– 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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