Spending time at the beach or by the pool and having fun with your little one is part and parcel of the quintessential Australian summer. Dunking your little one under water often seems like a great way to accustom them to getting their face wet as a precursor to swimming.
Babies and toddlers need to be conditioned to submerge. If this is not done correctly, not only will your little one be frightened by the water, but there is a risk of secondary drowning or Hyponaytremia (water intoxication). Without conditioning, your little one's airway will be open and the water that enters the mouth will go straight into the stomach and the lungs.
Here are some tips and tricks to help with the process:
- Until the age of three, your little one has a falling reflex that can be used for submerging. When they shut their eyes, their epiglottis (throat) will close over too. You can teach them to use this reflex on cue, by adding the words 1,2,3, under, before wetting their face with a wet hand, face cloth or small cup of water. This conditioning can be done from birth. With enough practice, your little one will hear the words, shut their eyes on cue and then they are ready for submerging.
- Once your little one has learnt the verbal cue, you can add a physical cue, which is a small lift on the word "under". Hold your little one horizontally, not vertically, to avoid water going up their nose. Move with your little one and ensure that you can see their face, use the verbal cue, lift slightly on "under" and if their eyes are shut, smoothly submerge them. It doesn't matter if their mouth is open as long as the eyes are shut, as their epiglottis will be closed and water will not get past their throat.
- Never force your little one through the water, as children under the age of three do not have enough neck strength to hold their head forward against a volume of water.
Make sure that you read your little one's body language. Your little one should be relaxed, so if they seem tight or are straining to keep their head up, don't submerge them. There will be plenty of time to try again, so allow them to ease into it. The main aim is for both you and your little one to be comfortable and to enjoy the water.