How should you prepare your baby for her first swim at the pool? To ensure a happy and safe time, use this checklist from Dr Wong Chin Khoon, a paediatrician from SBCC Baby & Child Clinic.

– Most public pools tend to be noisy. Go during an off-peak period to ensure a calm and controlled environment.

– Check pool for general “cleanliness” of the water.

– Ensure the temperature of the water is comfortable before getting in. Some swimming schools like Marsden, Little Splashes and Aquaducks offer lessons in heated pools, with a constant water temperature of about 31 to 32 deg C.

– A baby has a short attention span. Start off with short sessions of 10 minutes each and build up to 20 minutes. If your baby is under one, avoid staying in the water for more than half an hour.

– As soon as your baby starts to shiver, get him out of the pool and wrap him up immediately.

– Do not go swimming if your baby is running a fever, has a cold, skin rash or wound.

– Get the “all clear” from the paediatrician if your baby has a medical condition, before you head for the pool.

In case you’re wondering if you should sign your little one up for swimming lessons, Dr Wong says that babies who begin classes at an early age may not necessarily master aquatic skills more quickly than those who do so at a later age.

And when is the best time to start lessons?

“The best time to get your baby into any water safety or swimming class is still debatable. Children learn better if they’re developmentally ready, properly motivated, positively reinforced and if the experience is enjoyable,” he says.

A good age to start is probably from six to 12 months, which is what most of the swimming schools advocate.

Dr Wong rationalises that by six months, your baby would have completed his essential vaccinations.

However, he stresses that lessons for babies and toddlers do not necessarily make it safer for them in or around water.

“Regardless of the child’s apparent level of comfort and competence, close supervision by an adult is necessary to prevent drowning or near drowning,” he warns.

He recommends “touch supervision”, which requires an adult to be within an arm’s length whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water.


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