If you are going to the pool, you want to be able to share that experience with your child. Babies can go in the water at any time, but you may want to wait until at least 6 weeks after the birth before going in water. After that, a pool in your own backyard or at a local health club can be a great place for you to bond with your child. As long as you take steps to keep your child protected from drowning or exposure to bacteria, cold temperatures or chemicals, playing around and swimming in the water can be a fun experience for both you and your child.
Sun and Water Protection
At an outdoor pool, keep your baby in a shaded spot, especially during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Put your child in protective clothing such as pants, a collared shirt and a brimmed hat when you go outdoors. Also try to use an umbrella or a stroller to keep UV rays from reaching your child. Consult your pediatrician before putting sunblock on a child under 6 months old. If sunscreen is necessary, only use small amounts on your infant’s face and hand. After the age of 6 months, you can use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher on your child. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends putting sunscreen on a child 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Be careful when choosing a sunscreen. Broad spectrum sunscreens with zinc-oxide or titanium dioxide tend to be the safest for children, and sun blocks with DEET insect repellent are considered harmful.
When going to pool, check to make sure the water is safe for your baby. Try to avoid pools with cold temperatures below 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit, especially for really small babies. Also check to make sure that a pool doesn’t use high levels of chlorine, which could be harmful to an infant’s eyes or skin. Use your judgment. If you can smell chemicals when you enter a pool, or the water seems cold to you, it likely isn’t going to be healthy for your baby.
Trust of Water
According to Dr. William Sears of Parenting.com, you can help build water trust by taking baths with your child. Make baths fun and soothing by singing to your child or playing with toys in the tub. You may even want to breastfeed your child in the water. Once you work your way up to a pool, make sure to hold your child securely and maintain eye contact while moving around in the water.
You can make going to the pool a fun experience for your child by bringing toys and snacks. Easy snacks such as fruit, crackers, cereal, baby food and formula tend to be the easiest, depending on your child’s age. Bring bath toys, such as rubber ducks or action figures, to transition your child from the bathtub to pool. If you bring floaties or a baby raft when your child gets older, don’t count on these toys to keep your child safe. Make sure to watch your baby at all times.
Making sure your child knows the basics of swimming at a young age can help promote water safety. A swim class can allow your baby to learn the basic motions of swimming early on in the developmental process. Companies such as Swim Jim, a swim center that offers swim lessons in Houston and New York, offer swim lessons for children as young as 8 weeks old. During swim lessons, make sure to be actively involved in teaching your child how to swim. Most classes for young children tend to incorporate games to make the lessons more interactive for youngsters. Don’t be tempted to dunk your child underwater, even for a few seconds. You baby could swallow water and run the risk of developing a bacterial infection. Give your little one encouragement when working on swimming to make it a positive experience. Try to start your baby off gradually with small increments of 10 to 20 minutes in the water before moving onto swim classes.
According to the CDC, children between the ages of 1 and 4 years old have the highest risk of drowning, especially in backyard pools. To protect your child from getting into a pool unsupervised, install a 4-foot-tall fence around the perimeter of your pool, a self-latching gate and an underwater motion alarm. A pool cover can also help you to keep your child from being able to get into a pool when you aren’t around. Remove temptation for your child by taking toys out of the pool area when you’re not using it. If you have an inflatable pool, empty it out each time.
When you are in your backyard pool area, watch your child every moment and make sure your baby wears a well-fitting personal floatation device, approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Before letting your child into a pool, it may be useful to learn CPR in case anything happens. When your child is old enough, go over important rules such as staying out of the water without adult supervision.
As long as you practice water safety, being in the pool with your baby can be a positive experience. It can allow you to develop a closer bond with your child and have a relaxing experience at the same time. By enrolling your child to swim lessons at an early age and encouraging the use of personal flotation devices, you can help your baby to enjoy and be safe in the water.
– Rachelle Wilber
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