Safe Swimming for Babies

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With summer coming up, this is a good time to think about water safety. Some parents choose to have their young children take swimming lessons, even infants. Is this safe? Is it useful for young children?

Even though infants and small children cannot really learn to swim, there is no reason not to let them get used to being in the pool and enjoy the water, provided it does not give them, or their parents, the wrong idea about pool safety.

Children cannot learn actual swimming until they are at least four to five years of age. There have been very few studies on younger children, and there is really no good information to indicate that babies under a year old can retain anything from lessons. Children between one and four years of age may be able to learn enough to help, should they fall into the pool. However, it is absolutely essential that no parent should think that swimming lessons means a toddler or young child is safe around a pool. Young children must be supervised with someone in the water. The most swimming skills can give a child is a few more seconds for you to rescue her if she falls in.

Even though infants and small children cannot really learn to swim, there is no reason not to let them get used to being in the pool and enjoy the water, provided it does not give them, or their parents, the wrong idea about pool safety.

Some parents have heard that babies can drown from swallowing too much water during their swimming lessons. It is true that they can swallow a lot of water if not watched carefully, but they will not drown. No one can drown by drinking water. Drowning means that a person’s lungs have filled up with water. Water must be inhaled into the breathing tubes, and then into the lungs.

The danger of drinking too much water is called “water intoxication” (the water in the body is mixed with salts, and other things, in just the right proportions). If someone drinks plain water without salt far beyond what is needed, the concentration of salt in the blood and body fluids can drop dangerously low. This can be fatal.

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There were some reports of water intoxication in babies during swimming lessons in the 1980’s. At that time, it was considered very rare. It only occurs in babies submerged for very long periods, and they are allowed to swallow water. There is no good reason to submerge a baby. If brief submersion is part of “swimming lessons,” you or the teacher should be holding onto the baby and bringing her right back up. If your child is swallowing water, stop submerging her. Keep her head above the water or take her out of the pool.

What do you think? Safe Swimming for Babies

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8 comments

  1. Avatar of LIZ says:

    i want to bring her to swimming lessons, she seems to like water so much wiil see

  2. This is very interesting information for when we bring my son into the pool.

  3. Avatar of Hope Hope says:

    Babies have an instinct on swimming and early infants have a double esophagus that keeps them from drowning (this is why they can drink and breathe at the same time). When they get older their esophagus becomes one and the ability to inhale water can happen. Yes you should keep an eye on your children, but don’t underestimate the human body.

  4. Avatar of Angela Angela says:

    Very good article. I shared it with my friends also.

  5. Avatar of meredith meredith says:

    very interesting. I would have not thought about the water intoxication.

  6. Avatar of Bella8791 Bella8791 says:

    Very good article. I will use this information well this summer.

  7. Avatar of Ade Lina Ade Lina says:

    Good article. This last winter I took my daughter to the communtiy center that had a warm water therapy pool. Two days a week for one hour they would have the pool available to moms and infants. It was great and my daughter loved the water!

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