Bryony Johnson from Water Babies offers from expert advice for parents of babies and toddlers planning fun in the water this summer
It’s holiday season! If this is your first summer with a baby, you might be thinking about holiday logistics – where’s safe to swim? What’s does my baby need? Is the resort pool too cold? Water Babies is here to help with this practical guide.
Teaching your baby to swim is one of the greatest activities a family can do together. From the newest family member to the oldest, everyone can be involved. Add in a family holiday, and you have the kind of bonding that lasts and creates happy memories.
Water plays a huge part in most family holidays. If you’re not near the sea, then chances are, you have access to a pool. Being in, near or around water with small children throws up a few concerns, and the key to really enjoying it is to be prepared.
Pool or sea?
In the UK and abroad, public pools, especially holiday villa or resort pools tend to be around 27-28⁰C. That ten degrees below body temperature can feel cool on a hot day, which is kind of the point!
If you’re swimming with a baby, you’ll need to consider their age and size before taking the plunge. If your baby’s under 12lb or 12 weeks, stick to dry land. If your baby’s between three and six months, wrap them up in a wetsuit and limit the time you spend in the water to around 15-20 minutes. If your baby is over six months, splash for up to 30 minutes and keep that wetsuit on.
Go almost anywhere in Europe, and the sea in cooler again. Be aware of the temperature, and keep babies under six months old on the beach. Keep hold of them at all times – don’t let go of a small child in a buoyancy aid or inflatable because, even if the sea’s calm, currents and winds can sweep them away. Also be aware that they shouldn’t swallow the salty water.
Cold water fact: small babies don’t shiver. If they’re cold, their lips, fingers and toes will have a blue tinge.
Wetsuit or sun suit?
A belt-and-braces approach to keeping babies warm in water and protect from the sun is never a bad thing. A sun suit is made of a thin, UV-protecting material. It dries really quickly and gives a protection against the sun’s rays of around SPF 50 — a brilliant option for outdoor pools and the beach.
A wetsuit is made of neoprene. It should fit snugly so that it can trap a thin layer of water next to your baby’s skin which warms to their body temperature. You can get sleeveless or full arm length wetsuits, which you buy by your baby’s weight or age.
Cold water fact: our chubby babies have ‘brown fat’ which doesn’t just insulate them, it also generates heat.
Keep them safe
The key to safe swimming is vigilance. Even a baby who’s supported by a buoyancy aid can get into trouble, so hold them at all times. Watch them next to the pool, in the paddling pool and on holiday.
Babies aren’t naturally scared of water and they have amazing reflexes that means they’ll hold their breath under water for a couple of seconds. The best thing that you can do is make dipping underwater gentle, calm and normal – that way they won’t become scared. Teach them to gently splash in and hold on to the side.
Toddlers are a completely different story! They can sometimes be scared and clingy, in which case, gentle games, toys and bubble blowing will help them feel at ease. Most importantly, they need to feel supported by you, so while it’s tempting to push them, try to take things really calmly and slowly.
Or, they can be gung-ho and bonkers. This needs a whole different approach – one that gives strict rules and boundaries. Play games where they listen for a magic word before jumping in, teach them how to get in water safely – and how to find the side and climb out again.
Learn to teach
The best thing you can do is learn how to teach your baby to swim. Water Babies classes do just that, focussing on child development and how it affects little ones in the water. We teach water safety and confidence as well as early swimming skills in a fun, playful environment where you and your little one learn together.
There’s something magical about being with your baby in water. As they relax, uncurl, splash, kick and smile, you discover a wonderful, bonding experience that you can enjoy together. We teach across Bristol, Bath and North Somerset and our new Summer Term timetable will be released soon!
Call 0117 946 6919 to book your place or pop on over to our website www.waterbabies.co.uk/contact/bristol-bath-and-north-somerset