When Can My Baby Swim?

When Can My Baby Swim?

– When Can My Baby Swim?

This is a question I’m often asked in the clinic. Often parents ask whether they need to wait until after their baby has his first set of vaccinations.

Actually, the decision is based more on your baby’s size, or surface area: volume ration. This determines how rapidly your baby will lose heat when submerged in water. Babies can lose heat through their skin very rapidly, even in a tropical country like Singapore!

Usually, a baby with an average birth weight (around 3-4kg at birth) with good weight gain afterwards will be able to start swimming at around six weeks of age. This is a good time for Mom to return to swimming as well- starting swimming too early after giving birth may increase the risk of an infection.

When Is The Best Time To Swim?

I usually recommend that if you are swimming in an outdoor pool in a tropical country such as Singapore, you wait and take your baby swimming in the late afternoon, between 4-5pm, when the sun has had a chance to warm the water, but the midday heat has passed. Dress your baby in a SPF sun- protective swimming costume (many have SPF 50+ fabric), and cover his head with a hat.

If swimming indoors in a heated pool, then you don’t need to worry so much about heat or sun exposure. Just pick a time when your baby is not likely to be overtired, hungry or immediately following a meal.

Should I Use Sunscreen On My Baby?

Although many infant and toddler sunscreens often recommend their use only after three months of age, it is advisable to apply it to your one or two month old if they are going to be outdoors and exposed to sunlight for a significant period of time (which in a tropical country may be as little as five to ten minutes). Having seen second degree burns in a young infant patient, I would strongly recommend you use an infant or toddler sunscreen for your baby when he is swimming.

How Long Can My Baby Stay in The Pool?

You will probably find that a small baby who is less than 3 months will only be able to manage around ten minutes in the swimming pool before his lips turn blue or he starts to shiver. This is your cue to take him out of the pool and wrap him in a soft towel to warm him up.

Take your baby for a bath or shower immediately after swimming, as the chlorine in the swimming pool can be very irritant to baby’s skin.

Parents sometimes ask if it is advisable or appropriate to use a floatation device. I would recommend that, whether using one or not, you never take your hands off your baby, as babies can wriggle out of floatation devices.

What are your experiences with your baby and swimming? Did he love it or hate it? Share your experiences in the comments below. 

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Postnatal Depression- Are You At Risk?

Everyone tells you that the birth of a new baby is a joyful, exciting thing. It’s a day many of us look forward to from the moment we discover we are pregnant. The big day arrives, a little bundle is placed in our arms… and our lives are irrevocably changed. But what happens if the thoughts and emotions are not what we anticipated? What if, instead of joy and excitement, we feel fear and anxiety. Who do we turn to? What do we do?

Postnatal depression

Postnatal Depression: Are You At Risk?

The Statistics:

Many women experience “baby blues”, a feeling of sadness and emotional let-down that classically begins on day 2 to 3 after the birth of the baby, and may last up to two weeks.

This phenomenon is partly due to the sharp drop in your “happy hormones”, oestrogen and progesterone, which were keeping you going throughout pregnancy (think of it as a super-magnified premenstrual tension!). Some women also experience a sharp drop in their thyroid hormone levels, which can lead to feelings of excessive tiredness and lethargy.

Studies show that around 1 in every 8, or 10-15%, of women will experience something a bit more intense than the baby-blues- true postnatal depression.

Who Is At Risk?

Women who have a history of pre-existing depression or other psychiatric illness, such as bipolar disorder or anxiety, may be 60% more likely to suffer postnatal depression than mothers with no history of psychiatric illness in the past.

Other risk factors:

  • unplanned or accidental pregnancy
  • unsupportive partner
  • teen or single parent
  • socio-economic needs
  • stress
  • baby with disability or special needs
  • premature baby, or baby requiring hospitalisation
  • previous history of losing a baby

 Signs of postnatal depression include:

  • Sadness and feelings of emptiness worsening, rather than improving at around the two weeks mark, and lasting considerably longer
  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Feelings of desperation
  • A sense of failing or being a failure (at breastfeeding, being a mother… ), or not being able to bond with your baby
  • Tiredness or lethargy
  • Poor sleep, difficulty in falling asleep or sleeping too much
  • Eating too much, or too little
  • Unable to feel happy about anything
  • Unable to motivate yourself to do things, or get out of the house
  • Frightening thoughts about harming yourself or your baby

A small number of women with postnatal depression may go on to experience postnatal psychosis. Signs of postnatal psychosis include:

  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
  • Extreme feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings that your baby/ your family/ your partner would be better off without you
  • Escalating thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, or planning to commit suicide

What Can You Do?

