Can I swim with my three-month-old baby in a lake? Our parents live on the shore of the lake, and I would like to go swimming with my baby. Can you give me your opinion? Thank you for everything you do for parents! Catherine
Catherine, an excellent question, and I think my answer will be helpful for many parents who have questions about swimming with a baby under one year of age.
If you read the literature prepared by professionals, you’ll quickly note that the answers are all somewhat different. But there is a fundamental logic that parents should follow to make an informed decision.
We know that a baby under one year of age has a thermoregulatory system that controls their body temperature. But their system is underdeveloped and not always balanced, which means they may react quicker to cold or rapid temperature changes. So keep this in mind.
Also, we know that young babies are building their immune systems to protect themselves from pathogen agents that can infect them in their environment. That is why we promote vaccines for young babies to better protect them.
Given that a baby is more sensitive to infections means that they are at a higher risk from certain potential organisms that live in lakes and rivers. There is blue-green algae, bacteria and pollution found in most waterways, especially during the warmer seasons. This often means that these waterways should not be swum in by any person, especially a baby. Additionally, there are no benefits of going swimming with a baby under one year of age in a lake or pond. It will not help them love water faster.
Catherine, I will give you some advice beyond your original question. Based on professional advice, it is logical and coherent, but there is nothing official from public health officials on the topic.
Lakes and Rivers (or artificial lakes)
You never know if a lake or river is contaminated with microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, germs, fungi, blue-green algae or other pollutants. Based on some analyses, you may even find bacteria found in human or animal fecal matter.
Bathing in a river, lake, or pond (stagnant water), multiplies the infection chances and makes swimming sometimes dangerous. Nature is full of pathogens to balance the environment, but they can cause undesirable reactions for some vulnerable people, including babies. They can be infected by swallowing water, through skin contact or by breathing in irritating emanations from the water. Gastroenteritis, skin outbreaks (swimmers itch), allergic reactions, respiratory infections (like swimmers ear) are examples of infections caused by swimming in contaminated water. That is why swimming in lakes or rivers with babies under one year of age isn’t recommended.
You can go swimming with a baby in a public pool starting from six months but never dunk their head underwater. I know that some authors say three or four months, but personally, I find that too young.
Swimmers can’t rely on water clarity to evaluate the quality of pool water. When swimming with a young baby in a public pool, the water needs to be treated appropriately with antibacterial products, chlorine or salt, to limit water contamination. Additionally, the water temperature needs to be warm enough to avoid rapid changes in temperature, but not too warm as the water is more likely to be contaminated. Make sure you use a swim diaper for your baby.
Most public pools are regularly tested to adjust products to maintain water quality. The results of these tests need to be posted for the public to see before using the pool. Also, you should avoid swimming during peak sun periods (11 am to 3 pm) due to the crowds likely to be in the pool.
If the baby cries, seems to be cold or tired, take them out of the pool. Start with short periods in the water to get them used to it. Don’t forget to protect the baby from the sun’s rays with sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, umbrella and appropriate clothing. For more details, read Sunscreen or no?
If you have your own pool at home and you manage your water tests and pool products, a one-month-old baby could bathe if all the required conditions are present. During hot periods, I often suggest to breastfeeding mothers to do it in their pool, in the shade, for their comfort and their baby’s comfort. A pool is much more refreshing.
It’s also a good idea to remove the baby’s bathing suit in the water before getting out of the pool, then quickly cover them with a towel. This will help them get back quickly to their normal body temperature and lower the shock!
Catherine, I hope this helps. Swimming advice varies from person to person, but your parental judgement will help you make the right choice based on the above information. Enjoy your summer!
The Baby Expert