Water Familiarisation for Newborns

baby in bathObviously you can’t teach a newborn baby to swim… yet.

However, this is an important time where a baby can learn to be comfortable in the water. By introducing a couple of fun games at bathtime, you can set a good foundation for the future because your baby will come to associate the water with being a fun and relaxing place.

One of the easiest things to do is to help your baby to experience their own buoyancy in the water. By simply placing your hands in a supportive position under the head and neck, allow the rest of the body to float in the water. (It’s best if you can do this standing behind the baby’s head, not next to him.) You’ll find that baby soon begins to move their arms and feet about, and this is a great way for them to experience the sensation of being in and playing with the water.

You can also do this exercise in a “face down” position, of course ensuring that the baby’s mouth and nose are never under the water, by providing gentle support under the chin.

Always accompany these activities with reassuring words, eye contact and a caring touch; and discontinue if the baby is distressed or not relaxed. The idea is for this to be fun and enjoyable, so there’s no point trying to force it. Try again another time when both baby and parent are relaxed and happy to begin with.

After you’ve been doing this for a little while and the baby is comfortable, you can let him experience having the ears underwater. From the face-up floating position, gently lower the baby’s head in the water until the ears are covered. Remain like this for a few seconds, and then gently rise up out of the water again. Offer some words of praise and reassuring eye contact and a smile! The sensation of floating with the ears underwater is important for building water confidence and as a foundation for skills to be learned when a little older.

Another fun exercise, which is a great way to help your baby become comfortable with water, is to gently pour a cup of water over the head while in the bath. Here’s how you should do that:

  • With the baby sitting in an upright position, ensure they are comfortable and relaxed.
  • Using the baby’s name, say the “ready words”, which are “Jimmy… Ready… Go”
  • Wait for one second then quickly and gently pour a full cup of water over baby’s head, allowing some to run down the face
  • Follow up with reassuring praise, eye contact, and a big smile.

After the baby has become used to this (do it a few times each bath time), you’ll notice that the “ready words” prepare him or her for what’s coming – and they’ll automatically close their eyes and mouth. When they’re a little older and you’re playing in the pool, the same ready words will be used to prepare the child for more advanced water activities.

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