Self help interventions:

  1. Ask for help: recognise how you feel and tell someone! Anyone! It can be a friend, family member, ora a complete stranger- but you should tell someone! Once you have acknowledged the feelings, they are less powerful to harm you or your family, and other people can share the burden with you.
  2. Be good to yourself: forget all the projects you were convinced you would get done during your maternity leave (finally bringing order to the study, anyone…?). Just concentrate on getting through the day!
  3. Get yourself out of the house: arrange a coffee morning with friends or your sister. Talk and let them know how you’re feeling.
  4. Force yourself to do something physical! Put your baby in the stroller and go for a walk.
  5. Reach out to your pastor/ priest, or faith leader in your faith community for help and support.

Go for a walk on the beach

Help And Support:

Talk to your doctor (your family doctor, obstetrician or your child’s paediatrician) about accessing more help. Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioural therapy helps you to see your situation clearly, and gives you the tools to manage and move forward.

Your doctor can also recommend medications (or send you to someone who can prescribe medications) to treat anxiety and depression. Don’t worry: Your doctor can prescribe medications that are safe to use during breastfeeding.

There are suicide helplines and support groups in most countries that you can reach out to if you feel you cannot talk to a family member or friend about how you’re feeling:

  • Singapore: Samaritans of Singapore at 1800 221 4444
  • United States: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
  • UK And ROI: Samaritans UK & ROI
    Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 90 90 (UK – local rate)
    Hotline: +44 (0) 8457 90 91 92 (UK minicom)
    Hotline: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI – local rate)
    Hotline: 1850 60 90 91 (ROI minicom)

For a full list of suicide lines see: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines

And finally… a few reminders:






As always, feel free to leave a comment below. And don’t forget to subscribe to receive weekly medical and parenting advice direct to your inbox. Have a great week ahead!

Top Tips For Brushing Teeth

It’s the nightmare every parent of a small child has to face- twice a day! How to get junior to brush his teeth, or allow you access for long enough to do a half-way decent job? Here are my top tips for brushing your child’s teeth, and not losing your sanity in the process!

Rubber baby toothbrush

Finger toothbrush

1. Start early:

Basically, as soon as your baby has teeth. Most babies will start teething between 6 to 10 months (although some babies are born with one or two teeth, and a small number of children won’t have any until around one year of age). Get either a rubber or silicone baby brush that fits over your finger, or a round headed soft brush with a tiny spot of baby toothpaste; brush both the teeth and the gums twice a day.

2. Brush after milk: 

You’ve been told not to let baby feed to sleep before, but nursing to sleep once your baby has teeth will increase the risk of tooth decay. Aim to brush your baby’s teeth after the last bottle or the last breast feed before bed. If this is completely impossible, give a small bottle of water after the feed to rinse the milk off the dental enamel. Prolonged nursing throughout the night (for example, babies who co-sleep) is associated with an increased risk of dental caries.

3. Brush standing behind your child: 

This has a number of benefits:

  • Depth perception: standing behind your child, brushing towards yourself, helps you to gauge how deep you are going. You are less likely to hurt your child, and make him dread the experience.
  • You can sit your child on your knee: this helps you to comfort, and also control the situation!
  • Try positioning yourselves in front of the bathroom mirror so that he can see what you are doing. This also works well with slightly older children, as they can “teach” their mirror image how to brush teeth!

4. Talk about brushing teeth: 

As with most things to do with raising children, there are books you can read. These discuss what may happen if we don’t look after our teeth, and how important brushing our teeth is. There are also songs and videos on the subject (check out Elmo singing “Brushy Brush” with Bruno Mars). You can try singing these songs whilst brushing your child’s teeth- or make up your own silly songs!

5. Use a hero:

Sometimes this may be Daddy. You can try brushing teeth alongside Daddy in the mornings and using him as a role-model. Sometimes it may be Mummy. You may want to get creative and brush the “teeth” of a favourite toy or teddy. Alternatively, you could surf the internet for pictures of your child’s favourite film character brushing his test and paste a copy on the mirror- look who I found brushing his teeth…!

