Keeping Baby Safe and Happy Swimming

Keeping Baby Safe and Happy in Water

It’s SUMMER!  Pools are officially open for the season and you’re at home (bored) with your little one.  Maybe you are ever one of the lucky ones who’s going to a beach somewhere.  Taking baby to the pool or beach is a great way to cool off and enjoy the weather but there are some important things to consider with little one.

  • Swim in salt water pools if possible.  I was poisoned and briefly hospitalized after teaching for too long in an indoor chlorine pool with poor ventilation.   If a salt water pools isn’t around, opt for an outdoor pool.  Chlorine is more than 2x as heavy as oxygen so it hovers just above water as it is evaporating – right where you and baby are breathing!  Chlorine damages mucous membranes – especially your nasal passages, the lining of your lungs and your eyes. Indoor pools need constant ventilation to remove this gas.
    Chlorine can also get absorbed through skin and cause irritation and rashes of the skin.  A little powered Vitamin C dissolved in a spray bottle after swimming and before your shower can help to neutralize the chlorine on your skin.

    • From the NY Department of Health “Children may receive a larger dose than adults exposed to environments with the same levels of chlorine gas because they have greater lung surface area-to-body weight ratios and increased minute volumes-to-weight ratios. In addition, they may be exposed to higher levels than adults in the same location because of their shorter height and the higher levels of chlorine gas that may be found nearer the ground.”
  • Think twice before using sunscreen on infants. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using sunscreen only on small areas such as the face for babies under 6 months.  Covering baby with clothing with SPF ratings and staying in the shade is the FIRST line of defense for babies.  If you do need to use sunscreen go with a Zinc Oxide base.  Badger is a great natural baby-safe option that I’ve used (on myself) for years and works great! Thinkbaby has a new baby friendly sunscreen line that I’m loving right now. Infants should always wear a hat while in direct sunlight, even in water.
    • Do not use aerosol sunscreen on your children or yourself.  Ever.  The FDA is investigating them and while the haven’t released a report, when used, dozens of harmful and powerful chemicals inhaled.  If there’s a danger in rubbing these chemical on yourself, you shouldn’t let your kids inhale them.
  • Kids do not regulate their body temperature well until age 4.  Children under this age should not spend more than 30 minutes at a time in unheated water.  Short or long sleeved rash guards help keep kids warm but need to be snug.  This holds body-warmed water against the skin and keeps heat loss down.  Shaded pool floats are great for sun protection but keep in mind this also keeps baby cool.  Watch for purple/blue/white lips or fingers – baby needs to be warmed up immediately.
    Mommy and Me classes should always be in a heated pool!  Even “heated” pools are typically kept around 80-82 degrees.  While this sounds warm, air temperature and water temperature are NOT equivalent.  Anything below body temperature (98.6) feels cool and begins to pull heat from you.
  • Keep the germs out.  Babies learning to crawl and walk often have little cuts and scraps.  Use waterproof band aids over any open cut! This is especially important in lakes and rivers but salt and chlorine can only do so much.  If another baby’s swim diaper fails to contain a poop you don’t want an open cut ready and waiting!
  • Start at home! Before jumping into the pool practice in the tub.  If baby is used to just sitting in 4 inches of water, suddenly floating can be overwhelming!  If you’re using an infant tub move to the big tub and fill it up so baby starts to feel some buoyancy.

Special water situations

While at the beach – just a few inches of fast moving water can knock over an adult.   Always be watching baby you never want to be more than a few feet from baby on the beach.  If a wave comes in and they are swept up you don’t want to be 10 feet away.

Sand gets everywhere and before wiping a baby off, especially when changing diapers, put a little corn starch or natural baby powder on them to remove sand without scratching delicate skin.

While on a boat be sure baby is wearing a well-fitted life vest at all times.   Every state has different laws regarding life jacket use but no one ever expects to need one, so better safe than sorry. There are tons of options but neoprene is the most comfortable and flexible for little ones.

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