Should my baby learn to swim?

You wouldn’t know it, but your baby is already a pro at swimming.

Babies come armed with natural reflexes enabling them to swim instinctively – after all, they’ve already spent the last 9 months swimming around your womb.

Sadly, these instincts don’t last. And while they do, your baby won’t have the strength or body features to be able to support themselves in the water. That’s where parents come in.

How old should my baby be when they start swimming?

There are two key points to consider before you start swimming:

  • A swimming pool harbours bacteria
  • A swimming pool is a lot less contained than a womb

As per point 1, we suggest mums go in the pool no earlier than six-weeks to avoid infection. If you’ve had a C-section or a perineal tear, it’s worth waiting until your postnatal check-up to get the go-ahead.

Dads and babies – you’re ready to get in at any time, which brings us to point 2. Remember your baby cannot support its head in a pool like they can in a womb. You’ll need to pay constant attention to this up until they’re around three months old.

Note: your baby does not have to be immunised to go in the pool.

Preparing your baby for the pool

Start in the bathtub







If you want your baby to love the water from an early age, the bathtub is the place to start. Bath time needs to be a fun experience that becomes a natural routine, so the pool doesn’t come as such as shock.

Make it enjoyable

Playing with your baby, reading to them and generally having a good time will help them build a positive association with the water. Breastfeed in the tub where possible, as this is when they feel at their safest.

Try to practice submerging them up to their chest so that they get used to the different sensations and the buoyancy.

Wrap them up in a warm towel afterwards

One day, they’ll learn that getting out is the least fun part of swimming, but that doesn’t have to be today 😉.

Visiting the swimming pool


Don’t take your baby in water below 30 degrees (32 degrees under three months or 12lbs). Keep an eye out for tell-tale signs of the cold – when their fingertips and lips go blue or they shiver


We suggest a neoprene wetsuit like these. They can increase your babies temperature by 2 degrees Celsius. Babies should also be wrapped in a paper swim nappy or a reusable nappy wrap and liner with a neoprene top-nappy.


We suggest feeding your baby no less than 1-2 hours before getting in.

Top tips
  1. Get your baby used to the environment before you get them in the pool itself, so they don’t have to cope with the noise at the same time as learning to swim
  2. Keep up the same routine as you’ve been doing in the bath – talk to them, reassure them and try to have fun
  3. You may feel like you need to hold your baby close all the time, but keeping them at arm’s length will get them used to moving independently in the water
  4. Try not to stay in for longer than 20-30 minutes. Babies tire easily, and they’ll likely let you know that they’re hungry before long.

Swimming lessons

Children benefit from getting comfortable in the water at the earliest opportunity.

Physical and psychological development

Swimming is a low-impact sport that will help your baby get a handle on coordination and balance at an early age. If they learn at an early age, then their confidence will soar as they pick up strokes and techniques easily further down the line.

Information absorption

By the time we hit school, we have to cram our brains with basic maths, science and technology – swimming isn’t prioritised. That’s one of the reasons it’s good to give your baby a head-start on learning to swim. Their brain is like a sponge at this age so they’ll adapt to it much quicker. It also prevents them picking up negative associations from kids learning at an older age, because they’ll already love it.


71% of the earth is covered in water. There’s no avoiding. This probably goes some way to explaining why drowning is the third-leading cause of death globally. Getting your child used to the water can lessen their risk of drowning by as much as 88%, should they get into a scrape with the sea.


At Abbeycroft Leisure, we offer pre-school swimming lessons for children up to 5. Swim-a-song is our parent and baby swimming session, aimed at introducing your baby to the world of swimming. Swim-a-song fosters confidence and enjoyment in the water so that babies are prepared for the next stages of swimming.

Visit our swim academy to find out more about swimming lessons at Abbeycroft and get in touch:

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