There's nothing quite like warm summer days spent at the pool with your family. Whether you have a pool in your backyard, are on vacation staying at a hotel, or just taking a quick drive to your community or neighborhood pool, you're likely excited for your youngest one to join the fun.
While you are likely aware of pool safety, you might be wondering when a baby can go into a chlorine pool. Is it safe? How long do you have to wait until they are old enough? Here's what two medical professionals have to say about when a baby can start to enjoy swimming pools.
Having a new baby during the summer is a very exciting time. No need to worry about the cold or getting bundled up. However, according to Dr. Whitney Casares, board-certified pediatrician, maternal child health expert, and author of Doing It All, you should probably wait until baby is at least six months old before putting them in a chlorine pool.
“Your baby needs to be able to hold their head up consistently without assistance to be able to avoid swallowing water.”
On the other hand, Dr. Hayley Goldbach, MD, board-certified dermatologist and nontoxic lifestyle expert, tells me there is no “magic” age for when it’s safe for a baby to go into a chlorine pool. “Many pediatricians recommend waiting until six months, but that has more to do with temperature regulation since babies have trouble regulating their body temperatures like older kids or adults.”
So, if your five-and-a-half-month-old is ready for it and the water temperature isn’t too cold—you’re probably going to be fine.
But just remember that Dr. Goldbach notes several studies have shown a link between early exposure to chlorine pools and the risk of asthma or bronchiolitis. “Avoiding excessive chlorine exposure might be a good idea. That being said, drowning is a leading cause of death for children, so don’t be afraid to start swim lessons with your toddler when the time comes. I took my small baby in the pool a few times and was most concerned about ensuring she stayed warm and protected from the sun.”
So if your child already has asthma, breathing issues, or a similar preexisting condition, it’s probably better to wait or consult your pediatrician first.
If the whole family is going swimming, you might be tempted to put your three-month-old in the pool with a flotation device, of course. But, just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should, explains Dr. Casares.
“I don’t recommend pools for three-month-olds. Babies can have difficulty regulating their temperatures at this age and can also have difficulty maintaining the head control they need to avoid swallowing chlorinated water.”
Water safety is crucial. So, it’s best to evaluate your baby and their skills. Invest in a life jacket. If you aren’t sure if this is the best choice for your baby, you can always ask your pediatrician and make the right decision from there.
To protect your baby from chlorine in a pool, Dr. Casares suggests first waiting until it’s safe for them to swim in chlorinated water, which she tells me is approximately six months of age. “Parents should keep their heads above water when a baby of any age is in a pool to avoid accidental water swallowing.”
In terms of protecting a baby’s sensitive skin, Dr. Goldbach advises using physical barriers such as clothing and hats, especially if they are under six months old. The dermatologist personally likes UPF clothing from Jan and Jul and hats from Wallaroo. However, these brands are certainly not the only options.
UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. UPF is to clothing what SPF is to sunscreen. UPF clothing is ideal for kids, especially babies because it doesn't involve putting potentially irritating chemicals on their skin.
You also don't need to worry about reapplying or, worse, missing a spot. Even if you don't plan on putting your child in the water at the beach or pool, having them wear a hat and UPF clothing is ideal for these situations and on sunnier days.
Yes, babies should definitely take a bath after going to a pool. “I recommend parents bathe their children after chlorine exposure. This helps avoid skin irritation from the chlorine, which can lead to dry patches or rashes,” says Dr. Casares.
Dr. Goldbach agrees, explaining, “I would always rinse a baby after being in any pool as chlorine can irritate the skin and eyes.” The derm likes gentle cleansers without artificial fragrances, such as Babo Botanicals Swim & Sport Citrus Mint & Passion Fruit Shampoo & Wash.
If you aren’t in a place where you can do your baby’s entire bath routine after going in the pool, that’s okay. Just be sure to rinse your child off with fresh water. Then, give your baby a full bath as soon as possible after returning home.
While there isn't an official age when babies can go in a pool for the first time, at least according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most doctors suggest waiting until your child is approximately six months old. Just keep in mind your own child's comfort level, the temperature of the pool, and whether it is very sunny and hot outside.
While sun protection is essential, babies under six months should not wear sunscreen. This is because most sunscreens aren't baby-safe and have chemicals that may irritate their skin. So, it's best to protect babies with clothing and hats and keep them in the shade, away from direct, harsh sunlight. Remember that if your six-month-old has incredibly sensitive skin, you may want to wait even longer to use sunscreen or at least avoid it when they are having a flare-up.
UPF clothing, such as swimwear, hats, and t-shirts, provides a physical barrier between the sun and your baby’s skin, especially their arms and legs. Like SPF for sunscreen, it has a rating. For example, UPF 50 provides more sun protection than SPF 30. But even if your baby is wearing UPF clothing and a hat, it’s still important to keep babies out of harsh, direct sunlight.
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