One of the reasons babies can learn to swim and become water safe, as we mentioned in our article on baby swim lessons, is because of their reflexes.  The most significant reflex that allows a baby to go underwater yet not swallow the water is the diving reflex.  When the baby goes underwater the epiglottis closes over, blocking water from going down the throat.  The baby’s eyes also stay open underwater.  Photos and video of babies underwater clearly display this reflex as they swim with eyes wide open and their mouth open at times as well.  Just click this link and watch this 9 month old swimmer on youtube!

There may be a very small percentage of the population that do not have this reflex.  My sources varied as to when babies lose this reflex, which is involuntary and is triggered by submersion in water.  Some sources indicate this reflex disappears at around two months, others at six months, and yet others at eighteen months.  What this indicates is that it is very individual.  This is why it is important to attend lessons with a professional.  Always consult your local infant swimming resource for guided instruction.


  1. Wow! Excellent blog!

  2. I remember from the time I was quite young seeing films from places like Russia where babies were birthed in water and or placed into water right after birth and they were SOOOO happy and just swimming with ease, flow and relaxed comfort.

    We can forget that we arrive and gestate as water babies and that the water world is very, very much a part of whom we are.. And of course we are made of 90 to 94 percent water ourselves. Viva Aqua!

  3. Beautiful! I did not know about the epiglottis. The baby appears to be enjoying the adventure.

  4. Pauline Sugine

    This is a cherished baby, lovingly handled in the water. She knows how to gently exhale the “bubbles” through her nose and her mouth. She is completely comfortable in the water and happy to be there. This is a gift that cannot be replaced. There is nothing else so freeing in life and she owns this skill before she can walk. Wonderful.

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