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The One Class For Babies Totally Worth the Expense

Photograph by Twenty20

Babies are natural swimmers. What do you think they were doing in there while you were pregnant? They may not know how to do the butterfly or backstroke, but they do know that they love water. The longer they are out of water, the more they forget their love for the warm water that kept them buoyant for nine months and the more they may begin to fear it.

Babies need swim lessons to keep fear at bay, but to also teach them a healthy respect for water now that they are out of the womb.

Even if you aren't a swimmer, and especially if you are afraid of the water and can't swim, your baby needs to take swim lessons. Yes, you will have to get in the water with him or her. Maybe this is the excuse you have needed to take a few swim lessons. As long as you can stand in the water, you can go to baby swim lessons with your child.

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What about the cost? Baby swim lessons aren't cheap. They can range anywhere from $100 to $300 per session (usually 8 to 12 weeks). The cost is high and can be prohibitive. Do some research to find a solid program in your price range. I did a program called Water Babies with my son while living in Seattle. It was based on an Australian method of teaching children to enjoy the water, but respect its power, based on songs and little games.

And yes, my son went underwater at 4 months old. He loved it.

With proper instruction your baby can learn to hold his or her breath. As babies grow, they learn to get to the side of a pool if they fall in or at least float on their back so they can breathe until someone rescues them.

The more your child learns that water can be fun but powerful, the better off they will be.

So who needs to take swim lessons? Let's break it down:

1. Pool owners

According to the CDC, about 10 people drown every day. This does not include boating related accidents. "About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency department care for nonfatal submersion injuries."

Even if you have a fence with a locked gate, your child could get in there. Kids are smart. They know how to do a whole lot more than we think they can, including climbing a gate or unlocking it. You also never know when someone will forget to close the gate and your toddler will stumble in.

2. Beach goers

The ocean is a powerful beast. No child should ever go into the water alone or without a life vest, but kids are fast and can get away from you. The more your child learns that water can be fun but powerful, the better off they will be.

Swimming is a life skill everyone should have. You just never know when you will fall into a body of water, no matter how careful you are.

Baby swim lessons instill that knowledge from the beginning, so your child grows up understanding all that water can do. Our swim class had the older kids, about age 4, come to class one day in their pajamas. The teacher would then push them into the water fully dressed, and the child would have to get themselves to the side of the pool and climb out. The children practiced this when the push was expected and when it was unexpected. An instructor was always in the water just in case the child had trouble, but this was a real reminder to the kids that they won't always be in their swimsuit.

3. Fearful babies

The biggest reason I did baby swim lessons is because of my niece. She is 5 years older than my oldest son, and she was terrified of the water for years. Pools, the bathtub, it took her ages to even take a shower. My son loved baths from the start, and I didn't want to lose that.

We also go to the beach and a lake every summer. My boys didn't have the option to be scared of the water. They had to love it, and they do. My boys were jumping into the pool, fully submerging their bodies and head, well before my niece could even fathom it. My boys were not afraid, but thanks to baby swim classes, they also knew how to get to the side of the pool and back float. We practiced these skills often, just in case they ever fell in when my back was turned for whatever reason.

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So, with that said, who should skip baby swim classes?

Ideally no one. Swimming is a life skill everyone should have. You just never know when you will fall into a body of water, no matter how careful you are. Even with a life vest, you should know how to swim.

However, swim lessons are expensive. If you can't afford to put your baby (under age 3) in swim lessons, look into your local YMCA and community pools to see at what age they start summer swim lessons. Be prepared for the fact that at 3, children can already be scared of the water. They may resist lessons at first, but stick with it. It will be worth it.

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