Swimming and water safety skills are important to the health of your child and the first step is helping your infant become comfortable in the water. If you plan to introduce your infant to the joys of the pool or beach during her first year, consider safety, fit, function and sun protection when choosing swimwear, flotation devices and other gear.
Swim rings with arm floaties built in and swimsuits that help infants float are swim aids, not safety devices. While it can be fun to help your infant explore the water using toys or teaching tools, they should be used only under the direct supervision of an adult who is in the water with the infant and within arm's reach at all times. To protect your little one from drowning, use a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device designed specifically for infants with a collar to help support your baby's head and keep his face out of the water.
The right fit is critical when choosing swimming gear for your infant. Swimsuits should fit well with room for a diaper to be worn underneath and be easy to remove for diaper changing. Both swimsuit and diaper need to fit snugly around your infant’s legs to help keep waste in and lower the risk for spreading waterborne illnesses, explains The World Aquatic Babies and Children Network. Your child’s PFD or life jacket should be well-fitting. Always check the size and weight recommendations on the label to ensure it will properly fit your infant and ensure all the straps fasten correctly. Rash guards and swim hats should also be checked for proper fit to best protect your child from the sun.
Your infant's swimsuit is for more than show. A thermal swimsuit or a longsleeve rash guard can be an efficient barrier to the sun's harmful rays, while also helping her to conserve body heat. Floating seats and swimsuits with built-in flotation are fun to use and many little ones enjoy them, but there should always be a supervising adult within an arm's length of the infant, Kids Health states. If you plan to let your infant play with toys in the pool, follow the recommended guidelines for use.
If your infant is younger than 6 months, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends against exposing her skin to the sun's rays. If swimming in a shaded area isn't an option, use a wide-brimmed hat to protect his face and infant sunglasses to protect his eyes from the sun's rays reflecting off the water. A lightweight, quick-drying swimsuit that covers arms and legs will keep the sun off his skin. Look for lightweight, quick-drying swimwear that is labeled for UV protection.