It’s a comfort thing. A comfort thing that begins with your own.
Taking your infant or toddler between the ages of a few months to almost 3 years of age underwater might first feel like you’re going against an instinct to protect a child from danger. Or maybe it feels extremely natural to you.
What Exactly Happens When You Take Your Child Underwater?
We touched on a recent post here about how babies naturally conserve oxygen when their face is underwater. This is called the “diving response.” The circulating blood utilizes oxygen efficiently, mostly to the brain and heart and can do so for as long as 30 minutes. Then the babies also do what is called the “gag reflex” or a laryngospasm.
- Gag reflex: When water gets into a baby’s mouth, a spasm of the epiglottis shuts the trachea (windpipe) so water cannot enter the lungs. However, the esophagus which leads to the stomach remains open. Water intoxification is when a baby swallows too much water. Some babies have a stronger gag reflex than others. Cuing and swift submersions help stop water from entering, along with lifting and blowing in the face (both cause babies to hold their breath slightly).
Exactly How Do You Do Take Your Child Underwater?
Mind frame and body language needs to be in confidence mode on your end. Ever heard of the saying, Fake it until you make it? Put on your best face, get your child’s attention, give the cue 1~2~3! and with no hesitation, swiftly take your child under and back up. No matter the reaction — crying, look of surprise, laughter, coughing — your response is positive with smiles and congratulations. Repeat until you feel you both are getting it. A few quick submersions each session is the least-riskiest path.
What if My Child is Not Really an Infant, But a Toddler or Older? Talk to them about what you want to do. Show them how you do it by holding your breath and get them to mimic. Use cuing. If they understand and you get a verbal “no,” measure the intensity of that no. Are they saying “no” because they don’t really know what to expect yet, or is it a tearful “no” developed from a traumatic water experience? If the former, understand they are still young enough that you can get away with trying it. I feel it is only appropriate to control/force submersion to children younger than 4 years of age; however, maybe once a year I force a submersion for a child who is 4 or older, and you should read the exceptions post here.
The older a child is, the harder it is to get them to do a forced submersion with you or even get their face in the water. Regardless if you are not going to start your child on lessons before age 4, you need to start getting them used to their head and face being wet in the pool or the bathtub.