Is It Safe for Babies to Swim?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 03, 2021

Many parents like to have their children learn to swim at a young age. Teaching your children to swim allows them to be safe in the water. It doesn’t take long for a child to accidentally drown in the water. Drowning is the second-leading cause of death among children and teenagers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated their recommendations on the appropriate ages for children to learn to swim. Previously, they discouraged teaching children younger than four years old how to swim. They now encourage children one year and older to take swimming lessons. It is still not recommended to try and teach babies and children younger than one how to swim.

The reason why they recommended children be four years old before starting swimming lessons was that they were concerned if children younger than four could properly learn from the lessons. They were also worried that parents who taught their children to swim might watch them less than they should because their children knew how to swim. 

Is Swimming Safe for Babies?

A baby can drown in only one to two inches of water. This is because they don't have full control over their muscles and can choke. Getting even a small amount of water into their mouth and nose can prevent them from breathing. 

If your child is older than one and you believe they can learn from swim lessons, then teaching them how to swim can reduce their risk of drowning. A good way to teach your child to swim is to enroll both of you in a parent-child swim class.

Enrolling your child in a swim class is one of many ways to protect your child in the water. Just learning how to swim isn’t enough to keep your child safe. You should watch your child constantly while they are in the water. Many times, young children end up in danger because their parents did not realize they had made their way into a swimming pool or other water source.

What to Look For In a Swim Program

If you are going to enroll your baby in a swim program, make sure you pick one that has qualified swim instructors. They should be certified through a nationally recognized learn-to-swim program. There should be lifeguards on duty prepared to perform first aid and CPR. 

A swim program for babies and children younger than four should be in a space that is good for their age. You and your baby should feel safe and comfortable during each lesson. The instructor should make sure to teach all participants basic water safety skills and take your child through activities that encourage physical, emotional, and social development.

You should also make sure that your baby’s swim program provides:  

  • Clean water: The facility that provides your baby’s swimming lessons should disinfect the water and maintain proper chlorine levels. Children often swallow or breathe in water during their lessons, so it’s important for the water to have a certain level of purity. 
  • Touch supervision: Babies should always be within arms reach of an adult so they can reach out and touch them. It helps for parents to be in the water at this time so they can practice how they should behave with babies and small children when they are not in swim class. 
  • Warmer water: Babies are more susceptible to hypothermia, so the facility providing swim lessons should make sure the water stays heated from around 87 to 94 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Practice Proper Safety in Different Water Sources

Splashing and playing at the beach or another water spot is a fun way for families to spend time together. Even after you know that your baby can swim, you still need to be careful depending on the body of water.  

  • Swimming pools: Look for markers that let you know the depth of different sections of the pool. You want to keep your baby in the shallowest part of the water. 
  • Lakes and ponds: Sometimes it can be hard to see the bottom of a lake or pond, so be careful about taking your baby into the water. You don’t want to accidentally lose your footing and your hold on your baby. 
  • Beaches: Many beaches have currents even in the water close to the shore. Always check with the lifeguard about the current conditions. It is best to stay right along the edge of the shoreline with your baby. 
  • Water Parks: Many water parks have sections designed for babies and toddlers. It’s a good idea to stick to the attractions there to provide the most protection for your child.   

Show Sources


American Academy of Pediatrics: “American Academy of Pediatrics Updates Recommendations to Prevent Drowning in Children.”, “Infant Water Safety: Protect Your New Baby from Drowning.”, “Swim Lessons: When to Start & What Parents Should Know.”

Good Housekeeping: “This Is the Age Your Kids Should Start Swimming Lessons.” 

KidsHealth: “Swimming.”

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