Not much beats an afternoon by the pool on a lazy summer day. If you’ve recently had a baby, though, a pool visit gets more challenging.
Can Babies Go Swimming in a Pool?
There’s no official medical consensus on swimming in a pool. There can be large cultural differences between what feels too soon or just right.
If you read American versus British articles on swimming with a baby, for example, the results are startling! The U.S. side is often much more conservative, advising caution about exposing babies to harsh chemicals in pool water too early. British articles focus more on NHS guidelines that say there’s no need to wait for your baby to get vaccinated before enjoying time in the water. Some articles devote more concern to the mother’s need to recover from childbirth than to any waiting period for the new baby!
Follow your comfort level and best judgment to determine when you’d like to try going to the pool with your baby. Some sensible guidelines can help, too:
- Stay inside on the hottest days. Sweltering temperatures and poor air quality are hardest on newborns.
- Keep the first visit short. A 10-minute swim might be plenty for a first try.
- Watch the water temperature. Even on a hot day, pools can be chilly for a new baby! Try the baby pool, which is shallower and warmer than a full-sized pool.
- Supervise all children, all the time. Drowning is a silent killer, and it can happen in seconds. If you have older children, bring along an adult who can pay full attention to them while you attend to the baby.
- Talk to your doctor. If your baby has any health concerns or you’re on the fence, a pediatrician can help you make the best call for your particular situation.
Protecting Babies From the Sun
The water is one element babies experience at the pool. The hot summer sun is another. General guidelines don’t recommend sunscreen for babies under 6 months of age, which can be challenging for new parents who don’t want to spend the whole summer inside.
- Buy the right clothing. Rash guards, or shirts with woven-in UV ray protection, provide protective coverage without the potentially irritating chemicals in some sunscreens. Shorts in an airy material and a big, floppy sun hat minimize skin exposure for your baby.
- Choose the right time of day. Going to the pool earlier in the day or in the late afternoon can help you avoid the most glaring sun and heat. Set your things under an umbrella or in the shade. If you have a stroller with a cover, that can be a useful tool to provide a shady spot for your baby to relax post-swim.
- Dab on some sunscreen. Talk to your baby’s doctor first, but they may recommend using a little sunscreen, even before 6 months, as a safer choice than going out unprotected. Look for zinc-based sunscreens marketed specifically for babies to get the best UV protection without some of the other ingredients than can make adult sunscreens too harsh for infant skin.
- Stay hydrated. Babies need breastmilk or formula to get the water they need. Just like you need to drink more water when you’re out on a hot day, your baby needs some extra milk, too. Offer a bottle or breast frequently.
Going just about anywhere with a new baby involves a certain amount of advance preparation. If you use common sense, follow your baby’s cues, and do your best to anticipate and prepare for possible challenges, you should be able to enjoy many of your favorite family activities, including a relaxing dip in the pool.