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Babies and swimming

4-minute read

Teaching your child to swim will help keep them safe and can be lots of fun. Even young babies can go in a pool, but make sure you follow these tips to look after them when you take them swimming.

When can my baby start to swim?

Newborn babies can’t swim — they have to learn, just like they learn to walk. But most babies enjoy being in water and their reflexes mean they will be able to do primitive swimming strokes.

Babies can go into water from birth. However, they can’t regulate their temperature like adults, so it’s very important to make sure they don’t get too cold. Babies can also pick up an infection from water.

Therefore, it’s generally best to wait until your baby is around 2 months old before you take them swimming. You don’t have to wait until your baby is immunised to take them swimming.

If your baby is younger than 6 months, make sure the pool is heated to about 32° C. A large public pool would be too cold for a baby under 6 months.

New mothers should not go swimming until at least 6 weeks after the birth, or when they have stopped bleeding.

Safety precautions

There are lots of risks for babies and young children around water. Babies can drown in just 5cm of water. To keep them safe, never, ever leave young children unattended near water. It is a good idea to learn resuscitation for babies before you take them swimming. You can learn this by doing a first aid course.

If you have a pool or spa, it is important to make sure it is fenced according to the Australian Standard.

It is also important to be careful when using flotation devices such as rubber rings – they can tip over and make the baby’s head go underwater.

Babies can get ill from bacteria or viruses in water that hasn't been treated properly. Try not to let them swallow any water. Use swim nappies, and don't take them swimming if they have diarrhoea.

If you are swimming outside, make sure your baby is protected from the sun with clothing that blocks out ultraviolet light.

Where can my baby swim?

It’s best to get your baby used to the water at home in the bath. You don’t have to put them under the water – just let them get to enjoy floating (while you hold them) and the feel of the water on their skin.

From about 2 months you can take them into a heated pool, but don’t keep them in the water for more than 10 minutes at first. If they start to shiver, take them out and wrap them in a towel. Babies under 12 months shouldn’t stay in a pool for more than 30 minutes.

It’s OK to take your baby into a river, lake or the ocean from 2 months, but it’s very important to make sure they don’t get cold. Choose a spot where the water is warm and clean. Watch out for currents that prevent you from holding them properly. And don’t let your baby drink the water.

Young children should not go into hot spas. Spas are only suitable for children over 16.

About swimming lessons

Baby swim classes are designed to get your baby used to the water, help them learn swimming strokes, and teach them safety and how to survive in the water. Baby swimming lessons generally start at around 6 months.

Usually lessons involve a small group of parents and babies who learn through fun activities and play.

You can find swimming classes in your area by asking at your local pool or visiting the AUSTSWIM website.

Swimming clothes for babies

Before you take your baby swimming, you will need a swim nappy, which has snug-fitting legs and waistbands to contain your baby’s poo. Swim nappies are not designed to contain urine.

A swim nappy is necessary to ensure your baby’s poo does not enter the pool. If poo gets into the swimming pool, it will need to be closed down immediately and cleaned. Public swimming pools often require babies to wear a swim nappy.

There are 2 main types of swim nappies:

  • Disposable swim nappies. These are like normal disposable nappies but they won’t swell up in the water.
  • Reusable swim nappies. These are made from stretchy bathing suit material, which allows water to escape, but will contain any solids. Some have a water-proof layer inside the nappy – like plastic pants. Others have an inner mesh layer.

You will also need:

  • a towel
  • change mat
  • nappy bag
  • a snack or bottle for afterwards

More information

Kidsafe Queensland – When is the right time to take my baby swimming?

AUSTSWIM – (Parents - FAQs)

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Last reviewed: December 2020

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