Babies and Swimming Instincts
Small children may panic when they go underwater, until they learn to do it safely. Infants, on the other hand, are born with instincts for swimming. If they are allowed to be in the water, they can turn these instincts into skills through swimming lessons. Otherwise, they will lose the instincts and may become afraid of water. Obviously, children can learn to become great swimmers even if the only contact with water they have in their first years is in the bathtub. But it is a lot easier to teach them if you start while they still have these swimming instincts.
The Diving Reflex
If an infant is submerged in water, they will hold their breath. It’s something we take for granted as adults, but it is actually quite remarkable that an infant would automatically have a reflex to hold the breath. You can see this reflex in action without dunking your kid in the swimming pool – just blow on a baby’s face and you will see it.
The Swimming Reflex
Hold an infant belly down in the water (with his/her face above the water, of course), and the little one will start to kick and move their arms in motions that are very similar to swimming. It’s not exactly a swimmer’s stroke, but it does show that we are born with an instinct to be able to move in the water.
So can infants swim?
Um, not so much. Throw a baby into a swimming pool and he/she will still sink straight to the bottom. But these instincts that are present in infancy do make it very easy to teach babies how to swim. Your 9 month old won’t be doing laps around the pool, but our baby swimming classes teach infants how to float and kick to get to the side of the pool, so they can save their own lives if they fall in.