Children often love being around water and while learning how to swim and float are important skills, simply splashing away in the pool is also a lot of fun for your child. If you’ve been considering baby swimming lessons and are wondering at what age your baby can start swimming, what the benefits of teaching your baby or toddler to swim are and how to prepare for your baby’s first swim you’ve come to the right place!

It’s never too early or too late to start growing your little one’s confidence in and around water, so read on to discover everything you need to know about taking your baby swimming.

When Can Babies Go Swimming for the First Time?

You might be surprised to learn that there is no minimum recommended age for taking your baby to the swimming pool. That’s right, even newborns can start learning to swim.

However, although it’s theoretically possible to start teaching newborn babies to swim from birth, it’s more common for baby swimming lessons to be offered from 3 months old or a bit later.

There’s no need to rush if you feel your infant isn’t ready yet. As a rough guide, you can usually take your baby swimming when he or she feels more or less comfortable and at home in water.

Playful, splashy bath times are a great way to help your little one get acquainted with the water before venturing out for you and your baby’s first ‘swim’ together.

It’s not recommended to just jump into the pool with your baby though. Professionally supervised adult and child sessions are the safest way to help your infant get used to being in the water with you and other people. At these sessions, you’ll also learn how to safely support your baby in the water.

To be on the safe side, always check with your health visitor before taking the plunge and signing up for baby swimming lessons, and remember to never leave your baby unsupervised in or near water whether it’s the bath at home or the pool at your local aquatics centre.

Is it Good for Babies to Swim?

Yes! If you and your baby enjoy the experience of being in water, there are plenty of great reasons to take your baby swimming:

  • Improved coordination and balance. With the water supporting your baby’s body (with a little help from you, of course), he or she is free to focus on maintaining balance. Babies and toddlers who take part in baby swim lessons may also find it easier to develop good motor skills, balance and coordination on dry land too.

  • Muscle strength. Baby swimming is a great way of helping your little water baby strengthen all his or her muscles.

  • Bonding. In the swimming pool, all your attention is focused on your baby and there are no distractions. Add the fun of playing and splashing about in the water, and there’s potential for plenty of unforgettable moments together. It’s also a great opportunity for your partner, a grandparent or other close family member to bond with your baby.

  • Exercising the heart, lungs and brain. It’s not only muscles and joints that benefit from infant swimming. The exercise your baby gets from moving and floating in the pool strengthens the heart and lungs too. In fact, it can even give brain development a boost.

  • Better sleep. You might notice an improvement in your baby’s sleep pattern after starting baby swimming – all that splashing about can really help tire your child out.

  • A bigger appetite. The combination of gentle exercise and warm water can make your little one hungry. If you aren’t exclusively breastfeeding your infant, have a snack or bottle handy for after the baby swimming session.

  • Confidence in the water. Baby swimming sessions can help your infant build up confidence in and around water. And, if you aren’t a confident swimmer yourself, helping your baby or toddler to explore this new environment may also boost your own water confidence.

How Do You Choose the Right Baby Swimming Lessons?

Good professional supervision is essential, both for safety reasons and to help ensure a positive and enjoyable baby swimming experience for you and your budding mermaid or merman.

To be sure, choose baby swimming lessons run by an instructor who’s been specifically trained to teach babies and toddlers, with a nationally recognised qualification.

The swimming school should also ensure that a trained lifesaver and first-aid provider is available throughout the infant swimming lessons.

Young babies aren’t as good at regulating their own body temperature as older children and adults, so the temperature of the pool is important:

  • For babies aged 0 to 3 months, the water should be heated to at least 32 degrees Celsius

  • For babies aged 3 to 12 months, the water temperature should be at least 30 degrees Celsius

  • The pool should not be warmer than 35 degrees Celsius.

Ask your local aquatics centre if they offer parent-child swimming lessons, or ask your health visitor for advice on where to find classes in your area.

What Happens at Baby Swimming Lessons?

At baby swimming lessons a specially trained instructor will use games, songs and other fun activities to help your baby build up confidence and feel comfortable moving around and floating in the water.

You (and/or your partner) will be in the pool as well, to support your baby and share in the aquatic fun. Don’t worry if you aren’t a great swimmer yourself. You won’t need to do any actual swimming – you’ll be there to hold and reassure your little one.

As the weeks and months go by and your child becomes more capable, he or she will gradually be introduced to basic aquatic skills such as floating and moving in the water and getting in and out of the pool safely.

For a more specific idea of what will happen at each lesson, don’t be afraid to ask the instructor for this kind of information. He or she will be able to give you a rough idea of how water skills are taught and built up over time.

What Does a Baby Need for Swimming?

If your baby isn’t potty or toilet-trained, you’ll need to take a swimming nappy.

You may be asked to use a double nappy system for baby swimming lessons. This consists of a reusable or disposable swimming nappy and a neoprene nappy worn over the top of this, with snug fitting waist and leg cuffs.

Each swimming school and pool may have different requirements, so it’s always best to check in advance what you need to bring and what’s provided by the school. Here are some of the essentials you might need to take with you when you take your baby swimming:

  • Swimming costume or trunks for you (and your child if appropriate/needed)

  • Towels – for you and your baby

  • Nappy changing gear including a changing mat

  • Floats/armbands (unless provided by the swimming school)

  • Swimming cap or hat (if required by the pool)

  • Money/coins for lockers (if needed)

  • Shampoo, shower gel

  • Hair clips/bands (if needed)

  • An after-swim snack or feed for your hungry baby or toddler.

The Bottom Line

It’s never too early to start helping your little one feel at home in water. Baby swimming is a great way of giving your infant the confidence and basic aquatic skills he or she needs to become a capable swimmer one day.

Baby swimming may also be beneficial for your child’s health and development. Most importantly, though – with help and supervision from a trained professional – splashing about in the pool with your baby can simply be a whole lot of fun!

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.