Young infants, toddlers and children are fascinated with water and love to splash around in it. The curiosity starts as early as birth when you give your baby its first bath. Most infants enjoy their first baths with an exception of a few. Despite this one must exercise utmost caution while exposing children to water.
We all have read about incidents where infants have drowned in a few inches of water. The dangers of swimming and bathing though exciting, cannot be undermined.
Teaching a child to swim can be a child boosting activity helping him to be a happy, confident and well adjusted child especially when he grows up. Swimming as a skill is extremely important though rarely harnessed. It is a subtle and long term process requiring sensitivity, patience and motivation. But if done keeping all safety aspects in mind, it can be extremely beneficial for both parent and child.
Before you enroll your baby in a swimming class it is prudent to acclimatize and accustom him to water.
A lot of children panic, gasp and splutter when exposed to large quantities of water even if they are in a bath tub. Most babies don’t like water to fall on their heads or get into their eyes. Let the child first get used to water. Teach him to enjoy it thereby reducing his inhibitions. You may introduce some toys in his bath tub which float or give him an opportunity to splash around. At the same time always keep an eye on your child and don’t leave him unattended even for a few seconds. When the baby is not bathing keep all water source areas locked and out of his reach.
Before you introduce your child to a swim, teach him to not submerge his head in the water or try and tip over. A lot of babies as a habit of exploring, love to stand in their bath tubs. This can cause them to slip and fall.
Swimming Pool Safety
When you child should start swimming depends entirely on the child’s development and the comfort level he has achieved with water. Although babies as young as four months can be introduced it is better to wait a while as their motor skills and reflexes have not yet been honed. Ideally eighteen months to two years is the best time to introduce your child to swimming.
The pool water should be warm enough for your child. Cold water and cold climate puts your child at risk for fever and other illnesses. One should find out from the pool authorities about the safety standards of the pool drains. Drains can create suction and can pull a young child underwater. The pool water should be clean, chlorinated with no sign of insects or other foreign bodies.
Do speak to the lifeguard about the quality of medical care they provide for infants in case of an emergency. Ideally you as a parent can take a course on infant resuscitation.
Most swimming pools have specially designed pools meant for small children to teach them how to swim. You can teach your child to swim in these before graduating him to an adult pool. Some parents also build a kid’s pool in their back yards. However steps must be taken to establish a four feet high fence surrounding the pool and ensuring that the entrance to the pool is always locked after its use. Toys in an around the pool should be removed.
Make sure that your club swimming pool has adequate life guards, a first aid kit for minor cuts and bruises and telephone services in case help is needed.
Also ensure that your child has had all his vaccinations till date to protect him from diseases.
When To Start Swimming
Teaching their toddler or baby to swim is controversial for some parents as they may become less watchful. Some doctors have however opined that the sooner you enroll your child for swimming, the lesser the chances that he will drown. In that sense a feeling of comfort and security gets established for the child. However this is also dependent on the child’s milestones of development like his motor skills and an innate ability to perceive, understand and recognize danger. Conservative opinion says that this happens around the age of 4 when children start to readily respond to instructions and cues at the first sign of danger. They know that they are not supposed to go in the deep end or run around the sides of the pool and also understand the importance of wearing flotation devices.
Once your child gets into a pool don’t rush him or scold him. Allow him to feel and enjoy water. Swimming lessons should be gentle. Do not allow him to swim for a very long time. Do give your child fluids and snacks post exertion. Do not take a sick child for swimming. He is less likely to be alert, increasing the incidences of drowning. Moreover he is likely to pass on an infection to other children.
It is wise to get into the pool with your child initially. Once he is adept at swimming let him swim but keep a close watch on him and never ever let him get out of your sight.
In Case Of Emergencies
If the child while swimming slips under whether it is in the tub or a swimming pool, he might come up on his own spluttering and coughing. But for this to not happen parents should be hyper- vigilant as some babies may become fearful of the water. However if the child has been in water for some time, immediately take him out, carry him with his head lower than the chest and remove damp clothing. Wrap him up in a warm towel and assess his condition. If he has fainted, immediately start mouth to mouth infant resuscitation. The child will eventually spit out the swallowed water. If serious, rush him to the nearest hospital.
It is extremely prudent to be coached in infant CPR as a parent. Fatalities can be prevented with immediate resuscitation. So a course in CPR should be made mandatory by your government and all paediatric agencies. As a responsible parent, it is your job to maximize the safety and security of your child and prevent any untoward mishaps.