Mr. Golden Sun is shining down and you’re wanting to discover if your baby will take to the pool with a splish and a splash.

But first things first! There are several things you need to prepare for and be aware of before you decide to take your little one for a swim. Read on to learn about the potential water dangers and the best ways to keep your baby safe while having some fun.

If you had a water birth, technically speaking your baby has already been in a pool. Of course, that’s not what we are discussing; but the fact remains that your baby can go into water at any age if the surrounding conditions are given your cautioned attention.

That being said, the chemical content and risks involved in most swimming pools mean that your baby should be at least 6 months old before taking a dip.

Before you take your little one in the pool, consider the following:

Pool temperature

Because infants have a harder time regulating their body temperatures, you will need to check the pool water’s temperature before allowing your baby to go in.

Most babies are very sensitive to temperature changes. The ratio of skin surface area to body weight is higher than that of an adult, so babies are more sensitive to water and even room temperatures than you are. If the water feels cold to you, it is definitely too cold for your little one.

Hot tubs and heated pools hotter than 100°F (37.8°C) are not safe for children younger than three years old.

Pool chemicals

Many chemicals are used to keep a pool bacteria-free. If the levels are not properly managed, bacteria and algae can grow in the pool.

According to a 2011 study, exposure to the chlorine used in swimming pools during infancy can lead to an increase in risk of bronchiolitis.

Children who didn’t attend day care and spent more than 20 hours in a pool during infancy were at an even higher risk with the increased chance for having asthma and respiratory allergies later in childhood.

Though this raises concerns about infant swimming safety, more research is needed to confirm the connection.

Keep an eye on the amount of pool water your baby swallows! You’ll want your baby to swallow as little pool water as possible. We’ll discuss the risks of bacteria and infection due to ingesting pool water below.

Saltwater pools have lower chlorine levels than traditional pools, but they are not chemical-free. The water in saltwater pools is gentler for your baby’s sensitive skin, but other risk factors and guidelines for safety still apply.

Infections and nasty poop

The cleanest of all clean pools can hold all sorts of invisible contaminants. A lot of the bacteria that contaminates a pool can cause an infant to have diarrhea.

And subsequent diarrhea in the pool can cause eye infections, ear and skin infections, respiratory and gastrointestinal issues… poop in a pool is bad.

Babies younger than 2 months of age have extremely vulnerable immune systems. It’s one of the main reasons you’re told to keep baby away from crowds for the first 6 weeks. And again, babies tend to put their hands in their mouths. Think about that for a moment.

Though swim diapers appear to “contain” fecal matter, swim diapers aren’t effective enough to prevent this poopy situation. Recreational water illnesses can be quite serious, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Should an accident occur, everyone needs to get out of the pool immediately. The CDC outlines how to rebalance and chemically clean the pool, making it safe to get in again.

Never leave your baby alone — or in the care of another young child — in or near a pool. Drowning is the number one cause of injury-related death among children 1 to 4 years old, with children 12 to 36 months old being at highest risk.

It takes as little as one inch of water, as few as seconds, for a child to drown. And it’s silent.

You should always stay within one arm’s reach whenever your baby is near the pool. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests using touch supervision. This means your baby should always be within an arm’s reach near the water, so that you could reach out and touch them instantly. This may be tiring, but nothing is more important.

Keep your towels, phone, and any other items you may want within an arm’s reach too, minimizing the number of times you have to carry your slippery little swimmer in and out of the water.

In addition to close and constant supervision, the AAP recommends using 4-foot high pool fences on all four sides of the pool and with childproof, locking gates. If you own a pool, be sure to check the gate frequently to make sure it works and locks properly.

Water wings, floaties, or other inflatable toys are fun, but don’t rely on them to keep your baby safe in the water and stay out of the deep end. A life jacket approved by the United States Coast Guard will fit more snugly and is safer than the standard arm floaties we remember from childhood.

Regardless of what you may use to help your small child stay afloat, always remain within an arm’s reach as your baby explores this weightless, free-range playtime.

For additional safety, keep rescue equipment (a shepherd’s hook or life preserver) next to the pool and enroll your little one in swim lessons as soon as he or she is developmentally ready.

Evidence reveals that many children older than 1 year old will benefit from swim lessons, though there are many classes available for infant “self-rescue” survival swimming (also known as ISR lessons).

According to the AAP, babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. If you’re out and about with your babe, it is best to stay in the shade as much as possible and limit sun exposure during the hottest hours of the day (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Even on cloudy days, the sun’s rays are strong enough to cause a sunburn.

Using umbrellas, stroller canopies, hats with neck flaps, and UPF 50+ sun protected clothing that covers your baby’s arms and legs will help prevent sunburn.

For sunscreen, don’t apply anything less than 15 SPF and be sure to cover the smaller areas, like your baby’s face, ears, neck, feet, and back of hands (don’t forget how often babies put their hands in their mouths).

You will want to test the sunscreen on a small area of your baby’s back first, to make sure it doesn’t cause an allergic reaction. Remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating, or every 2 hours.

If your baby gets a sunburn, apply a cool compress to the affected skin. If the sunburn blisters, seems painful, or if your baby has a temperature, contact your pediatrician or family doctor.

  • Consider becoming CPR certified. You can find CPR classes with infant-specific training through your local fire department and recreational centers or via the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association.
  • Do not swim during a storm. Conditions can change quickly.
  • Never leave your baby alone — or in the care of another young child, or an adult under the influence of drugs or alcohol — in or near the pool.
  • Don’t keep your baby in the pool water for longer than 10 minutes at first. When you get out, be sure to wrap your baby in a warm blanket or towel immediately. Babies younger than 12 months shouldn’t stay in a pool for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
  • Install a four-feet high fence, with a child-proof gate lock, on all four sides of the pool (even inflatable pools).
  • Don’t leave pool toys out, enticing your little one to venture near the water.
  • Do not let your baby swim if your baby has diarrhea. Always use appropriate swim diapers for little ones who aren’t potty trained.
  • Don’t take baby into a pool if the drain covers are broken or missing. Do a safety check on the pool each time before entering.
  • Enroll your baby in swimming lessons as soon as you feel your child is developmentally ready.
  • Rinse off your baby with clean water after swimming to help prevent potential skin irritations and infections.

Even though it is safe for your baby to got into the water at any age, even you should wait to go in the pool until you’ve been cleared by your doctor or midwife to avoid getting an infection post birth (usually about 6 weeks, or until 7 days after vaginal bleeding stops).

Waiting until your baby is 6 months is also safer for your little one’s growing immune system and body. In the meantime you can enjoy warm baths for water fun.

This may feel like an overwhelming amount of precautions but following the guidelines and tips mentioned above can help keep your baby safe as you enjoy the warmer weather and some poolside fun with your little one.