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Dipping your toes in the water: the first time you take your baby swimming

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The first time you take your baby swimming is usually a very special moment. However it is also something many parents have a lot of questions about, with parents keen to ensure it is a positive experience. Here Karina from Turtle Tots Edinburgh & East Lothian shares her thoughts on ensuring your first dip with your baby becomes another wonderful memory in your little one’s development.

When should you first take your baby swimming?

We’re often asked about what age is best for parents to take their newborns for their first swim. A baby can go swimming at any age and all you really need to consider is the temperature of the pool, to make sure they don’t get chilly:) Turtle Tots classes are held in warm pools, normally warmer than the majority of public pools, so do check the temperature of the pool before you go. There is absolutely no need to wait until they are immunised before going into the pool.

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What do you need?

In addition to your usual items in your changing bag, I’d recommend taking the following:

  • Nappies: in Turtle Tots classes we operate the double nappy system and would suggest this for all trips to the pool. This is either a reusable swim nappy or a disposable swim nappy, with a NeoNappy over the top. Unlike normal nappies, swim nappies are not waterproof, and so it’s the outer nappy (like a NeoNappy), that keep any leaks in.
  • Wetsuit: we would recommend a wetsuit for tiny babies, especially in pools that are lower than 32 degrees. After six months they are able to go in cooler pools without wetsuits, but as every baby is different we always recommend watching your baby for signs that they may be becoming cold.
  • Towels: the ones with the hoods are popular but really any towel that will keep your baby cosy after their swim is fine. I’d recommend taking two just in case there are any accidents when their nappy comes off.
  • Milk: whether breastfed or bottlefed, your baby will be hungry when they get out the pool.
  • Toys: something to distract them with when you are getting them dressed.
  • Camera: definitely a memory worth capturing. Although most public pools do not allow cameras so it’s best to check before you go. We are lucky in our classes that, usually, we can allow our parents to take photos of their baby’s swimming journey:)

Where should you go swimming?

Ideally you want to take your baby to a quiet pool which is 30+ degrees. You can check out some pools we recommend here in Edinburgh and the Lothians. Try to go when it will be quiet, initially avoiding a weekend if you can.

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What should you do in the pool?

Your first dip should be about creating a wonderful safe environment for your baby. Think about what they enjoy in the bath, perhaps taking their favourite bath toy with you. Keep their shoulders under water most of the time to keep them warm. Splash a little water on their head and face, they should be used to this from the bath so most babies enjoy it. Most importantly, hold them close to you and give them lots of smiles and encouragement. We would recommend avoiding the inflatable baby swimming seats as the baby doesn’t really get much of an experience of the water floating on top of it, and they may aso get cold more quickly.

How long should we be in the pool?

Your first swim should only last about 10-20 minutes, and take them out sooner if they seem cold or are upset. You can build this up over time to up to 30 minutes.

Will my baby enjoy it?

We, as parents, often build it up into a big deal, possibly expecting tears. In actual fact, newborns are most at home in water, they’ve been living in fluid for nine months and if they enjoy their bath, it’s a good indication they will enjoy being in the pool. This is one of the reasons taking them swimming when they are tiny is a good idea, while they still have positive memories of their time in the womb.

Any other handy tips?

In my experience, if you can, go as a duo. Usually it works best if one parent goes in the pool and the other is on hand to get the baby warm, clothed and fed quickly after their swim. If you have to get yourself dressed as well, you might have a hungry baby on your hands. This is just for the first few visits, over time you’ll find the best way to get you and your baby dry and dressed but good to have another pair of hands available until you see how your baby is after their swim.

And if the first trip doesn’t go to plan, don’t be discouraged, just try again next week. Building water confidence from a young age is a hugely important life skill, sometimes it can take some trial and error but when you get those smiles and giggles in the water, you’ll see why it is worth doing.

turtletots edinburgh

Karina Reinhardt runs Turtle Tots in Edinburgh and East Lothian with swimming lessons from birth to pre-school, as well as Turtle Tums, aqua natal yoga for mums-to-be.

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