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?
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. Baby swimming lessons usually start at around 6 months.
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.
Newborn babies can’t swim – they have to learn, just like they learn to walk. But most babies do enjoy being in water and their reflexes mean they will be able to do primitive swimming strokes. You don’t have to wait until your baby is immunised to take them swimming.
New mothers should not go swimming until at least 6 weeks after the birth, or when they have stopped bleeding.
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 to teach them safety and how to survive in the water.
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:
- swim nappies (take some spare)
- a towel
- change mat
- nappy bag
- a snack or bottle for afterwards
If you are swimming outside, make sure your baby is protected from the sun with clothing that blocks out ultraviolet light.
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 they are fenced according to the Australian Standard.
It is also important to be careful when using floatation devices such as rubber rings - they can make the baby tip over so that their head goes 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.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: December 2018