Humans are neat. Especially tiny ones.
How old were you when you first hit the water? Infant swim lessons? My mother had us in the water before we could walk. Our firstborn was in before she was three months old. (It was an indoor pool, because Alaska, but it counts!) Ever wonder why it’s easier to get babies acclimated to the water (rather than screaming toddlers!) P.S. It IS easier, by the way, due to one of the more fascinating reflexes babies are born with. (My son in the pool at age 5 months-clearly no stranger to the water)
Infants up to six months will instinctively hold their breath when their head is submerged under water. It’s called the Bradycardic reflex, part of the mammalian diving reflex.
“When the face of an infant is exposed to cold water, the heart slows down and blood is shifted away from the peripheral muscles to conserve oxygen for the brain and heart, and they typically hold their breath. The reflex is the same one that protects babies from getting milk in their lungs,” ~Goren Wennergren, a pediatrician and professor at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
Now we don’t recommend just tossing your baby underwater, or dunking them without warning, but infants can and should be acclimated to the water, taking advantage of the reflexes they are born with. (They did find that it still exist in infants up to 1 year, but it decreases significantly after six months.) Experts recommend gently pouring water over their forehead to get them used to the water. There are different ways to do this, between the bathtub and the pool, but the key is gently. (And remember, NEVER leave an infant unattended in the bathtub or any other source of water, no matter how comfortable they may be.)
Infant Swim Lessons
At One with the Water, we are passionate about the science behind our coaching methods. We know that when the forehead is stimulated, kids tend to hold their breath. We use the bradycardic reflex to help them with their comfort level in the water. For swim lessons, we start conditioning them before we pour the water on their head, teaching kids/infants about the “Cue Word”/Command. This way, the children are conditioned to hold their breath and close their eyes when they hear the cue words, (For Coach Mohammed and his son the phrase is “A. …Ready…Go!”), and they expect to go under the water.
Once they are conditioned to hold their breath and close their eyes then we introduce other steps:
- Holding breath longer
- Becoming independent (grabbing shirt/side of the pool and pulling up)
At One with the Water, our goal isn’t just drowning prevention and water safety, we want to help you instill in your child a life-long sense of empowerment, confidence, and success in the water. Sign up for infant swim lessons, and see what your baby can do!
Molly is a member of our creative team, mom of four water-loving babies, and a fierce advocate for CPR training and really early swim instruction.