Taking your baby swimming for the very first time is really exciting.
But you’re probably wondering what they should be wearing – because there are loads of options for baby swimwear on the market – and what to do if they absolutely hate it!
As a former swimming teacher and mama of two girls who just love to swim, I know all about the highs and lows of taking kids swimming.
You might be nervous before you even get your child to the pool, or you might have taken them swimming once and they cried the entire time.
My eldest daughter was enrolled in swimming classes for babies at just six weeks old. I thought it would be fun, but she cried so hard she was nearly sick. I think her happy nappy (a waterproof nappy with tight bands on the legs and tummy to prevent leaks) was pinching her legs.
Whatever the reason, it put me off taking my baby swimming for a long time.
Finally I seized on a few easy ways to make taking her to the pool simpler.
One of the big things you can do if you’re nervous about taking your baby swimming is to plan to just be in the pool for five minutes. I know it sounds like nothing, but if your baby is very young they may get overstimulated quickly, or if they really do hate it then just a brief visit is better than nothing.
They get used to it in the end.
We’re going to talk through all of the things you can do to make swimming with your baby easier, including the right swimming wear to put your baby in and great floatation devices you can buy that are age appropriate.
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When can you take your baby swimming
Your baby can go swimming once their umbilical cord stump has fallen off. However, in the interests of hygiene, you need to wait until your bleeding has completely stopped.
So this will probably be at around four to six weeks old.
Most babies absolutely love the water and will adore the feel, smells and sensation of being in the pool.
Although newborn babies have a natural reaction to being in the water where they paddle their arms and legs. Of course, they can’t actually swim so they need you to hang on to them and help to support their head and neck at all times.
The experience is great for their brain development as it stimulates all of their senses.
Plus being in the pool regularly from an early age will improve your child’s water confidence, which is the perfect foundation for teaching them to swim.
We are going to talk about what floats you can use for your baby, but when it comes to newborns you’re best off just holding onto them while they can’t sit up and support their own neck.
Hold your baby upright and close to your body as they get used to the water.
As they get used to the water, you could lay them on their back while supporting their head and body with your hands and arms.
Blow bubbles in front of your baby, make tiny splashes and waves with your hands and twirl around in circles with them.
If your baby is confident and happy, you could even try dunking them underwater for a short second or two.
What should your baby wear to go swimming
What your baby wears to go swimming very much depends on where you are taking them.
If you are taking your baby swimming in the sea, then you will want to wrap them up nice and warm.
Many leisure pools are heated to a nice temperature, so you may not need to worry so much about thermal swimwear in these places.
It’s important for your baby to be comfortable. But it’s also important for you to ensure there will be no accidents in the water that ruin the experience for everyone else in the pool!
A crucial item of your baby’s swimwear!
You can buy swim nappies in supermarkets and online where they sell normal nappies. Swim nappies are different to regular nappies because they do not absorb so much liquid, they hold it in.
However, as with most nappies they are not foolproof. Baby poo will leak out of the legs because they are never quite tight enough to contain the runny texture of baby poop.
This is why you want to rely on a secondary nappy cover, as described below.
Nappy cover/ reusable nappy (happy nappy)
You could use the happy nappy on its own. It will catch any mess and keep the leaks contained.
But then you’ll have a very dirty cleaning issue on your hands. If you already use reusable nappies on a day to day basis then you’re probably totally unphased by the ideas of this.
I would use the nappy cover with a swim nappy, for double protection. Then I could just dispose of the swim nappy when we were done and rinse out the happy nappy.
Many swimsuits for babies actually have a happy nappy design built in to the lower half of the swim suit. These are a really brilliant option.
As described above, you can get swim suits with a happy nappy built in. These have tight bands on the legs and round the middle to prevent leaks.
But you can also buy simple swimsuits. If you do pop your baby in a swimsuit, don’t forget they still need to wear a swim nappy underneath.
Some swimsuits come with floats built in around the middle. These may give you a little more confidence when swimming with your baby, but you will still need to keep a hold of them at all times.
