Baby's first swim: how to keep your newborn happy in water

Not every baby takes to the water with joy. Philomena Geary talks tear-free swimming.

3 min read

Baby's first swim: how to keep your newborn happy in water

Not every baby takes to the water with joy. Philomena Geary talks tear-free swimming.

3 min read

Philomena Geary, Director of 1st Swim School has taught hundreds of babies and children to become safe, confident swimmers. “I’ve been teaching long enough to now be teaching the children of some of my first babies!” So, what does she advise to keep baby swimmers smiling?

Philomena Geary’s tips for a happy first swim with your baby

1. Build your baby’s water confidence up at home

Before taking your baby swimming for the first time, use water play at home to develop cognitive learning and start connecting your baby to water. Try playfully pouring warm water over their skin, making gentle splashing noises and using a variety of toys or household objects, like plastic food tubs and sponges to scoop, pour and play together.

Get the paddling pool pumped up in the garden. If you don’t have room for a pool, try filling a bucket with warm water and bath toys to play with. Dip tiny toes in to begin with and have a splash. For slightly older babies and toddlers, running through sprinklers provides hours of water-based fun, or invest in a water table that has funnels, squirters and waterfalls.

2. Plan ahead before you take your baby swimming

Visiting the pool before you actually go for a session can help your little one learn to swim. This way your baby can become used to the atmosphere and take it all in. Give them lots of reassurance and cuddles.

Make sure your baby has eaten an hour or so before a swim and try not to take them too close to nap time. Being hungry or tired won’t help matters.

If you can, take a friend for moral support. It will help you relax too, even if your baby starts putting up a protest in the water.

Pick a baby-friendly pool to visit to ensure the water will be a warmer temperature. Babies like to be warm and cosy.

3. Take your first swimming trip slowly

Always be led by your baby. Once you’re in the pool, cradle your baby close to your body and carefully move around the pool with your feet firmly on the floor. Once you’re both comfortable, gently bounce the baby up and down in the water. Next try moving your baby from back to front and front to back.

Go for short sessions to begin with. 10-20 minutes is more than enough. Try to go regularly as this will allow both of you to get used to swimming together.

Sometimes you might just need to accept that your baby isn’t in the mood. If you’ve tried a few games or distractions and she’s still unsettled, just call it a day and quit while you’re ahead.

4. Sign up for a baby swimming class

One of the best ways that babies learn is through repetitive behaviour or patterns, so make your pool trips a regular event. Signing up for a baby swim class will help you stay motivated as well as being a good opportunity to learn new methods and meet other parents in the same boat.

What was your tear-free baby swimming tip?

“Everyone in my NCT group took their babies swimming so we went too. Henry and I both hated it. I was feeling so much pressure to be doing what everyone else was doing. In the end we had a break from everything. A few weeks later I took him back to the pool, just by myself, no fuss, no plan. It was so much better. We’ve been swimming together every week since – he’s nearly 6 now! My tip is to persevere.” Vicky, mum to Henry and Scout.

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