Being able to swim is an important skill for your baby to have – not just to have fun on vacations, but because it’s something that could one day save their life if they ever find themselves unexpectedly in water.
So you’re probably wondering when it’s safe for a baby to go into lakes, rivers or the ocean.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) do not state an age when babies can go into bodies of water, many pediatricians recommend you wait until your little one is 6 months old.
When Can Babies Swim In The Ocean, Lakes and Rivers?
Given there is no official recommendation by the AAP, it’s a personal choice as to when you want to take your baby into the ocean or other bodies of water.
However, there are two reasons why you may want to wait until your baby is 6 months old before doing so.
- Many pediatricians advise waiting until your baby can hold their head up before taking them into the water.
- The immune system of a newborn is very underdeveloped, so they may struggle to fight off bacteria found in natural water sources such as oceans, lakes and rivers.
If you do decide to take them into the water before 6 months, you should also follow some essential safety tips (more on this below).
When Can My Baby Learn To Swim?
Babies can learn to swim from as early as 8 weeks.
But isn’t that much younger than the recommended 6 months?
The key consideration is where the swimming takes place.
So while a baby can safely learn to swim from as young as 8 weeks, it should be in a clean, indoor heated pool with no sun exposure, not in the ocean or other outdoor, natural water sources.
Babies do not need to be potty-trained before they go swimming, but they will need to wear special swim diapers instead or regular diapers when in the water.
What Age Can I Take My Baby To The Beach?
There’s no minimum age when you can take your baby to the beach.
However, babies under 6 months should never be exposed to the sun.
So you should keep newborns and infants in the shade at all times, and ensure you bring an umbrella, tent or other shade with you.
A baby’s skin can burn even on a cloudy day.
So unless you’re planning on going into the ocean either very early or very late in the day, it’s probably safer to wait until your baby is 6 months old before taking them into natural bodies of water.
Is Salt Water Safe For Babies?
Salt water is safe for babies, provided they do not swallow any of the water.
A baby’s kidneys are not able to process salt, so if your baby takes in too much salt they can become ill and in some cases even need hospitalization.
It therefore goes without saying that submerging an infant in sea water should absolutely be avoided.
5 Safety Tips For Swimming With Babies
If you are planning to take your little one into the water follow these 5 tips to ensure they are safe and comfortable at all times.
Babies cannot easily regulate their body temperature, so they cool down 4 times more quickly than adults.
So just as pregnant women should avoid freezing cold water, you should ensure that the water your baby swims in isn’t too cold.
Once you get out of the water, make sure you wrap your baby up in a beach towel or hooded poncho to avoid too much heat escaping from their little body.
Avoid Sun Exposure
It’s worth stressing again that a baby’s skin is extremely sensitive and delicate.
Even if your baby is over 6 months – the minimum age at which they should be exposed to any sun – you should limit your child’s time in the sun.
It’s recommended to also apply SPF 50 sunscreen, cover skin with long sleeved clothing and rash guards, and put sunglasses and a sun hat on your baby.
Stay In Shallow Water
If you’re in the water with your baby it’s safer to always stay in flat, shallow water, where you can comfortable touch the bottom with your feet.
Never Swim When There Are Currents
If there are any signs of currents in the ocean or river then it’s best to avoid swimming with your baby.
A safety-first attitude is always best with a baby, especially as even the most experienced adult swimmers can quickly get into difficulty in certain water conditions.
Do Not Let Babies Swallow Water
As we’ve seen, salt water can be dangerous for babies, because their kidneys cannot process the salt.
Younger babies are also at greater risk of catching an illness from the bacteria in water, because their immune systems are still under-developed.
So if you baby is under 12 months it’s best to keen their head above water at all times and avoid any submersion.