Baby swim classes require a big investment from parents, yet around 50% of parents around Australia still take their young ones to specialised swimming pools for babies.
The below are some encouraging words for those parents who are still sitting on the fence:
Healthy babies, even from the womb of their mother, perform an action of respiration through the amniotic fluid. This means that babies receive oxygen through the umbilical cord while the upper airways are normally closed. As a result, upon birth, the reflexive mechanism in their bodies that causes immediate closure of the trachea when entering the water is still active. However, this reflex usually disappears within a few weeks to a few months from birth.
No need to feel disappointed if you missed the window of opportunity to use this birth instinct as there is also a possibility of re-establishing it through training and teaching, with the help of qualified instructor, in specialised swimming lessons for infants.
Things to do at home:
A simulated controlled experience in the bathtub long before you take your baby to a public swimming pool or lessons has the potential to maintain your baby’s innate skill / reflex. This is done by gently pouring water down your baby’s face during her bath time. This should be her special joyful time, when she is relaxed and available to interact with you.
For more information about how to do this please contact us via: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also note that this is not a reflex that allows a baby to stay under the water for a long time but only a few seconds.
Therefore, when it comes to submerging (going completely under the water), please do not do it in the bathroom, but go to a designated group, under professional supervision and guidance in a pool and program that are designed for this purpose.
Can babies really swim?
Most swimming professional experts say that children cannot be taught to swim until the age of 4. This is true only if we think that specific movements need to be learned.
Babies are able to naturally move under the water using instinctive mammalian movements as early as they lean to turn, reach for toys, crawl, and walk.
Later on, as early as 16-24 months, if being exposed to enough water play, they are able to lift their heads above the water to take a breath between diving and moving. But this is not the most important outcome and definitely not the focus; it is only a byproduct of a good and consistence aquatic experience.
So, what is the focus?
To provide safety and facilitate a pleasant, encouraging, supportive and stimulating environment, while enjoying the quality of the child - parent interaction.
The practice of movement within the water has quite a few benefits:
First of all – it is a quality fun activity to do with your baby.
And then, there are of course some developmental advantages as well, such as:
Improved mental skills such as focus/concentration and interpersonal communication.
Encourages motor skills such as strengthening the shoulder belt, legs, hands and core.
Encourages developing a strong respiratory system.
Strengthens the immune system.
Helps learning and feeling the boundaries of the body.
Supports gaining independence and self-confidence.
Expectations and achievements:
Please do not forget that the pace of the baby's progress is personal and depends on many factors - such as: genetics, birth age, home environment, etc.
Overall, infants age 6 months or older will be able to dive while holding their breath for a few seconds
At the age of 1 year infants are able to swim independently for about 5-7 seconds from one point to another; e.g., from the teacher to the parent and via verse, or from parent to the edge of the pool and via versa.
Infants at the age of 16 months who are already swimming a short distance can jump into the water when supervised.
At this stage they are able to dive to the bottom of the pool and bring back items / toys.
Toddlers 3-5 years of age that have been having regular swimming lessons with their parents are able to swim 15-20 meters in a few different styles (e.g. - free kick, frog kick, breaststroke arms, butterfly body and more).
How early is it recommended your baby to start lessons?
At the age in which the baby is able to raise her head independently and becomes more aware of the external environment.
The first lesson is usually powerful and is an unforgettable experience for parents and the baby, therefore, it is highly recommended to arrive at the times of day when the baby is attentive, satisfied and relaxed, and when the pool is not overloaded.
What about if your baby is sick?
If your baby is sick do not take her for swimming that day.
However, sneezing or even coughing, without a fever of over 37.5C, are not a reasons to miss a session.
If you have concerns that swimming will cause your baby to become more susceptible to disease and infection, then you may want to know that research has shown that infants who participated in regular swimming lessons have more endurance and are less prone to suffer respiratory problems.
On the issue of sanitation: The Ministry of Health has strict and precise regulations regarding the maintenance of hydrotherapy pools. Be sure to ensure that the facility where you choose to take your child to the swimming classes complies with all regulations and that the amount of students using the pool in one session is kept small.
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