It is preferable to start swimming lessons as early as possible to take advantage of babies natural reflexes.
Infants automatically close off their airways when under water until they are around 4-6 months old, so are quite safe if submerged for short times. With regular practice they soon learn to hold their breath on their own. Once this reflex disappears it makes it harder to start learning breath control.
This skill translates to safety as the child gets older; holding their breath gives them time to think about their situation, find a safe place to go without panicking and gives parents time to safely respond.
Preparing your baby at home:
Babies love the water. They have lived in a watery environment for 9 months and so we like to continue that comfort as early as possible by conditioning their reflexes. Babies behaviour is governed by many reflexes at birth and for several months after. During this time we develop these reflexes into learned behaviour by starting their “at home” activities then developing them in the pool from 4 months of age.
At home in the bath/shower you, as the parent, can teach your baby when to expect water over their face and build on their natural reflexes of breath holding. By following our suggestions for bath time routine, your baby will know when to expect water on their face and how to deal with it. Your baby will shut their eyes, drop their head and hold their breath when water is poured over their head. This then prepares them for submersion in their lessons.
Our cue is “Ready, set, go-” WAIT (a slight pause of a second or two to see signs of readiness and to give baby a chance to inhale) then tip water over the back of the head. Once your baby is comfortable, give the cue, LISTEN for the intake of air, then pour water over the top of the head.
Cueing consistently is critical so they don’t become confused. The same words, timing, and in the beginning, same duration must be constant. Once they cue consistently, the duration (amount of water poured) can slowly increase.
If you are not sure about anything, please contact us so that we can help your “at home” preparation ready for lessons at 4 months of age.
Photos above: (left) Toby listening to Tim say "Ready, Set, Go..." after a pause the water was tipped over his head. (right) Toby closing his eyes, mouth and tilting his head forward, perfect cue!