Everything You Need To Know About Taking Your Baby Swimming
Swimming with our kids has always been one of our favourite activities. While it’s an easy activity with older children, it can be daunting to take your baby swimming for the first time. How do you safely get yourself and a wriggling, slippery baby changed and into and out of the pool?
At this point, we’ve done it more times than we can count, and we have our routine down to a science. Here are my top tips and tricks to make your first time swimming with baby a success.
When can you take your baby swimming?
First things first – when can you take your baby swimming? Recommendations on this vary, so I suggest checking with your doctor. At the very least, you will need to wait until you are fully healed from the birth – at least 6-8 weeks post-delivery. My kids have each had their first swimming experience around 3 months. At that age they spent the entire time snuggled very closely to Mom, but it wasn’t long before they were splashing around on their own.
Before You Leave Home
This post assumes you’re taking baby swimming at a public pool. Swimming in a private pool will be significantly easier, as is swimming in the beach, where baby is likely to splash around more than anything.
If at all possible, enlist help for your first trip to the pool. Bring your spouse, or another friend or family member. The process can be intimidating the first time, and an extra set of hands makes a huge difference.
Make sure your baby is fed and rested before you head to the pool. Swimming usually exhausts them, so this is not the time to skip a nap – the last thing you need is an overtired baby before you even begin.
Wear your swimsuit under your clothes (just don’t forget to throw underwear in your bag for afterwards!), and wear clothes that you can easily slip on and off. If it’s warm enough, wear flip flops, or another pair of slip on shoes. You may be getting dressed and undressed one-handed, so the less you have to fuss with, the better.
Similarly, dress your baby in something that’s easy to take on and off. A sleeper or romper is perfect. Do NOT put their bathing suit or swim diaper on before you leave. You’ll change them into their swim diaper and bathing suit at the pool.
If I could tell you only one thing about taking your baby swimming, it would be this: swim diapers do not contain pee. They’re designed to catch poop only. This makes sense when you think about it. If they were designed to absorb liquid – like regular diapers – the diaper would very quickly become saturated. Since they don’t absorb pee, this means that you can’t change your baby into their swim diaper and bathing suit at home*, unless you’re prepared to deal with the inevitable accident in the car seat.
*Some people prefer to put the swim diaper on baby at home, with a regular diaper on over top. My kids had a knack for pooping on the way to the pool, so this didn’t work for me, but you may want to give it a try.
Finally, pack your bag. You’ll need:
- Undergarments for you.
- A towel for each of you.
- A swim diaper for baby (throw in an extra one just to be safe!). Swim diapers are a bit more complicated than you might first imagine – see below.
- Baby’s bathing suit. Your little one’s bathing suit may come with a built-in swim diaper, but I wouldn’t recommend relying on it alone. Layer a swim diaper (or a swim diaper combo, if required) under your baby’s bathing suit. You can skip the bathing suit and wear just a swim diaper if you prefer.
- Diaper changing supplies for afterwards.
- A wet bag or plastic bag to carry home any wet items (particularly important if you use a reusable swim diaper – you may end up carrying home a poopy diaper!).
- Soothers (if you use them).
- Breast pads (if you use them).
Lastly, if allowed at your pool, you will likely want to bring somewhere to put baby when you’re getting changed – either the bucket seat, or the stroller. Some pools have a spot to stash the car seat and/or stroller while you’re swimming, but others don’t. If at all possible, scope it out beforehand, or ask a local parent friend about the facilities at your local pool.
At the pool
The process of getting changed is going to depend on the facilities at your pool. Are there change tables? Are there individual rooms? Are there playpens or fold-out seats to put baby in? Is there a spot to stash the car seat and/or stroller?
You will need to find a spot to safely put baby while you’re getting changed. My preference is the stroller or car seat, and at our pool we’ve been able to stash our car seat and stroller while we’re swimming with no issue. If that isn’t an option, your pool may have playpens, or baby seats that fold out from the wall. Otherwise, you will want to place them on the floor (Gross, I know! Put a towel down first), or a bench or change table (this will involve a one-handed change so you can keep a hand on baby and isn’t a good option once they’re more mobile).
Get yourself completely changed and ready to go first. Perhaps obvious, but I’ll mention it anyway – if you tucked breast pads in your bathing suit for the trip to the pool, don’t forget to take them out. I’ve learned from experience that you do not want to accidentally leave them in when you go swimming!
Next, change baby. As you’ll recall, swim diapers don’t contain pee. That means that once baby is changed, you could get peed on at any minute. Do NOT put baby back in their stroller or car seat, unless you’re prepared to deal with a pee accident. Once baby is changed, you want to stash your stuff, get showered, and make your way to the pool as quickly as possible.
In the pool
This is the fun part! What you do with your baby in the water will depend on their age and comfort level in the water. My kids have always clung pretty tightly to me the first few times, but before long they’re splashing, bouncing up and down in the water, “jumping” in from sitting on the edge, “floating” (while supported) on their back and tummy, and watching me blow bubbles. The goal at this stage is to get your child comfortable in the water, not to teach them to swim – have fun with it!
A word of warning. This has only happened to me once in all of my years of swimming with my three children, but it’s worth mentioning. Swim diapers are designed to contain poop. However, some poops – especially baby poop – may not be so easy to contain. If your baby starts making the telltale “I’m going to poop” face, I highly recommend getting out of the water! The last thing you want is to be the reason they need to evacuate the pool.
Related: Nobody Told Me
This is often the most challenging part of the process. At this point baby is probably tired and cold, so you want to get them warmed up and dressed as quickly as possible.
I’ve always showered with my baby, and accepted the fact that it won’t be the best shower for either of us. We try to do a better rinse once we get home.
We’ve had our best success getting ready in the opposite order of how we got changed beforehand – baby first, then you. Give baby a good snuggle in a cozy towel to warm them up. This gives you a chance to dry off a bit too, so you’re not dripping all over them while you’re trying to get them dressed. Get baby diapered and dressed, then put them in their safe place while you get yourself dressed. At this point you will be very thankful that you wore clothes that are easy to slip on and off!
Swimming is exhausting (for baby and for you!), so you may want to feed baby before you leave the pool. By the time you leave you will likely both be ready for a nap!
Good luck! Swimming with your baby is a lot of fun, and gets much easier once you get over the hurdle of the first time.