One of the most looked over skills when teaching infants to swim, is holding the baby in the pool. The way the parent holds the child will have a huge bearing on how relaxed the child will be in the water and therefore determine how successful the learn-to-swim progression is.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when holding babies is to give them an opportunity to feel their own buoyancy and the floating sensation. By holding them softly and sinking them down low in the water the child is given the freedom to move and exercise as they experience their natural buoyancy.
In the initial stages parents should hold their child in a position that allows them to maintain eye contact with the child. As the child relaxes the parent can alternate the position to give baby good vision of the pool and an opportunity to survey their new surrounds.
The horizontal floating hold is one of the most important holds for teaching babies to swim. Not only does it allow for good eye contact and exercise, but importantly it puts baby in a horizontal body position ready for submersion. This horizontal position is significant because when we float baby we want the water to run smoothly and evenly over the baby’s forehead. Many people make the mistake of submerging infants in a vertical position which can easily force water up the nose causing discomfort or distress.
The prone side hold is useful to give baby good vision of the pool and the freedom to move and kick through the water with gentle assistance from the parent. In this instance parents should hold baby high under the arms so the baby’s centre of gravity is high and they don’t overbalance. A common mistake is holding baby around the lower body or rib cage where children easily overbalance and cannot relax. In this position parents should hold baby low in the water so they can feel their buoyancy but be alert and make sure to keep baby’s mouth clear of the water.
Ultimately always remember when holding infants in the pool to grip them softly and sink them down so they can feel their buoyancy. Remember your body language will rub off on the child so make sure to relax and communicate positively through verbal and non-verbal interactions.
Keep in mind that if you are happy and relaxed in the water then baby will be happy and relaxed in the water. Finally give yourself and your infant plenty of opportunities for practise. The more you get in the water with your child the more confident you will be and the more your child is exposed to water the faster they will learn and develop and love and respect for the water.