By Guest Blogger: Nikos Vasilellis
Giving life to a child is probably the most fulfilling feeling a woman can feel in her life. Being a mother changes everything: From this moment on, you have to take care of your beloved one and guide it throughout its life.
Everything is new, especially if you are a first-time mom. The first couple of months are spent on ensuring that their basic needs of nutrition and shelter are covered and for keeping them healthy and secure.
As they grow at a rapid rate and they start to develop their motor skills, most women tend to wonder what the best activity for further help would be: the challenge of providing their kids with the more stimulating and useful actions is indeed striking.
It could also be tricky, as mothers are many times not sure how to best help in the development of their infants. The answer to all these natural questions can be just one word: Swimming.
Is it Safe for Infants to Swim?
For most mothers who are not aware of the great advantages that swimming can offer to them and their kids, the first question that comes in mind is logical:
Is it safe for my infant to swim? Isn’t it too early and maybe dangerous? And what is the part I can play in this process as a mother?
Well, the answers can be surprising but true. Not only is it safe for infants to swim, but it could also be highly beneficial for mothers, too. We will come back later to the aspect of maternal benefits.
Speaking about the safety issue for infants swimming, it is significant to point out that infants can swim from the age of six months.
According to NHS (the National Health Service of UK), babies can be taken swimming at any age. However, it advises that they shall be taken to swimming pools six weeks after their birth to avoid picking up an infection.
Similarly, AUSTSWIM (Australia’s national organization for the teaching of swimming and water safety) suggests that the age of six months is the most common for infants and toddlers to begin swimming lessons.
NHS again advises that swim classes shall take place in small swimming pools, heated to about 32 degrees Celsius. It recommends using a baby wetsuit if a big public swimming pool I used for the classes.
But even before the actual teaching of swimming begins, here’s more helpful advice for mothers:
Use the bathtub as a miniature swimming pool and move your baby slowly into it. This way, you can help it familiarise with water and develop its motor skills. Most babies acquire a natural ability of swimming, with the help of an adult, of course, and can instinctively hold their breath underwater.
The Drowning Factor
Reversing the question used at the previous header, we could ask: Is it safe for babies not to swim?
This is not a philosophical question, but it is based on the fact that by not providing your babies with the essential swimming skills, you could endanger its future survival.
NHS statistics for drowning are striking:
- Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.
- There are an estimated 360.000 annual drowning deaths globally.
- Global estimates may significantly underestimate the actual public health problem related to drowning.
A further check into statistics presented in the Global Report on Drowning is particularly revealing:
- Drowning is one of the top five causes of death for people aged 1–14 years for 48 of 85 countries with data meeting inclusion criteria.
- In Australia, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1–3 years.
- In Bangladesh, drowning accounts for 43% of all deaths in children aged 1–4 years.
- In China, drowning is the leading cause of injury death in children aged 1–14 years.
- In the United States of America, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1–14 years.
The Global report on drowning (published in 2014) shows that age is one of the major risk factors for drowning.
Globally, the highest drowning rates are among children 1–4 years, followed by children 5–9 years.
In the WHO Western Pacific Region, children aged 5–14 years die more frequently from drowning than any other cause.
Of course, this relationship is often associated with a lapse in supervision, but in any case, the message should be crystal clear: Teaching your kids how to swim can be a life-saving skill.
How Does Swimming Benefit an Infant?
Swimming can highly benefit the development of an infant in many areas:
More specifically, swimming helps babies to build muscles, thus making them stronger, as well as enhancing their stamina, developing their joints, and improving the strength of their hearts and lungs.
The element of water, as buoyancy creates a physical resistance like a counter-force, plays a crucial role in the physical enhancement of babies.
Furthermore, swimming stimulates the formation of the baby’s tissues, strengthening their immune system, and reducing the risk of being ill.
As far as the cognitive aspect is concerned, swimming contributes to the building of neurons throughout the babies’ brains. This is very useful for the development of reading skills, coordination, balance, and spatial awareness.
Additionally, there are great emotional and social advantages for your babies when taking swimming classes:
The bond between the baby and its parents are strengthened while the social experience they live, is a unique one and furthers the power of its brain.
Swimming can also improve the sleeping pattern of the babies because of the natural exercise involved. Making swimming classes a habit can facilitate the daily and night routine, making them sleepier after each swim class.
Benefits of equal importance can occur for the diet of babies because swimming can improve their appetite. Having a snack next to you during the swimming sessions is essential, as it is highly probable that your kid will be hungry after it’s over.
The social benefits of swimming classes for babies can’t be overlooked. These classes will most probably be the first social experience for your kids outside the family environment.
Learning to interact in a new environment could help your child to adapt easier in different social occasions when grown up.
Finally: Taking swimming classes from a very young age builds water confidence. This is a major step for the further development of swimming skills.
Most people who have a fear of water have developed such fear from a young age. There is a great degree of certainty that a baby with strong water confidence will become a competent swimmer when being an adult.
How Does an Infant Swimming Benefit the Mother?
Apart from the great advantages that swimming offers to the kids themselves, there are strong benefits for the mothers as well.
First, swimming can provide quality bonding time between mothers and their babies. Such time can be very rewarding, considering the extremely busy and high-stress lifestyle of the modern cities.
For most mothers, spending more time with their babies is the most precious asset they can ask for in life, and swimming can provide them with this “privilege”.
Another similar benefit comes from the level of the relationship that is developed during swimming. Mothers are asked to be in the water with their kids during the swim classes.
At this time, mothers provide their undivided attention to their babies. Because of the nature of the activity and as mothers are inclined to protect their kids, this could be the time of the day when mothers and babies come so together with each other.
Indeed, something is exciting when entering an aquatic environment, and it seems like the exchange of feelings there is more intense than anywhere else.
Consequently, infant swimming strengthens the mother-child bond. As your child will tend to come closer to you, while being in the water, you will most probably tend to hold it all the time. You provide it with the security it needs and share new experiences of affection.
And here’s a message for the mothers who tend to fear water: Who knows, maybe your kid will help you overcome this fear!
The love between mothers and their children is naturally unconditional. All mothers know that they should engage their beloved ones in activities that are essential to their education and their future growth.
Taking swimming classes with your baby is an excellent option for stimulating its body and mind as well as strengthening the bond between you.
Of course, you need to get the green light from your kid’s doctor before taking the step, and you always need to have a certified swim instructor next to you.
It is most likely that your kid will thank you when grown-up for teaching it how to swim from a very young age. And, maybe you get this rewarding appreciation while swimming together!
About Nikos Vasilellis
Nikos Vailellis is the Founder of Nereids Aquatic Coaching and has a passion and love for aquatic activities which is combined with his care for helping others. Nereids Aquatic Coaching helps children and adults overcome their fear of water by focusing on their individual strengths and helping them enjoy the aquatic environment safely.