Last year during an exhibition to promote baby swimming lessons in Thailand, a mother walked by with her 6-month-old baby. Naturally, I started up a conversation with her, and she explained that her baby has Saethre–Chotzen syndrome (SCS). To put it simply, she has mild mental retardation, learning disabilities, and webbed fingers and toes. She went on to give me a list of other disabilities that her baby has. Contrary to all her hesitations, I said, “All babies can kinda swim!”
Babies will reflexively hold their breath when submerged to protect their airway and survive immersion in water for short periods of time.
Our babies spend many months on the womb surrounded by fluids. Newborns up to about 6 months old still sport their primitive reflexes known as mammalian diving reflex.
The mammalian diving reflex is also present in many other aquatic mammals such as otters, dolphins and penguins. This reflex is an important defense mechanism for the body in case of an accident.
At Thanyapura, we take advantage of our babies’ natural reflexes to submerge and move in the water. What is more important, we actually teach our babies to control their breathing beyond these reflexes – most of it through fun activities such as kicking to get toys, jumping to songs like ‘Humpty Dumpty’, ‘Wheels on the bus’ and consistent command words such as “Ready, Go”!
So is it true that all babies can swim?
Yes, all babies have a reflex that naturally helps them to submerge easily. Ideally, we really want them to swim from point A to B, to be floating and diving with confidence and control.
Confidence in the water could diminish as babies get older, possibly leading to fear.
So why wait, it’s best to start swimming as early as possible — even from birth!
Sign up for Aquababies Swimming lessons at Thanyapura for babies ages 6 months – 3 years.
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Youtube – Secret Life of Babies: babies swimming underwater
Live Science – 5 Incredible Baby Skills by Natalie Wolchover