to the US Coast Guard, children aged 12-36 months are the most at risk for drowning and other pool related deaths in the United States. This is largely due to the fact that these little humans are suddenly mobile but still lack the common sense and self preservation skills that we adults rely upon to stay alive! While this fact may be terrifying, knowledge is power, and if even one of the tips below helps to prevent a child from being hurt (or worse), the world will be a better place for it.
- Learn First Aid & CPR Basics. From tending to a scraped knee to saving a life- as a parent, this information is guaranteed to get used at some point. First Aid & CPR classes are available in most every community throughout the United States. We recommend speaking to your pediatrician if you are unsure how to find classes in your area.
- STAY NEAR & STAY SOBER. I feel like it goes without saying that a sober chaperone is the best way to go… but just in case- YOU SHOULD NOT DRINK OR USE DRUGS WHEN SUPERVISING SMALL CHILDREN. That being said, even if you’re sober, it’s easy to lose sight of little ones in crowded situations. (Especially if you, like me, gave birth to tiny ninjas!) A good rule of thumb for children who cannot yet swim independently is to keep them at arm’s reach of an adult at all times. One way to make sure this happens at events like pool parties is to assign one adult (or more, depending on the situation) to act as Pool Monitor. This person, for the time they are acting as monitor, will remain sober and poolside keeping an eye in case of emergencies. It is strongly recommended that this person “park” their phone during their shift as the pool monitor, in order to avoid distractions. In addition, it is recommended and required in many states that pools have a locking fence surrounding any residential pools, so to hopefully avoid accidental drownings when the pool is not in use.
- Skip the Floaties! While the idea of your little one being surrounded by things that can float can be comforting, it can also lead to disaster. While products like floaties are fine to use while you are with your child, you should never use floaties as a replacement for adult supervision. Most floaty-related accidents have occured when an unsupervised child’s arms “slip out”, causing the child’s face to slip below water level. If you wish to purchase your child a floatation device for additional safety and peace of mind, it is recommended that you purchase a United States Coast Guard approved life jacket that is appropriately sized to fit your child.
Obviously, the list above is by no means a complete Water Safety checklist - but it’s a great place to start! The biggest thing to remember is that YOU are your child’s greatest safety net. Be patient, stay alert and remember to HAVE FUN! These Summertime moments are far too fleeting to be spent feeling stressed.
You’ve got this, Mama!
Coming up next: A *Magical* Nursery Style Guide & Traveling With Kids- The Good, The Bad & The Tired... stay tuned!