Doctors and other parents are always full of advice on what you should or should not do with your infants. Mostly what I hear are a lot of don’ts. Don’t feed them that, don’t do this with them, etc. etc. Of course, babies are small and somewhat incapable of keeping themselves safe, but I think their bodies are more resilient than most people realize. If you consider that a baby’s body goes through labor and delivery (whew!), and heals from it emotionally and physically like you do, that gives a lot of confidence in what they are able to handle.
Sometimes I feel like if doctors had their way neither you (the postpartum mom) nor the baby would leave the house for the first three months of the baby’s life. I think that this view is a bit extreme and causes many parents (especially first-time parents) to be afraid of doing things with their baby that could be beneficial for everyone in the family. One of these things I think people are afraid to expose their baby to is swimming.
Of course, if your baby is sick or has a disability, you may have to hold off on swimming for a time and be more careful about most things than you would if your baby was healthy. Otherwise, I don’t see why babies can’t go swimming as soon as you know they are healthy – that they are growing and adjusting well to being out in the “real world”. For Lilly, we took her into a kiddie pool when she was six weeks old and a regular outdoor pool when she was eight weeks old. We played with her, let her kick around, and even put her face in the water! She was fine with all of it and we enjoyed our time with her. The way I see it is that babies have been in a water-like substance for the first nine months of their life (in utero), so the fear of water that many children experience is a learned fear. I think it is probably much harder to get your five-year-old to go swimming for the first time than your five-month-old.
If you do go swimming with your baby, here are a few things to remember to bring:
- Sunscreen – most babies shouldn’t really have a problem with wearing sunscreen, just make sure you test it on a small area of their skin before covering their whole body in it. I’ve also read that you should use a sunscreen of SPF 15 when using it on infants.
- Hat/Sunglasses – I’ve never seen sunglasses small enough to fit on an infant, but a hat will protect their eyes just as well. Use your discretion as to whether they need to keep the hat on at all times or not.
- Swim diaper/Swimsuit – unfortunately, the smallest swimsuit I was able to find was a 3-6 months size, and the same for the swim diapers. So, we just strapped the swim diaper on as tight as we could (she was 6 weeks at this point) and put the loose bathing suit on her so the diaper wouldn’t slide off. She looked a little funny but she didn’t mind it and we didn’t get any pee in the pool. J
- Towels – take several towels for your baby, at least one to dry her off and one to keep her warm on the drive home, unless you’re planning on changing her before you leave.
Don’t let the fact that you have a baby keep you from swimming! Of course, you may still want to consult your doctor before doing so, and that’s perfectly understandable. My comments are not based on medical evidence; they are purely opinions based upon experience. I hope you get to enjoy your little one in the water as I did!