Can Babies Swim Naturally - Swimming Expert Explained

In this blog post, you'll learn:

1. Can babies swim naturally?

2. Infants and their reflexes in the water.

3. Should you sign up your baby for swimming classes?
Danila Novikov
I am an owner of New York City-based swimming school where kids and adults of all ages and abilities learn to swim and refine their skills.
If you're curious whether or not newborn babies can swim, this article is for you.

Let's dive in.

    Baby swimming abilities & reflexes in the water.

    After birth, your child enters a new environment of unlimited access to oxygen that gives them an ability to breathe at any time. Before that, they were surrounded by fluid in the mother's womb. Research has proven that infants retain the breath-holding reflex for up to 6 months after birth. That means that upon submergence underwater, this diving reflex will automatically block water from getting into the airway.

    Today, many providers of swimming lessons for infants claim that babies are born with the ability to swim naturally based on this dive reflex. However, that's far from the truth.
      young children can swim

      Breath-holding reflex has nothing to do with infants' ability to swim.

      An infant's ability to hold their breath underwater is developed in the mother's womb and called the bradycardic response. When submerged underwater, a baby will typically hold their breath and keep their eyes open, imitating arm and leg movements that look like swimming. The diving reflex in healthy infants is present from birth to up to 6 months of age.

      While exposing children to water from an early age is a good idea, many parents must understand that this natural reflex is far from actual water safety skills and swimming. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that children younger than 4 ,5 years are not developmentally ready to learn to swim.
        baby swimming lessons

        What limits babies' ability to swim?

        baby swimming lessons


        They have no breath control in the water.

        In order to swim effectively, children need to be physically and cognitively ready to keep their head above water and breath intentionally. Infants and babies don't have enough muscle control to perform those crucial water survival skills.
          baby swimming


          Babies hold their breath unintentionally.

          To stop water from getting into the baby's airway and prevent drowning, they must hold their breath intentionally. A bradycardic response happens naturally and can condition your child to have false confidence in the water. That's why it's important to continue to teach your child essential water safety rules and skills until they can safely exit a swimming pool.
            babies swimming


            Babies don't have enough muscle to perform required movements.

            To swim effectively and get out of the water safely, we need to apply power to move forward. While adults have no problem generating propulsive force, babies are not physically ready to put in a sufficient amount of power. Therefore, all the movements your baby might be doing in the water are ineffective and don't represent actual swimming.
              toddler swimming

              Should you sign up for infant swimming lessons? Pros and cons from a pro instructor.

              While your baby is still going through physical development, it's highly unlikely that they will learn how to swim. However, there are other benefits of swimming lessons for infants that parents should know about.

                Early aquatic exposure prevents babies from developing a fear of water.

                As we mentioned earlier, it's a good idea to expose your baby to the water at an early age. Babies who went through early swimming lessons tend to be more confident in the water and can acquire life-saving safety skills in the water faster.
                  baby swim class

                  Swim classes enhance your baby's development.

                  Just like adults, newborn babies need exercise for holistic physical and mental development. Swimming is an excellent way to boost cardiovascular health and improve musculoskeletal system development.
                    baby swimming class

                    Swimming prevents the development of physical disorders.

                    Swimming is a low-impact exercise that helps young children to build a healthy body. Learning to swim at an early age is an excellent prevention of scoliosis, postural disorders, and muscular dystonia.
                      is swimming good for babies

                      How to find a qualified instructor for swimming lessons for infants?

                      The qualification and certification of a swimming instructor are very important.

                      As such, there is no accreditation to become to certify that one is an infant swimming instructor. Most likely, the instructor will take some short-term courses from the institutions like ISR or American Red Cross.

                      You should check your potential instructor's experience and reviews from previous clients. Before you sign up for swim classes, talk to the instructor and ask them any questions about what their methodology and program consist of.

                      Another common way to make sure that it's your best fit it's to observe one of the classes and how the instructor interacts with the kids. How well do they handle working with the young kids? How comfortable the kids are with them? So on and so forth. Both parents and the kid should be comfortable and trust their instructor.

                        swimming lessons for infants

                        You can also expose your baby to the water on your own!

                        If you have access to the private or community pool or simply want to save some money, you can invest some time and expose your child to the water on your own. Not only it's a great way to bond with your little one, but your baby might feel securer exploring the new environment with their primary caregiver.

                        Here's a set of simple exercises that can be performed at the pool or even a bathtub:
                        Supported back float. Carefully lie your baby down on their back on the surface of the water. You should support your baby's head and slowly proceed to moving them forward on their back.
                        Supported front float on belly. This exercise has the same concept, but instead of supporting baby's head, put your arm under their chest and belly. Carefully drag them forward on the surface of the water.
                        Discover the ultimate guide to teaching your precious little ones how to swim safely with our FREE manual.
                        Perform every exercise with caution and go off based on how they respond to the movements.

                        Interested in swim lessons for your little one? Our team of professional instructors offers swim classes for infants in New York.

                        Here are a few words from my experience.

                        When taking early swim lessons, don't strive for your baby to achieve any impressive results. For now, the most important thing is the health, safety, and happiness of your baby.

                        There is no single right opinion on whether and when your baby should participate in swimming since the experience of each family is unique. Therefore, go based on how much your child enjoys spending time in the water and exploring a new environment for them.