A step by step guide for going to the swimming pool with your baby

The mere thought of standing in a crowded changing room with a screaming baby in your arms and no idea how to get dressed, can make anyone dread a trip to the swimming pool. But going to the pool with your baby doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience when you know what to bring, how to get you both ready and in what order – and that’s where I got you covered.

I’ve been taking a baby swimming class with Eva for a few months now and I’m really starting to get the hang of how to get her ready both before and after. Before the first class I was at loss! I mean where do you put your baby while you change and shower? It’s not like you can ask her to sit still and wait patiently and just laying her on the ground seems kind of wrong – especially now when she’s moving around.

Fortunally some swimming pools have strollers you can borrow and some have a playpen where you can put your baby down while you change. But not all places have this and your only solution might be a mat to lay your little bundle of joy on, which can be a challenge when your baby starts rolling and crawling.

Because of the various setups swimming pools offer, it can be hard to figure out a right sequence to get you and your little one ready in – both before and after the whole water ordeal. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one that feels this way. So I’ve made a guide to walk you through getting you both ready before and after the water.

What to do before you arrive at the pool

Before you leave home there are a few things you need to do.

  • Make sure your little one is well rested. A tired baby is usually a cranky baby and going to the pool will be overwhelming. I usually go for a walk with Eva in the pram or in our baby carrier before we arrive and I’ve scheduled the class according to how she most often naps during the day.
  • Get food in the tummy. Remember to feed your youngster before leaving home. I’ve never had trouble nursing Eva just before going in the water, but some babies tend to regurgitate easily – and it’s not fun for anyone if that’s going to happen in the water. If you have already started solids this will probably be of even more importance. Just like you were probably thaught try not to go in the water straight after eating solids.
  • Pack your bag. Of course an obvious, but you still need to do it. I’ve made a comprehensive guide on what to bring below. Remember to pack everything in good time so you don’t have to stress around looking for your bathing suit or extra diapers.

What you need to bring – and what is nice to have with you

So unlike giving your little one a bath at home in the tub, you actually have to bring quite a few things to the pool. Below are the essentials I would recoomend always bringing.

  • Reusable swimming diaper for baby (all the places I know requires these) – we’ve been very happy with the adjustable one-size swim diaper from KonfidenceIf you use cloth diapers then a cover made in PUL also works great as a swimming nappy.
  • Disposable baby swimming diaper to use under the reusable one (not all places require these). We’ve been very satisfied with Huggies Little Swimmers 
  • Bathing suit for yourself
  • Three towels (one for baby with a hood for keeping warm when getting to and from the pool and one for each of you for drying). I’m a little bit in love with these bamboo hooded towels
  • An extra set of clothes for baby
  • Diapers, washcloths and what else you need for changing diapers
  • A plastic bag or a wet bag for the wet towels and swimming outfits
  • Drinking water for yourself (especially if you are breastfeeding) – I like to use a steel bottle like this one from Klean Kanteen
  • A toy to keep them entertained in between things (just in case the new setting is not entertainment enough on it’s own)
  • Hair brush for me (I keep forgetting it though which is a pain)

The extras

  • Shampoo and soap for yourself (if you don’t just use whatever they have at the pool like I do)
  • Bathing cap if you don’t want to get your head wet or simply want to skip the extra step of washing you hair and save a bit of time
  • If your baby use a pacifier it might be a good idea to bring that as well – Eva doesn’t so I don’t bring one
  • I’m still breastfeeding, but if you’re not I would recommend formula (just check if your swimming pool has a way of heating it and where it is okay to consume it)
  • Oil or homemade lotion to rub on skin of your baby after being in the water (or whatever you prefer as moisturizer). This however could also wait to you get home. I usually wait.
  • Bath shoes or sandals if you have to hold your baby getting from the chanigng room to the pool and you’re afraid of slipping on the wet surfaces. I’ve not used them, but I know some who are very happy about them.

How to get ready before going in the water

Getting ready before going in the pool means getting you both out of your clothes, washed and into your bathing suits. But despite it sounding pretty straight forward, it’s not always a given in what order to do it. As a thumb of rules I try to keep Eva in her clothes for as long as possible, but it all depends on the facilities.

If there is no separate changing station for babies I’ve recommend getting ready in this order:

  1. take off your clothes
  2. take off your baby clothes
  3. lay your little one on the mat (or place her in the stroller/high chair) in her towel to keep her warm
  4. shower yourself
  5. put on your bathing suit
  6. shower with your baby (some places have small tubs for babies, but I just bring Eva with me under the shower head, but do whatever you feel most comfortable with)
  7. put your baby in her swimming diaper(s)

If there is a separate changing station for babies outside the changing room then there’s really no dilemma. At least not the places I’ve been. Then you have to get ready first while the baby waits in the stroller or your carseat and then enter the swimming pool area to find the separate baby changing station.

If the changing station is in the changing room then I would recommend trying to keep your little one in her clothes for as long as possible, both before and after having been in the pool. This means getting ready first while your little one waits. Some places have strollers for your little ones to wait in, others a playpen and I’ve even seen some places where you just kind of hang the baby on the wall in a baby seat of some sort. You could also bring your own carseat if your baby is young enough and the place allows it.