Thermal baby wetsuit
Keep your baby super warm and cosy in a thermal baby wetsuit.
These are designed to be used in places such as the sea, or in pools that aren’t heated to 30C.
Thermal wetsuits are great for very small babies, who will get cold quickly in the water.
The wetsuit will cover your baby’s arms, and some cover down the legs too.
These slightly thinner wetsuits are really great for swimming in pools, but also for playing on the beach as they provide full body coverage. This is good for protecting your baby’s skin from the sun.
The baby wetsuit wrap is generally made from neoprene which is perfect for keeping your baby warm while swimming.
It looks like a vest, with no sleeves or trousers. They fasten up with velcro which makes them super easy for whipping off at the end of a swim.
If your baby is wearing one of these, you may find it easier to hang on to them in the pool as they are made from really sturdy material.
Do you need a swimming floatation device for your baby
Most floats, such as rings, armbands and seats, are recommended for use from a minimum age of three months.
With a newborn, simply pop them into their appropriate swimwear and carry them through the water.
For babies of around three months, you can get inflatable seats or rings that you strap your baby into.
Some come with sun protection, which is ideal for the seaside to give your baby a little extra shade.
You can get baby neck floats for newborns. These do, as the name suggests, go around your baby’s neck to keep their head above water.
There are concerns about the safety of these so it’s probably best to avoid them and keep your baby safe by holding them tight in your arms.
What else do you need to pack to take your baby swimming
When packing your swimming kit, try to take two bags. Have one bag for nappies, spare clothes, your valuables and to keep your clothes when you strip them off to go swimming.
Then have another bag containing your baby’s towel and body wash. This bag you should take with you to the poolside. Some pools have hooks around the pool.
This means the towel and wash stuff is close to hand when you get out, and you don’t have to root around in a locker while your baby is getting cold.
Pack a baby towel with a hood. You can also get poncho towels which are perfect for wrapping your baby up completely. They also won’t fall off like normal towels.
Take an extra, normal towel which you can lay down on the changing mat to soak up the water as you change your baby.
Baby body and hair wash
Chlorine will not do your baby any harm, but you will want to rinse it all off once your baby is out of the water.
Stand under the shower with your baby, and keep their swim suit on as if they are naked you may find they are too slippery.
Rub a baby appropriate hair and body wash all over your baby and then rinse.
Baby conditioner spray
A good baby conditioner in a spray is easy to use. Just spray and leave on. You can use it on your own hair too!
While your baby’s skin is still damp, slather them with moisturiser to prevent their skin from drying out.
Not all changing rooms will have a bin. Pack some plastic bags to put dirty nappies in, and to put your wet swim clothes in so that your entire bag of stuff doesn’t get soaked.
Top tips for the first swim with your baby
Look for a pool heated to 30C
Your baby will feel much more comfortable if the water is heated to a nice temperature.
Take a familiar bath toy
That first swim might feel a little daunting for your baby as they get used to a strange and busy new environment.
Taking a familiar toy such as a rubber duck or jug to pour water with might make them happier.
Don’t stay in for too long
Your baby will get very tired quite quickly, so don’t have them in the pool for too long. Around 30 minutes is probably plenty for a small baby.
Have the towel waiting right next to the pool
Choose outfits that are quick to get on
Once you are out of the pool, your baby will not have much patience! They will be cold and want to feed.
Pick an outfit that you can dress your baby in quickly, such as a onesie that does up with a zip.
Do the same for you as well, choosing light trousers and a simple tip you can slip on quickly.
Take an extra layer for baby
Your baby will be cold once they get out of the water. Have a cosy cardigan or jumper to pop onto them.
It will also help to have a warm hat for their head too.
Feed your baby once they are warm
Your baby may be really hungry after all of that physical exercise, so feed them once they are out of the pool and dressed.
For a baby who is weaning, take some simple snacks such as breadsticks that they can nibble on.
Hopefully these tips have given you a good idea of what to do when taking your baby swimming! Have a splashing good time!