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Which props can a baby use in baby swimming?

There is a huge number of props and equipment for baby swimming: the ring placed around baby’s neck, a baby vest, water rings, inflatable armbands, diapers keeping the baby afloat, etc. Parents get more and more confused with a variety of questions and dilemmas about which props to use.

The question is, what is the thing you want: Do you want your baby to be relaxed in the water close to you or with a plastic thing around his/her neck? Dou you want to be the support for your baby in the first moments when the baby is learning about the water or you would prefer that a prop does it instead of you? To be honest, based on the years of working with babies, I would never place a thing around a baby’s neck to keep him/her afloat!

The overwhelming photos of babies in the pool carrying an inflatable ring around their necks or similar props around their waists or arms are becoming more and more popular. When they appeared, I indulged myself in a serious and thorough research on them and I figured out that there are no evident advantages of their use, on the contrary, they may be quite dangerous. As all other inflatable props for swimming, they give the child and the parents a false feeling of safety! The inflatable ring you put around the neck makes a potential pressure to the baby’s neck which may lead to an injury.

The countries that are the leaders in the world of swimming and have abundant experience with non-swimmers underline in their acts on prevention of drowning that parents should avoid all inflatable props as they do not reduce the risk of injuring and drowning and they make a false feeling of safety.

To cut the long story short, I do not advocate their use and I do not recommend them!

Instead of the props, parents should get more involved and be the support for their children in the water and enjoy the contact with the children which is an experience to remember. Engagement of parents is of key importance! Every time you have your baby in the water, he/she should be at your arm’s reach.

The only proved and safe methods in the water providing safety and prevention of drowning are direct surveillance, fences around the pool and most importantly, swim lessons.

During the baby swimming time, mum and dad are the best “props”. Once the child becomes confident in the water and shows the desire to be independent, you can use some of the offered swimming props. I recommend Miss “Noodle” or the popularly known “worm” or “spaghetti”. Why? Because, on one hand, it provides safety to a child who is 18 months or two years old, and on the other hand, it provides the freedom of movement in the most natural way. The child is not “captured”. It’s different, the child has the feeling of the independent movement in the water (the child freely moves his/her arms and legs) much more than when he/she puts on inflatable armbands or a swimming ring around his/her waist (which makes him/her just spin around). On the other hand, using Miss “Noodle” can help the child keep balance of the body and be in the horizontal position which is necessary for floating, because most props automatically put the child into a vertical position which is closer to danger than safety in the water.

Also, try to be persistent in using Miss “Noodle” until the child becomes safe with it and establishes the natural balance in the water, and trust me, after it they will become the best and inseparable friends. My little daughter was quite suspicious about Miss “Noodle” but I knew how good it could be in learning swimming and floating, and later in floating elements of training, stars made on the back and stomach. Once the children realise and feel the support of Miss “Noodle” and become aware of how important it is to carry it with themselves in the water and hug it, it becomes a perfect pleasure, but don’t forget to always keep the children at your arm’s reach!

With Miss “Noodle” you child will learn not only how to swim with ease but also how to jump in the water.

Are swimming props safe? Swimming props are not made just to be put on children by their parents so that the parents could leave them and go for coffee. It sounds cruel to put it this way, but it’s true. When a non-swimming child is in the water you can’t relax, even if it is an ankle-deep water, because it is right then when the worst things happen. Inflatable armbands can slide off the child’s arms or deflate, or the child can turn upside-down without being able to come up to the surface due to those swimming props, which can turn into “props” for drowning. I am sorry to say it, but in those situations they just make things worse and more difficult. According to the statistics, 82% of children age one to two who drowned did that while using some of the inflatable swimming props.

That is why you, as a parent or a professional, should always be close to the child, and have the non-swimming child at your arm’s reach, whether they use a swimming prop or not. Swimming props are not the replacement for mums and dads in the water, they are there just to help.

Here is one real life example. I was with my family at a private outdoor pool and, of course, as a force of habit,I noticed that the pool was not safe for children, especially not for non-swimmers. There were no lifeguards, or a “Swim at your own risk” sign!

A group of children was playing in the pool wearing those traditional inflatable armbands. At one point, they took a break to have an ice-cream. It is not possible to eat the ice-cream with the inflatable armbands on your arms. So, what did they do? They took them off! A big mistake. Another big mistake was that nobody noticed that. Once they finished their ice-cream, they decided to jump into the pool again. They left their inflatable armbands on their sunbeds without even being aware of it! Luckily, I was there, at the arm’s reach! I grabbed the two of them immediately and took them out. However, I waited for a while just to let the pool’s water make the flavour of their ice-cream tastier so that they could remember the moment when they recklessly jumped into the pool!

There are many such examples around us, but unfortunately not with a happy ending.

So, remember that inflatable swimming props can do children and parents more harm than good.


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