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100 Tips for Nannies and Families

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Helping Your Baby Love Water

You and your spouse are fond of water sports.  Now that you have baby, you want baby to grow up just as fond of water as you are.  Here are some tips for accomplishing that goal.

  • Lead by example. Let baby see you swimming and having fun in and around water. Do not expose baby to signs of stress around water. Baby is attuned to your non-verbal messages: if you are worried or stressed, baby will likely be aware of that. One way to communicate to baby that water is fun is to sing to baby at bath time. Creating a traditional fun bath time song will help baby associate water and fun. (Hint: Think “Splish-splash, I was takin’ a bath . . . “)
  • Baby is not born with a fear of water . . . that fear is learned. In fact, baby is a natural swimmer. When you put baby on his/her tummy in a shallow pool of warm (82* – 92*) water, baby will move his/her arms and legs in a swimming motion. It is important for you to capitalize on this swimming instinct early, before fear of water can be learned. (As baby ages, the instinctive swimming motion can be refined to proper swimming techniques.)
  • Some babies embrace being in the water right away. If your baby is just such a child, you can place baby in the water right away, as noted above, and enjoy water play with baby. Other babies need gradual introduction to their instinctive abilities.
  • To begin introducing baby to water, gently drip a little water on baby’s head and face during bath time. You can help baby prepare for the drips by announcing that the drip is coming. For example, you may say, “Here comes the drip . . . drip!” If baby acts like he/she doesn’t like the drips (or the bath), distract baby with a water toy like a rubber ducky. Over time, increase the amount of water that you put on baby’s head and face. As your baby acclimates, your baby will likely find amusement in splashing in his/her bath water. While this may be messy, encourage baby to enjoy splashing water.
  • Next, fill your bathtub will a shallow pool of warm water (82* – 92*). Place baby in the water (face up) and support baby so that baby can feel your touch and be reassured that you are there for him/her. Baby will float. Baby may initially be surprised by being placed in water in this manner: be patient and persevere, as baby will assess his/her situation and decide that floating feels good. Then, move baby around in the water. Let a little water run over his/her face, but be careful not to let baby swallow much water. As you and baby progress in this activity, place baby in the water face down. Baby will perform instinctive swimming at this point.
  • Once you and baby have accomplished these steps, it is time to enroll baby in his/her first swimming lessons.

Congratulations!  Baby is well on his/her way to being just as fond of water as you and your spouse are!

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