It's a great idea to take your baby swimming - the earlier they get used to the water the more confident they will be as they learn to swim. Learning to swim is a real life skill so take advantage of your baby's instinctive affinity with the water and their lack of fear.
Some parents prefer to wait until their child has received all of their first year immunizations but this isn't essential. However it's probably worth giving a trip to the pool a miss in the days immediately after a jab in case your child is feeling a little feverish or under the weather.
Many swimming pools have shallow baby and toddler sections where you can be sure your child won't be frightened by splashing and noise from more raucous older children. The temperature of baby and toddler pools will be nice and warm to make it more comfortable for little swimmers – always tell one of the lifeguards if you think the water is too cold for babies.
Some places put rubber ducks, water toys and floats in the pool for babies to play with, but you're free to bring along your own bath toys if you like. You'll also find that many swimming pools have special family changing rooms, equipped with pull-down changing tables and plenty of room - a must when you're grappling with changing yourself and your baby!
One vital thing you must remember is a pair of swimming nappies - some swimming pools insist that young babies wear them; while your local pool may be more relaxed and will allow babies wearing standard swimming costumes, a nappy might feel a little more robust for dealing with any little accidents! Babies under a year can't really wear arm-bands but for toddlers arm-bands are a necessity.
Initially you'll just be getting your child used to the water so you probably won't need longer than about 15-20 minutes - let your baby guide you. You'll know when they've had enough and certainly if they look cold or start to shiver it's time to get out. Be sure to support your child carefully in the water and make sure they feel safe and secure - this will help them to feel confident in the water.
Just some gentle splashing, bobbing ducks in the water and moving your baby gently through the water will provide them with plenty of stimulation and appreciation of their new water-filled environment, and is a great way for you to bond with your baby.
If you yourself are not too confident in the water you could enroll on a special course for mums and their babies - there are plenty about, so check your local listings for courses near you. These courses work on the premise that babies have a 'diving reflex' and are thus able to swim underwater instinctively. The idea is to give your baby confidence in the water from a very early age, paving the way for more structured swimming lessons as they grow up. These very early swimming courses can take babies as young as six weeks old and are led by specialist teachers.
Sounds good? Want to find a local pool with special sessions for babies and toddlers?
Log into your local netmums site – www.netmums.com – and browse to their Places to Go section. There you'll find information on local pools and their timetables, you'll also find listings for baby and preschool swimming sessions and classes and also lessons for older children too.