Sunny days call for fun days by the pool, but if you have a little one in tow, how do you know if they are ready to swim? And what kind of precautions should you take?
Stacy Hollopeter Harr, MD, of ProMedica Physicians Oregon Pediatrics, recommends waiting until your baby is at least 6 months old before taking them in to the pool. “Young babies cannot regulate their body temperatures like we can,” Dr. Harr says. “They could be at risk of hypothermia if they enter a pool that is too cold.”
Also, with developing immune systems, babies have a higher risk of contracting diseases and getting infections from potentially unclean pool water before the age of 6 months.
Once your baby is ready to splash, the first rule of the pool is safety first. While in the water, you may believe the safest place for your baby is in your arms, but extra precaution is still needed.
Dr. Harr says the best type of water protection is a life jacket. Arm floaties and baby rafts are popular water devices for babies but they can pop or babies can fall off of them. A life jacket specifically made for babies offers full body and neck support. With this device, your baby will not be fully submerged under water.
When you’re ready to hit the pool with your little one, Dr. Harr says to follow the baby’s lead and let them be your guide. “Like introducing anything new, be happy and excited about the new experience, but always be holding them and making them feel safe,” Dr. Harr says.
There is not a general rule as to how long a baby should be in a pool. Dr. Harr suggests introducing pool water in short increments of time to see how your baby tolerates the water. They will let you know if they don’t like it. If they do enjoy it, slowly increase the amount of time spent in the water from then on.
A baby’s delicate skin must be protected from the skin’s damaging rays, in and out of the pool. It is best to keep a baby out of direct sunlight until 6 months of age, says Dr. Harr. Even after 6 months, limiting the amount of sunlight your baby is receiving will help protect their skin.
“When your baby is in the pool and in direct sun, it is good to use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher,” Dr. Harr offers. “It is also good to get a UV baby swim shirt, a hat, and sunglasses if your baby will tolerate them.”
Dr. Harr recommends a barrier sunscreen to offer your baby the best protection against the sun. Look for ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These two elements physically block the sun’s UV rays. Steer clear of spray-on sunscreens, which could be be damaging to the lungs if inhaled.
And don’t forget your tent or umbrella! While your baby is not in the water, they will need a shady place to rest and play.
Pack the Perfect Diaper Bag
Before you head to the pool, here’s a list of items you may want to pack in your diaper bag:
- Formula or breast milk in cooler
- Changing pad
- Extra clothes
- Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
- Life jacket
- Extra swim suit
- Bags to hold wet clothes and waste
- First-aid kit
- Swim diapers
The last one is especially important for keeping the pool water clean and safe, but swim diapers should only be worn in the water. “A swim diaper is made to hold waste; it is not made to be absorbent,” Dr. Harr explains.
After Pool Time
A day at the pool can be an extremely fun time with your baby, but like anything else, it is not without dangers. Dr. Harr says it is important for parents to stay with their baby throughout the whole day, even if they are napping.
“It is important to supervise them at all times because children can quickly find themselves in dangerous situations,” Dr. Harr says.
Babies could be at risk of falling in the pool or drowning, even in a small puddle of water.
“It only takes one inch for a baby to drown,” Dr. Harr warns.
Tell us how you play it safe at the pool with your family by commenting below.