Baby swimming and floating: are swim aids safe for babies?

With the benefits well-documented, getting your baby in the pool is a no-brainer. But do baby swim aids or inflatables help at all? We investigate.

4 min read

Baby swimming and floating: are swim aids safe for babies?

With the benefits well-documented, getting your baby in the pool is a no-brainer. But do baby swim aids or inflatables help at all? We investigate.

4 min read

Should my baby wear armbands?

In terms of being in the pool with your child, there are plenty of swim aids for babies and young children available. However, the use of these is not universally recommended.

We spoke to Ali Beckman, Head Teacher and Technical Director at Puddle Ducks, a nationwide baby and child swim school. “We would never recommend the use of inflatables or buoyancy seats – these can flip toddlers over into the water and even land on top of them, making it difficult for them to surface.”

Likewise, Puddle Ducks sessions don’t make use of armbands or water wings as teaching swimming and water safety as life skills is the priority. They also believe that developing a good swimming technique is hindered by wearing armbands.

As Ali explains, “Armbands require an adult to deflate them, removing the independence for the child - something which we focus on throughout our lessons. Also, if your child was to have an accident and fall into open water, they will not have armbands on. Their experience in swimming lessons needs to be as realistic as possible, and avoiding armbands allows for this.

“Water safety is a core building block in our lesson plans and everything your child learns will, unbeknown to them, be teaching them vital life-saving skills.”

However, some parents do find baby inflatables a useful addition to their swimming kit, if only to give their arms a break for a short time! Just make sure your baby is always under close supervision and within easy reach.

Are baby neck floats safe?

There has been much controversy around the subject of neck floats for babies, and according to the experts we contacted, their use is not generally recommended.

The possibility of seams splitting and/or sudden deflation of baby inflatables makes them a potentially serious hazard. There are also concerns that they may put undue strain on a baby’s neck and impede movement. For a comprehensive look at the drawbacks of these devices, see the statement The Hidden Risks of Floating Neck Rings for Babies By Françoise Freedman, Founder of Birthlight and Shawn Tomlinson, Birthlight and Swimming Teachers’ Association Baby Swimming Tutor.

And of course, one of the perks for babies of being in the water with their parent or carer is skin-to-skin contact and the emotional benefits this bestows, something which this kind of flotation device deprives them of.

When should I use floating devices such as baby inflatables?

As the experts we spoke to reiterated, always remember that baby inflatables and floats are not a substitute for proper supervision. You should always have close contact with your baby in the water and they should always be within easy reach.

However, with the above in mind, floating devices can be a fun and useful addition to swim sessions, especially if you are using them under the guidance of professionals. Ali Beckman from Puddle Ducks agrees, “We encourage children to use non-fitted buoyancy aids if they need to, including floats and toggles, as these allow children to push away from them when they are ready to be independent.”

As always, when using any kind of flotation device, make sure they conform to British Safety Standards and are age appropriate.

What equipment should I take to help my baby swim?

Swimming – for anyone of any age – is an activity that takes a bit of forethought. Make sure you have all the things you need for a comfortable swim – swimsuit, trunks or wetsuit for yourself and your child, towels (poncho towels are great for babies and kids), spare clothes and nappies, alongside the drinks and snacks they’ll need after all that exercise. For more tips on what our parents have found most useful for swimming outings, check out our guide to the baby swim bag essentials you should always pack.

Swim nappies are top of the list and most pools will not allow babies and young toddlers in the water without them. Huggies® Little Swimmers® swim pants come in a range of sizes and are designed with a unique absorbent material that won't swell on contact with water. They also have stretchy side panels to give your baby freedom of movement in the water and leak guards that protect against accidents and leaks in the pool.

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