Splashing around the pool with your baby is summer fun at its best. Before hopping in, take note of these simple—but essential—water safety tips for babies and toddlers.
Water safety tip: Beware bacteria.
File under gross but true: Lakes, oceans, and even pools all contain some icky bacteria that your infant’s immune system might not be ready to handle. For that reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies under two months stay on dry land. After that, swimming’s OK—but still try to keep your baby’s head well above the water at all times and avoid splashing too much to prevent her from swallowing any water.
Water safety tip: Watch, watch, watch!
The biggest rule for baby water safety? Watch your little one like a hawk. “Adequate supervision cannot be emphasized enough,” says Bridget Boyd, M.D., newborn nursery medical director at Loyola University Health System in Loyola, Maryland. That means no distractions. Poolside reading is obviously a no-go, but avoiding seemingly lesser attention-grabbers like texting too much is just as important.
When spending time in the water with your baby, always hold her by her underarms or in a hug-hold with her head above the water. If she’s old enough to sit up on her own in a kiddie pool, sit within arm’s length so you can grab her quickly in case she topples over.
Water safety tip: Use a life jacket
Floaties, noodles, and tubes are all tons of fun. But they’re still toys, not devices that are meant to ensure water safety. When swimming together, put your little one in a U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD), Boyd says. Even then, though, remember that you can’t rely solely on the PFD for water safety. Watching your baby while she splashes around is still the top way to ensure water safety.
Water safety tip: Go for warmer waters.
Since they have less body fat, young babies have a harder time maintaining their core temperatures, says Boyd. Save the chilly swim days for older kids and stick to waters between 86 and 90 degrees for babies one year and younger. If you notice your baby shivering, it’s time to get out and towel off.
Water safety tip: Fence your pool.
If your baby is starting to walk on her own, teaching her that she can’t go into the water without a grown-up is an essential part of water safety. Even then, if you have a pool (even a kiddie one), it’s still a good idea to invest in pool fencing, which has been shown to slash the risk of child drowning by half. The CDC recommends fencing around all sides of a pool that’s at least four feet high, is self-closing, and has latches that your child won’t be able to reach.
Water safety tip: Learn CPR.
You hope you’ll never have to use it. But in an emergency, being certified in infant CPR could help you save your baby’s life (or save someone else’s child). The American Red Cross offers CPR and First Aid courses across the country (most take less than 5 hours, tops) that’ll certify you for two years.
By Nicole Pelletiere