Monday, July 14, 2014

Getting Baby to Love the Water Part 4: At the Pool



Many people love water, but many babies may not. It can be jarring and startling to an infant - especially if they haven't been around it much and suddenly they're in the ocean where it's loud, salty, and splashes in their face and stings their eyes a bit. It can be helpful to introduce them to water slowly before taking the plunge (pun intended).

Getting a baby used to water is imperative. Knowing how to swim is a life-saving skill that everyone should know how to do, and it' easier to learn to swim if you aren't petrified of water because you've been in it hundreds of times and had positive experiences.

Plus, for most people, being around water is very calming (hence why beaches are so popular). Being in water is possibly even more soothing. Wallace Nichols, a marine biologist and research associate at California Academy of Sciences, calls it the "blue mind effect." The term is used to describe the "calm, peacefulness, unity, and sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment that people feel in and around water." According to Psychology Today, the effect may be because of catecholamine neurotransmitters, which relay stress signals in the brain. The transmitters recalibrate in water, and reduce to lower levels similar to the levels delivered by meditation. This reduces stress and anxiety (and makes you happy).

Swimming in a pool was our fourth step of introducing our baby to the water. The first three were regular baby baths, then putting him in bigger baths, and then I even did some breastfeeding in the bath to help strengthen that positive association with water. 



Swimming Pool

I was terrified of taking this step. Water time was very successful up to this point, but I was scared that he would hate the pool.

There are a couple things to keep in mind:
  • Very young babies should not go in pools. They should be at least one month old, but it's best to wait longer. We didn't take G-man to the pool until he was 3 months old (minus one day). 
  • Water temperature. Pools will almost always be cooler than a bath, unless you have a heated pool. Outdoor pools will get more exposure to the sun, which well help keep them warmer than an indoor pool. The smaller the baby, the warmer the water needs to be. (But no hot tubs!!)
  • Chlorine and chemicals. Not all pools are suitable for a baby. If you can smell a strong chlorine smell when you walk up to the pool, it's probably to strong for your baby's skin, eyes, and nose. Seek out pools that use the new ozone filters: they're safer for babies.
  • Use proper diaper precautions. Meaning, do your part to make sure they don't have a bowel movement in the pool. Use a swim diaper, which is designed to hold things in but not absorb liquid. Try, if you can, to take baby to the pool after he's had a bowel movement. I know babies don't always do what you predict and have no schedule, but usually, once they've had a bowel movement, it will be a little while before they have another.
  • Practice sun safety. Most sunscreens are not recommended for babies under 6 months of age, but there are some that are alright for babies 0 months and up. Try to keep them in the shade as much as possible and remember that the sun reflects off of water (and intensifies the strength of the UV radiation). Check my post on sunscreens for chemicals to avoid and good brands to try. You still don't want to use a lot of product on a young baby, so put a little swim shirt on to protect them from the sun.
  • Avoid swallowing water. As much as you can, don't let your baby swallow any pool water. It's full of chemicals and all sorts of bacteria. Plus, you know kids/people sometimes pee in pools. 
Slowly wade into the water with your baby. Let just their feet enter first and check their reaction. If they're not looking upset, you can gradually lower them into the water until most of their body is submerged.



Let them float on their back and pull them around the pool. They can kick and splash like this.

Floating on his back and kicking!


You can pull him while he is leaning forward - then he can look at you and kick his legs under the water to see what that feels like. But be wary... they may suddenly drop their head and get a face full of water!

Kicking his little legs under water

Depending on their age, you can use pool toys to interest them or distract them if needed. I brought one of his bath toys - a little cup (shaped like a turtle) with holes in it so the water trickles out like a shower. He liked watching the water fall out of it and having it gently trickle on his head.


At first, our boy seemed to just be absorbing the experience. Not fussing or screaming or crying, but not smiling either. Towards the end though, we got a few smiles. :)

He sure does love the water! And his daddy, of course. :)

We were lucky - the water was very warm so it wasn't too shocking to him. It wasn't crowded either, so no loud noises or lots of splashing.

A few weeks later, we took our first family vacation to visit family in Virginia, Mississippi, and Florida. We of course took him to the pool during that time. Whereas his first pool experience was in an outdoor, in-ground, heated pool, his second time was at an outdoor, above-ground, un-heated pool. I was so nervous he would scream when he felt how cold the water was in comparison to his baths and previous pool experience. But, he didn't do too bad!

That second time taking him swimming, we decided to introduce him to going under the water, at his Nonnie's suggestion. To do this, you blow on their face which will get them to hold their breath. (Try it right now on your couch! Blow on their face... do they take a little gasp/gulp and close their eyes?) Immediately after blowing on their face, you lower them into the water completely covering their head and then bring them back up. If you wait too long after blowing on their face, they'll let all that air out again and end up gulping in water. I was so nervous to do it... I began with his head miles above the water which meant I had further to lower him...

Blow on baby's face to get them to hold their breath

Immediately lower their head under water

Then bring them back up quickly and give them lots of love!
But it turned out fine! He made a little whiny noise afterward but quickly stopped when he realized he was perfectly alright and in mommy's arms. :)

Alternatively, you can try lowering them under water while they're floating on their back. Baby G just in general does not like being on his back that much (he likes to be up and moving!), so this wasn't as successful for us.




We even stood him on a floaty to see what he thought of that! He looked like he was surfing.



There are so many things to experience and learn in and around the water. What it feels, smells, and tastes like... what it's like to float, kick, and splash. That weightless feeling is completely new. But at the same time, they spent 9 months in the womb submerged in liquid, so it isn't entirely alien to them.


He kept trying to taste it...

Stay tuned for Part 5: The Beach!
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