A Mom's Guide to Infant Swim Lessons

Apr 12, 2018, 11:07 AM by Andra Coberly

I was not the type to sign up for something that included song singing.

Not that I have anything against songs or singing. But being a new mom, the increasing requests for nursery rhyme performances had caught me off guard. 

infant swim lessons at the YMCAI had not yet embraced that part of motherhood the moment I stepped into the pool at the Arapahoe YMCA in Lafayette on a Sunday morning. My son was just 8 months old, and it was his first swim lesson. Toddlers and preschoolers splashed about, gleeful and super charged by the smell of summer. The more experienced parents, the ones juggling a team's worth of children, seemed unfazed by the day's events. 

I was nervous. Nervous for my son (What if he was the only baby? What if all the other kids were mini Michael Phelps? What if the instructor wasn't nice?). Nervous for me (Could a parent be forced to repeat Swim Starters?). Nervous for the singing that was to come.

Looking back, it was all so silly. Our infant swim lessons — called Swim Starters at the YMCA of Boulder Valley — turned out to be a wonderful experience. Not only did I learn to love singing songs in the pool with my son, I also learned the value of a mommy and me* swim class. 

The lessons we learned from infant swim lessons at the Y:

This Isn't About Swimming

My son couldn't blow bubbles. He hated rolling over. And he'd rather suck on the rubber ducky than let it float in front of him. 

At just 8 months old, he wasn't ready to join the swim team or invest in Spandex just yet. But as our instructor told us, Swim Starters at the Y is not about learning swim strokes. In fact, it's not about learning to swim. And honestly, it's not really about the kids. 

It's about the parents.

It's about teaching parents how to be around the water with their young children. It's about teaching parents how to teach their kiddos water safety and swim basics long into the future. 

Parents often forget their role in water safety. And that's not just my opinion. Research shows that parents often do not adequately supervise their children in the water, and they often overestimate their children's swimming skill. In fact, one survey reported that 88 percent of children in the US who drowned did so because caregivers were distracted.

That's chilling. But it also shows that childhood drowning is preventable. And prevention starts with parent education, awareness and support. 

Let's Get Comfortable

When you bring an infant into a swimming pool for the first time, it's the opposite of comfortable. There can be tears, shivers and wide-eyed expressions of confusion.

There is so much newness. And the more you expose your child to water, the more comfortable they become. The more comfortable they become, the more quickly they can learn the skills and techniques that make them safer in the water. 

A Moment Together

As a working mom, you don't have a ton of options for "mommy and me" classes. Story time, gym time, play groups... They all seem to take place on Tuesday at 11am. 

Join the Y for infant swim lessons

So swim lessons were the first class my son and I took together. And I cannot explain how much I truly loved this experience. LOVED. I had the chance to encourage him and to see his resilience. He tried, he failed (dang you, bubbles), he tried again. Together, we even learned a thing or two.

Our connection grew in breadth and depth, and I couldn't take the smile off my face (see above photo). He, on the other hand, had a rubber ducky in his mouth the whole time (also see above photo)... except for the occasional smile during a particularly bouncy song.

Oh, and yes, the singing. Our instructor joyfully and eagerly led us in round after round of song, which accompanied each of the skills we worked on. Her joy became our joy, and we embraced the fun, catchy rhymes and the moves that coincided with them.

What to Bring

Swim diapers
Normal diapers and wipes
Towels - One for you and one for baby.
Dry clothes - Baby will be cold after lessons are over.
Snacks, bottles and drinks
Brimmed hat and sunglasses - Your kiddo may find them to be a distraction, but it's good to have them on hand just in case. If you are taking indoor classes, no need.
Shampoo and soap - If you want to wash the chlorine off your little one after the lesson, bring your baby shampoo or soap.

What to Wear

Swimsuits - Seems obvious, right? Don't try to change at the Y. Come ready to dive in.
Long-sleeve rash guard for baby - For warmth and protection against the sun.
Slip-on shoes - As is the case with most baby-related situations, the easier the better. 

Swim Smarts

There is actually a connection between swimming and smarts. Children who swim, according to research by Griffith University, show more advanced cognitive and physical abilities than other children.

“While we expected the children (in the study) to show better physical development and perhaps be more confident through swimming, the results in literacy and numeracy really shocked us,” lead researcher Professor Robyn Jorgensen said. “The children were anywhere from six to 15 months ahead of the normal population when it came to cognitive skills, problem solving in mathematics, counting, language and following instructions.”

Mommy and Daddy ... and Me Class*

I reference Swim Starters as a mommy and me class. But we actually made the class a family experience. My husband and I took turns with our son in the pool, so we both had the same knowledge and had the same opportunity for connecting with our baby. 


Sign up for Swim Starters and all YMCA youth swimming lessons at ymcabv.org/aquatics. The YMCA of Boulder Valley offers swim lessons in Lafayette, Boulder and Longmont.

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