Remember to feed your baby if she gets hungry – even if it’s in the middle of a shower. It just makes it easier for the both of you. Breastfeeding is very convenient as you dont need anything heated and sometimes smoothie bags are not allowed.

 

How to get in the water

I’ve been very fortunate that there’s always been staircases with wide steps leading into the baby pool areas I’ve been attending, so going in the water has always been with Eva in my arms and with her facing out, so she could see what was going on.

But if there’s only ladders I’ve been told that you can gently lie your baby (preferably on a towel) on the side of the pool, slip in next to her and then pick her up quickly or simply asks one of the pool attendants to help you out, if you’re worried.

What to do in the water

What to expect when you are in the water often depends on whether you’ve signed up for a class or whether you’ve gone to the pool by yourself.

If you are on your own it might be a good idea to aquire a book on the subject so you know what to do in the water and how to hold your baby. Otherwise you might just end up going back and forth holding your baby tight and not daring to loosen that grip.I can definitely recommend Domanmom for a great guide on teaching your little one to swim – it’s got some great step-by-step photos to help teach your baby to swim. The method used here can also be found in the book How to Teach Your Baby to Swim: From Birth to Age Six which is suppose to be pretty great.

My goal is however not specifically to teach Eva to swim, but more for her to feel comfortable and happy being in the water. The few times we’ve been on our own (and with dad sometimes) I’ve done the activities that she has seemed to like the most. These include:

  • singing nursery rhymes while swinging her from side to side, bouncing her up and down, gently pouring water over her and what ever fits the rhyme
  • counting to ten while bouncing her in the water before throwing her lightly into the air when we reach 10
  • letting her chase toys around the pool while holding her supporting her under her belly and chest
  • letting her grab a hold on the pool side
  • balancing her on my hand with stretched legs

So far Eva’s favourite activity is by far chasing the toys around in the water trying to get them in her mouth – the bigger the better.

How long to stay in the water

The first time – or maybe even the first few times – your baby might not last that long in the water. And that is completely normal. Don’t try and force it – you’re not missing out even though it might feel like that. If you insist on staying in the water you might just end up with a baby that won’t enjoy going to the pool.

Usually a class is 25-30 minutes long and Eva managed the first two times without problem, but had to leave 10 minutes early the third time (when she tried diving for the first time). And I’m glad we did. She didn’t cry but began clinging to me in the water and that’s when I knew to get up. She got real fuzzy in the shower and when I started to get her dressed – the tears began. She was overstimulated and I kind of wished we had gotten up a few minutes earlier. Luckily it didn’t seem to affect her joy of going to the pool. And she still slept like a baby afterwards.

How to get ready afterwards

Feed your little one as soon as you can – she’ll probably be starwing and craving comfort. I’ve had to feed Eva once while in the pool, but usually it will be sometimes in the middle of getting ready.

Again what to do afterwards depends on the facilities. It’s a no brainer if there’s a separate changing station outside the changing room, as you’ll have to get the baby ready first. Even if the changing station is in the changing room I will recommend getting her ready first (shower, dry, diaper, clothes) and then get ready yourself afterwards. I prefer to it in that order, so Eva won’t get cold (despite the towel) or risk her falling asleep in her swimming diaper. Putting clothes on a tired, cranky baby is not my idea of fun, so I try to avoid it.

When there are no separate changing facilities at all it can be a bit more tricky to figure out the best sequence to do things in afterwards as it largely depends on little ones experience and mood afterwards. If can however almost guarantee you that if your little one is tired then every sequence is the wrong one. I do however recommend doing it in this order:

  1. shower with your baby first
  2. dry her and tuck her into her towel (I really like those with little hoods like this bamboo hooded towel ) to keep her nice and warm
  3. take shower and dry yourself
  4. put on your underwear
  5. get your baby in a diaper and her clothes
  6. get yourself dressed

I know many prefer to get their babies completely ready before drying and putting clothes on themselves (and so do I to be honest), but I’ve yet  to do this when there is no separate changing station, without getting Eva’s clothes wet and then having to change them. I’ve have no idea how other people do it, but it might work for you.

Before tucking her into her pram, carseat or baby carrier I usually try and offer her the breast if she hasn’t eaten. Mainly because she gets really hungry after all of that exercise and stimuli, but also because it’s a good idea if you have a baby that enjoys a few sips of pool water like my wee one does and you’re not into diarrhea.

At what age to start

I’ve heard a lot of different recommendations, but most I’ve seen say the baby has to be at least 8-12 weeks and the mom (if dad is not going of course) when she’s stopped bleeding after giving birth and – if you had a c-section especially – is completely healed up. But don’t take my word for this. Talk to your doctor, swimming instructor or similar. We started when Eva was 5 months old and for us it was a good time to start. I felt more confident in my role as a mother and in my abilities to soothe her if she got overwhelmed, but others might be up for it earlier.

 

All in all going to the swimming pool with your baby doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience when you now what to expect and how to get you both dressed and in the water. Hopefully these advices will make it an awesome experience for you, but if you need some extra advice to make you feel confident going to the pool in the first place, then check out these 10 tips to help make baby swimming a success right from the start. Also please feel free to share any ideas or tricks that have made going to the pool with your baby a breeze.

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