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Why baby’s first bath should be their first introduction to water safety

by FAMILY talk0 comments

Baby’s very first bath time should be an opportunity to introduce your baby to water safety from the very beginning. This is according to Swimming School, Water Babies, and here they give us their advice and top tips about making sure your child has an enjoyable and safe relationship with the water for the rest of their lives.

Now it’s not the 1950’s anymore so you will be allowed to leave the hospital without having to prove to a midwife that you can bath your baby! That being said, many of us return home and when it comes to that first bath time, we have a little panic about what to do.

Drowning is still the 3rd highest cause of accidental death for children under 5 in the UK, so it’s really important we’re teaching our children about water safety from a young age and the first place we can start doing that is at home in the bath.

If you’ve seen a newborn baby in person or even on the TV, they come out covered in this cheesy yellow substance. It looks a bit gross, but it’s actually really handy! It’s a moisturisation layer called vernix. Because of this, you don’t need to give your baby a bath for about the first 10 days of its life. Instead, your midwife will advise you simply top-and-tail wash them. That’s all well and good until you have that inevitable poo-explosion! So whenever you bath them, here are a few helpful tips that have come from our swimming mums and dads over the years!

Bathing baby

We want to create a positive association with the water from the beginning, so it’s important to make sure that during bath time is they feel both safe and comfortable.

You can use either a plastic baby bath or your adult bath from birth – like with everything in parenting, it’s about choosing what’s best for you and your situation!

Roll up a towel and place it in the bottom

It absorbs the warm water so it keeps baby warm, it’s comfier than the plastic backing, and although you won’t be taking your eyes off baby, it acts as an extra non-slip surface so you know that if you need to reach for the shampoo bottle, baby isn’t going to slide down the bath.

Make the room warm

We all remember swimming as a child – the transition from the pool back to the changing room was horribly cold! Just because you’re having a bath it doesn’t need to take place in the bathroom – just wherever its warmest really- in the lounge or on the kitchen table. Maybe you’ve had the heating or fire on downstairs? If you’re using your adult bath, stick the shower or hot tap on and steam the room up for a few minutes.
Also, wrap baby’s towel around a hot water bottle before you give them their bath so it’s nice and warm when they are finished!

Feed them in the bath

Lovely association between water and their favourite thing – feeding! Bath time is normally done before bed when tired and hungry – so great idea to have a little feed in the water. Have them on your chest at shoulder depth in the water to keep them warm but keep an eye on their face so it doesn’t go near the water.

What to do in the bath

It’s all about teaching children not to panic if they fall into the water, as you’ll remember the statistic at the start of this article – the children that drown do so because they’re so overcome by the sensation of falling into the water. What this skill does is it helps normalise that startle response so they can start focussing on what’s next – kicking to the top and holding onto the side. It’s also great for hair washing later on!

Sit baby upright, say their name (to get their attention), are you ready (because we’re asking them a question) and then ‘go’ – go is our keyword for triggering baby’s gag reflex. You could use any word whatsoever to form this word association, and in our classes, we use their name, ready dive, their name ready splash, etc, but go is our underwater keyword. As long as you use the same words every time it doesn’t matter what you say but keep it on topic!

Babies are super clever

They’re born with a natural response called a gag reflex and this is where a valve at the top of the windpipe shuts off anytime their face is immersed in water on the surface or underwater. Because they elicit the same response on the surface as well as underwater, it means we can utilise this from the start!
So once we’ve said their name, are you ready, go, we pop a handful of water over their face and wipe it away with the same hand action. You’ll find by the 3-4th week of doing this a few times every bath time, you’ll say the words and baby will close their eyes and purse their lips because they know what’s coming.

So after all this, your baby will be well prepared for their first visit to a swimming pool and of course the all-important swimming lessons.

Additional information:

For more information on Water Babies and details about classes please visit:

Water babies


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Smalltalk Magazine

Since 2005 Smalltalk Magazine is a printed A4 information magazine aimed at parents, distributed throughout the Yorkshire region. Printed 6 times a year it is distributed free to over 300 parent-friendly locations in the area. Full of useful and informative articles about family life.