Favourite characters brushing terth

Darth Vader brushing his teeth!

6. Schedule regular dental check-ups:

Once your child reaches two years of age, you should start scheduling regular twice-yearly dental visits. You can begin to get your child used to the idea of going to the dentist before his first visit by allowing him to accompany you when you visit the dentist. Again, reading books about going to the dentist helps your child prepare for the visit.

Have you found any other tricks that work for you? Share your tips in the comments box below. And remember to sign up for regular weekly emails for parenting and medical advice. Have a great week!

Date Night: Prioritising A Healthy Relationship

Prioritising a healthy relationshio

Date night

We’re wired to put our kids first. From the moment they’re born, we sacrifice. Actually, even before they’re born- we give up wine, soft cheese and sushi. We make sure we’re a healthy incubator for this amazing new life growing inside us. And after the birth we sacrifice sleep, sanity and normally sized breasts on the altar of our children.

Of course this is normal and appropriate. But sometimes, in our desire to give our children the  best possible childhood they could possibly have, we can overlook a major component of that happy idyllic childhood- a stable and happy relationship between their parents.

Unfortunately, not everyone gets to experience and enjoy parenting as a couple. For some, it is a carefully considered choice; for many others it is a necessity, involving heartbreak, loneliness and sacrifice that someone on the outside looking in will never begin to understand.

Keeping a Healthy Partnership:

For those of us who do have the privilege of parenting as a team, there’s the risk of becoming so busy in the job of parenting that we forget what a privilege it is to share this journey. We forget that the relationship with our partner is just as worthy of nurturing as the relationship with our children.

In the USA, 53% of marriages end in divorce; in UK, the divorce rate is 42%. The average duration of a marriage that ends in divorce in the USA is 8 years. Certainly, there are multiple reasons why marriages fail, but the American Psychological Association reminds us that a healthy marriage is beneficial for children:

“…growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems”

But it’s not enough to provide your children with a happy home environment at all costs. Some couples stay together “for the kids”, only to divorce when their children leave home. Empty-nest divorce rates are increasing throughout the world. In the USA, one in four couples over the age of 50 will divorce, whilst in the U.K., divorce rates in older couples have increased by 33% between 2002 and 2013.

So how do we maintain a happy, healthy marriage? How do we ensure this stable home environment for our children to grow up in? And how do we make sure that we still love each other when the children leave home?

Date Night:

We need to start being intentional in our relationship with our partner. We spend time asking our children how their day went, but when was the last time you asked your partner how their day was? (Extra points if it was sometime this week!).

Think of your partner and yourself as the foundation on which you build your family. Take time to develop a strong foundation. Remember what brought you together in the first place. And date! Take time out to do things together that you love.

In our home, we have a modified approach to “Date Night”. I take no credit for this- this was entirely my husband’s genius idea. We have three children, and the benefit of grandparents who live near enough to offer babysitting! On the first Saturday of the month, we take our elder son out on a “date”; we deliberately choose activities we know he loves, or a movie that he has been wanting to watch, but is maybe a little too “old” for his younger siblings. In short, we make him feel special, and we give him time with us.

The second Saturday belongs to our middle child, and the third is number three’s. But the fourth Saturday belongs to us. A restaurant, a good movie; things we loved doing together before we had children.  A time to reconnect, and remember what brought us together in the beginning. Just as we spend time with each child individually making them feel special, we need to create time to spend with each other, making each other feel special and loved.


So Date Night sounds like a great idea, but what do you do if you don’t have grandparents who live nearby, or who are able to help with babysitting? There are other options:

See if you have any friends with mature and responsible teenaged children who would like to make a little extra money on a weekend.

Get recommendations from friends for babysitters, or search for reputable babysitting companies.

Make reciprocal arrangements with family members or friends, where you look after their children one Saturday evening, and they take your brood the following Saturday evening. This works especially well if the children are cousins or friends, as then everyone has fun. My kids love it when their cousins come round for some homemade popcorn, a movie and a sleepover!

What challenges have you faced in prioritising your relationship with your partner? What strategies have you found that worked for you? Feel free to leave your comments below.

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