Babies, baths and learning to swim 

New born and young babies have a natural affinity with being immersed in water. They are often more relaxed in water than out of it. You can use this

positive relationship, and expose your baby to a warm, secure, loving water environment from birth. Simply start in the bath. 

A warm, quiet bath can be calming for you and your child. The bath should be as deep and  warm as is comfortable for you and your baby. Not Hot. Below is a plan to enable your baby’s bath time to stimulate physical development and prepare your baby for swimming. Healthy  babies, who have been immunised, are able to begin swimming lessons at 3 months old. 

Babies as young as 10 months may begin becoming wary of unfamiliar people and places.  By 18 months babies are developing imagination and may even start waking after bad dreams. Exposing your baby to regular pool sessions in a playful, secure environment well before this stage helps to prevent the possibility of water related fears. 

Bath Time

  1. BulletBaby is fed 15 minutes prior to bath. 

  2. BulletBaby rests 

  3. BulletParent prepares bath-time with:

  4. towels, clothes and nappy ready on change table

  5. heat bathroom, and close windows and doors to prevent draughts

  6. non- slip mat in bath 

  7. fill the bath, with water at 32 to 34 degrees centigrade. Elbow test the water temperature.

  8. Make sure no child is able to access the bath unsupervised while it is filling,

  9. turn off the telephone so you aren't tempted to juggle a slippery baby and a ringing phone.

  10. Bullet Check you have a safe entry and exit for the bath. Decide where you will rest your baby while you climb into the bath. Maybe, while young and not rolling, baby is placed on the edge of the bath if there is room and you can keep them safe. Maybe a helper passes baby to you while you're in the bath. Maybe baby lies on a towel on the floor beside the bath while you climb in.

Very young babies need stimulation, but beware not to overload the senses. Focus on one activity at a time, regularly changing the position and type of stimulation. 


Cuddle baby and relax until you and baby are comfortable


Hold baby under the arms facing you.                                                        

Lower baby into the water, using your wrists to support the chin and keep baby's face out of the water. This is a front prone hold.

Move baby around in the bath. Try: side to side; towards you and away from you; and figures of eight. Watch baby enjoy the stimulation from the water. 

Allow the baby’s feet to touch the end of the bath and baby will push off. 


Cuddle baby again and wet the back of baby’s head and ears 

Hold baby close to you, facing away.

Allow baby to lie back on your stomach. Hold baby under the  arms with your thumbs supporting baby’s head. Allow baby to float on their back.

Try the same movements as earlier: side to side; forwards and backwards; and pushing off the end of the bath.

Don't make bath time too long, as baby will become too tired, making drying and  dressing baby tiresome. Shorter baths are better at first so baby is relaxed before, during and after bath-time. 


  1. BulletExit bath safely and dry and dress baby. 

  2. BulletRemove the water from the bath. Any uncovered water in the home is a drowning risk. Consider other water that may be in and around your house. Some common examples include: baths, nappy buckets and garden water features. Ensure that baby is either supervised or unable to access all water.

Preparation for baby's first submersion 

At six weeks of age we can now start preparing baby for their first submersion. We wish baby to learn the response of breath holding when b   eing submerged. 

Holding baby comfortably and securely use a verbal cue while cuddling baby

(Eg: "Luke, Ready, Go!").

At Go, a small amount of water is trickled over baby’s nose and mouth. Baby will reflexively close their mouth and blink their eyes. 


How much water? 

Gradually increase the amount of water used. As a guideline use these volumes:

First week, 10 ml 

By the second week, 40 ml 

By the third week ,125 ml (1/2 cup). Progressing to a full cup.

When you are relaxed and you feel baby is comfortable and confident, practise the pouring with baby held in  different positions, not just cuddled. eg. Try holding baby upright facing you, upright facing away...


How many times and how often? 

If you do this every day, three times each session, baby will be ready for their first submersion at 12 weeks of age, if the parent is comfortable and confident. 

Consistent efforts will be most rewarding. When there is insufficient time for a full bath still  follow the same routine. Maybe wrap baby in towels so you do not get wet. Cuddle baby  securely and proceed as you would in the bath.

Do not rush this process. Allow baby and yourself to feel comfortable and confident.  Babies will learn quickly, but forget even more quickly. So we need to make consistent efforts to ingrain the breath holding response. If there is a break in learning for any reason, start again from the beginning.

Do not rush.

We cannot over emphasize the need

for regular attempts at this process. 


First submersion 

A momentary first submersion can be achieved only:

  1. Bullet  when both baby and parent are comfortable and confident

  2. Bullet baby is at least 12 weeks old

  3. Bullet  baby has been gradually prepared over the previous 6 weeks.

Hold baby in front of you, use the same process as above. As the cup of water is poured over babyʼs face, baby is momentarily submerged, then cuddled and praised.

Remember your verbal cue:

"(baby's name), Ready, Go!”