The benefits and risks of under-water exposure for babies under 6 months.
New parents often ask us “Is it safe to take my baby under the water?”
During baby swimming lessons, parents can experience anxiety around submerging their babies and understandably so! Learning to confidently read the cues of your baby and understanding their natural reflexes can lead to joyful experiences with your baby during swimming classes.
Babies are born with a number of primitive reflexes that are activated by the central nervous system.
These reflexes can help babies develop great aquatic skills during the first 3 years of their lives.
Infants can really turn into little fish given the right guidance in the water!
What Is The ‘Dive Reflex’?
One of the most significant reflexes that makes it possible to submerge babies under the water is the Diving Reflex, or ‘reflex bradycardia’.
Thanks to this reflex, when young babies are submerged underwater, they typically hold their breath and open their eyes widely.
You may have heard of babies “growing out” of the Diving Reflex or losing their ability to involuntarily hold their breath underwater?
In healthy babies, these reflexes are gradually replaced by the development of the brain’s frontal lobes which are located behind the forehead and are involved in the process of learning, behaviour and the development of personality and voluntary movements.
The diving reflex is strongest from when infants are just born to when they are 4 months old.
From about 4 to 6 months the responses associated with this reflex start to wane, until almost completely vanishing by the time babies start to walk, typically around 1 years of age.
This means that we have a window of opportunity while our babies are still young to help them learn to swim when they have the strongest natural instincts that we can seize to help them foster and strengthen the responses.
Needless to say, submersion should be done in a gradual, gentle, and attentive manner.
By joining infant swimming lessons with experienced instructors, you and your baby can acquire swim skills that will last a lifetime. This can be achieved by taking professional swimming classes which lead to acquiring important aquatic skills.
When infant submersion is continuously and properly practised, most babies become so comfortable with the experience of submersion that they can then smoothly transition to a phase where their responses to instructed dives are relaxed and without having to teach them breath control or to overcome resistance.
Furthermore, with professional and well-trained swimming instructors, babies younger than 12 months can hold their breath between 5-10 second underwater without experiencing stress!
This is why the earlier you start your baby’s aquatic education journey with a good swim school, the better it is! Baby swimming lessons start your baby’s “learn to swim” process off on the right path, helping to form good building blocks towards independent swimming down the line.
Start aquatic education swim classes with your baby at Aquanat – the baby swim pros!
Contact us to book your child’s spot today and start Perth swimming lessons with Aquanat.
There Is A Right Way To Submerge Your Baby…
A well-trained aquatic teacher will know there are specific ways of submerging children at different developmental stages. There are individual differences between babies, even within the same age group.
All babies are as different as we are!
Your children’s swimming teacher should be aware and able to adjust the instructions to include tips, tricks, and considerations for submerging correctly at each stage, as well as encourage and train parents to take their baby underwater properly by themselves.
During our baby and toddler swimming lessons at Aquanat, babies typically learn to take a breath by themselves while gliding quite early, especially if they started with us young.
An important reminder: regardless of children’s displays of water confidence and good aquatic skills, parents and teachers cannot become complacent! Mistakes and accidents can happen. So please keep a close eye, and closely supervise children in and around water at all times!
Balancing Stress and Calm In The Water
At Aquanat, we encourage independence for our swim students - with some of our 2 and 3 year old toddlers swimming independently, yet, we believe that babies should not be exposed to overwhelming stress in water on their path to swimming with confidence.
We believe in fostering the relationship between parent and child and staying away from techniques where the child is solely in the hands of an instructor who promotes ‘survival skills’ rather than the joy of swimming with trusted adults.
You may have seen videos of babies being submerged or even thrown into the water by swim schools. The babies will often turn onto their backs and exhibit a survival reflex which can appear to be confidence in the water.
We believe the long term effects of these teaching techniques can be negative - with children suffering from anxiety and long term emotional effects to the trust relationship between themselves and their caregiver.
Aquatic confidence and independence can be achieved through shared water activities that strengthen a healthy bond with your little one, making the process fun and joyful!
Swimming with your baby should be an experience that promotes trust, learning, and a sense of well-being for you and your baby.
Submersion and breath control are the first stepping stones towards independent swimming, and should be encouraged from as early as possible under the supervision of an experienced and knowledgeable instructor.
Teaching children breath control in the water should be learnt at any age and vigorously practised before learning conventional swimming strokes.
Real swimming skills start with good breath control practised underwater. If this is taught in a safe, fun, gentle and controlled manner what you will see is babies smiling and giggling under the water at the age of a few months!
Don’t waste this critical period of your baby’s life, and make the most of their natural ability to relax and enjoy submersion and swimming with you by their side!
Our professional teachers will give you the know-how to hold and submerge your baby with confidence and a sense of calm, adjusting instruction to suit the developmental stage your baby is at.
We help parents become aware of their baby’s verbal and non-verbal cues in the water.
Learning doesn’t stop there. Aquanat’s teachers encourage you to practice activities with your baby yourself, in a fun and joyful environment. Our pools offer a uniquely calm, hygienic and nurturing atmosphere to learn to swim with your baby.
Get in touch with us today to book a spot in one of our babies and parents swim classes!