Can Newborn Babies Swim? (Things You Need to Know)


Babies love water. When you put them in the water, they will start kicking their legs naturally. Put them further down until their belly, it might feel like they are floating. All of these might make you wonder can those newborns swim already?

Babies cannot swim naturally. Newborn babies have a strong swimming reflex in the first six months after birth which enables them to float and even hold their breath underwater. That should not be mistaken for the fact that they know swimming. It has to be taught/learned just like any other skill.

When Can Newborns Swim?

There is no hard and fast rule on when a newborn can swim or should be let in the water. They can be in the water in the first week after they are born, but the question is, should you?

For the first six months of a newborn child, the natural reflexes which they attained from inside a womb work. In that period, they will not learn anything new in water but just use those reflexes for survival.

So as a rule of thumb, it is more prudent to wait until they are six months old and then get them comfortable with water.


The Swimming Reflexes in Newborn Babies – Is It Real?

There is a popular saying that babies can swim by birth. While it is partially true, don’t make the mistake just of letting them in the water to see what happens. What you heard is a reflex, not a skill.

Babies are born with two main types of water reflexes; swimming reflex and driving reflex. The swimming reflex helps the babies float on the water and the diving reflex makes them hold their breath and open their eyes underwater.

Sadly these reflexes are only visible in the first few months after a baby is born. After that period, they will go back to square one where they have to learn it all. So to answer the main question again, yes the reflexes are real but they don’t sustain.

Do Newborns Float on the Water?

An infant baby can float on the water without any problem. It is not because they know how to swim, but because of the swimming reflex, their body has.

How do they do it? When a baby is inside a mother’s womb, they float in fluids. They get used to it so much in those nine months that they retain the floating nature for another few months after their birth.


In addition to that, a lower bone density and a higher fat content make it much easier for them to float on the water than a grown person.

Can Newborns Hold Their Breath Underwater?

Newly born babies can hold their breath and can even open their eyes to see what’s around them underwater. It is an instinct that they learned while residing inside the womb.

This instinct is called Diving Reflex. If you lean your baby even in the air in a way that the head is lower than his hips, the driving reflex will get activated and the baby will hold his breath.

Can Newborn Babies Swim Underwater?

There are quite a few reflexes babies gain while residing inside their mother’s womb. Other than the swimming and diving reflex, they also have something called the amphibian reflex. What it does is that it makes them move their legs and arms.

With all these reflexes combined the babies will manage to float, dive and move in and under the water, but that is something they are doing to survive naturally as they learned to do so inside the womb. But that should not be confused with a swimming skill and should never be performed unsupervised.


Can Newborn Babies Drown?

Not all babies are born equally. So some babies will have strong water reflex, while some others will have very weak to none. They can drown.

So the best advice is that you know it for a fact that babies cannot swim and their reflexes are diminishing. You better let him age for six or eight months and then accompany him to the water to get comfortable.

How Do You Put a Baby in Water for the First Time?

You can take your baby with you to water whenever you feel comfortable but if you do, you should be cautious about a few things at the least.

The first and the most important thing is that you don’t carry your baby with you while going down steps or ladders in the pool. You could accidentally slip and let you and the baby together go down the water hard.

Once you are in the water with the baby, you should pay good attention to how he/she reacts. If they are rejecting the touch with water, be it. Give him more time and gently let him feel the water by his legs until he is comfortable.


Then you can let him float on his back a bit with your hands always under his back and see how he reacts. If he enjoys that, you could turn him around and see if he enjoys that as well.

YouTube video
Video Credit: Simply Swim

When Should You Take Your Newborn to Swimming Lessons?

Good news if your newborn baby is fond of water. You can take them to swimming lessons soon.

How soon? Although there is no one-size-fits-all answer, it is usually recommended that you wait until the natural reflexes in babies are gone which is usually five or six months after they are born. Adding a few more months to that is not a bad decision either.

The most important thing is always paying attention to how they react to water. What you can do to confirm whether they are comfortable in the water or not, is by going on a mother-baby swimming lesson.

If you see that the baby is quite comfortable, you could go to a toddler’s swimming school. While picking a school, you just have to make sure that they are certified in teaching toddlers.