Swimming infants in age between 0-6 months

In article “why swimming is good for children?” i described, why parents should start swimming with children and support swimming even in infantile age and preschool age. I would like to focus now on example, which exercises and why are they ideal in individual age groups. Respectively the single games are depending on psychomotor development of the baby. Think therefore, please, within the mentioned age groups only as an orientation.

HOLDING THE CHILD IN WATER

Manipulation with child should be responding to its psychomotor development (read about our detailed series of articles). Practically till the time, when the child is able to sit alone, it should be carried, held in a typical position. This principle of manipulation is of course valid also for manipulation with infants outside of water areas. The most natural and healthiest position is when you hold the child in a position where the baby’s head and back is resting against your chest.

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CHILDREN IN AGE FROM 3 WEEKS TO 3 MONTHS

Hold the baby with one hand beneath its head, but don’t touch the neck. The neck muscles have many sensitive nerve fibres and the child could after their irritation reflexively bend their head.

With second hand hold the baby beneath its bottom, so that it sits on your palm, and with your thumb hold the thigh. Baby held like this can be gradually immersed in the water till its shoulders. This position is very relaxing for the baby.

Rotating

Hold the baby in the same position and move it in circles in one direction. Circle with the child in bathtub always in one direction.

Swimming

Let go of the hand holding the bottom of the baby. The child will activate its abdominal muscles by slightly pulling up the knees. If the child has insufficient strength in the abdominal muscles, perform this exercise always very shortly, so that there would be no overloading of the insufficiently activated abdominal muscles. Their function is then replaced by iliopsoas muscle going from the thigh bone to the lumbar vertebrae, which can unnaturally bend the lumbar spine.

Floating

This is variation of swimming - hold the baby only by its head, and move its body in a wavelet motion. Variations may be in your holding:

  • Both hands - head towards the various directions
  • Baby lies on the surface of the water between forearms. Thumbs are beneath the armpits of the baby and with your fingers support the head.
  • Holding with both hands - not facing you
  • Fingers beneath the shoulder blades, head in the palms, thumbs secure the shoulder

Devices

Cushioning, tie both arm floats and place them beneath the head and shoulders. The child then floats, without you holding it, just be close enough in case the baby would flip over.

3 - 4 MONTHS

The child is holding the head much more confidently in the front-back (respectively sagittal) level. Therefore you can let the baby float on its belly. Place the baby on your forearms, secure the thorax and chin, so that it wouldn’t drink water. With your thumb strengthen the more distant shoulder and with your fingers secure the thorax from the side. With the second hand press on the bottom, so that the baby wouldn’t bend in the back. The hand that holds the thorax and chin should be upwards as much as possible, that way the baby won’t be bending by itself and the legs will be along with the bottom beneath the water.
Spread many floating toys right in front of the baby, it will look around trying to reach the toys. Swimming will be that way fun for the baby.

Swim ring

The chest and pelvis are on the swim ring, the legs are kicking in the water.

Floating

Hold the baby by its head and bottom and slide it on the surface of the water, just like the snake moves on the water.

Dousing the head

The goal is, that the baby should be aware after you speak up and learn to hold its breath and close eyes. It is a preparation for diving. First they have to get used to the water in face.

5 - 6 MONTHS

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Hold the baby by its head in a frontal level (meaning the head doesn’t fall to the right nor to the left). The spine is uplifted by the pressure of the water, which means that sitting in water/vertical position isn’t a problem.

Sitting in the water

Hold the baby by its chest, thumbs in front and fingers on the shoulder blades. Hold the baby more on the lower ribs, than right by the armpits, because the shoulder joints are still very much composed of cartilages and they tend to ossify (calcification). If we would hold the baby by its shoulders, or we would press the shoulders too much towards the ears, which could result in injury.

Hopping

Move with the baby up and down in a vertical position, regularly, irregularly (you can also jump up, move from side to side).

Rotating

Move the baby from one hand to the other, by holding the chest from the side facing you, and turn the baby around. So the baby rotates around its own vertical axis.

Diving beneath the water

Continues after dousing the head with water. Do it only when the baby learned to hold breath and close eyes on your command. If the baby doesn’t mind water in its face, you can immerse the baby after your command (1-2 seconds) in the water. After you pull the baby back up, give your baby a lot of praise. Attention! You have to be sure that your baby was paying attention to you. If it paid attention to the toy or other person, or it is just tired or not in mood, don’t dive. You would only stress the baby and the baby would have negative experience.

EFFECTS OF SWIMMING ON A HEALTHY DEVELOPMENT OF THE BABY

Swimming for toddlers and infants is also ideal way of physiotherapy for handicapped children. Hyperactive children get also quickly calm in a pleasantly warm water. Their ability to stay concentrated is also improving as well as their movement coordination. Hypotonia or hypertonia of the musculoskeletal system can be easily affected by the how we decide to hold the baby and temperature of the water. Stomach pains can be easily lowered in a warmer water. Immunity of the child is increasing against infectious diseases, allergic respiratory problems are also improving.

Thanks to the moist air in the area of the swimming pool can children with asthma breathe more easily. Children who are learning to dive should exhale the air out of their lungs underwater, it increases the activity of muscles that are responsible for movement of the chest during breathing (intercostal muscles, diaphragm, muscles leading from the spine to the ribs). It improves the dynamic volume of the lungs - vital capacity of the lungs and force of the exhaled air „FEV 1,2”.
We believe that you will enjoy playing with your baby in the water very much. There really is no better sport activity than swimming is in this age. Correctly performed exercises will maximally contribute to a healthy psychomotor development of the baby. What more can loving parents desire for their baby, than the best health!

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Author: Mgr. Iva Bílková, FYZIOklinika fyzioterapie Ltd, Prague, Czech Republic

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