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Preparing for back float can begin the day baby comes home. Children have just spent nine months in water so the experience is familiar. There are some simple things that a parent can do to reinforce a child’s continued comfort in water, especially if parent is planning to enroll child in Wallypogs to learn the Survival Back Float. Fear of water is a learned experience and certain “water issues” can be avoided. It is very simple… It all begins in the bath.

This technique of “getting baby ready for back float” was pioneered by Monica as she introduced her new little one to the bath, knowing that she would be teaching her Survival Float. It is pretty simple and it works beautifully. I only wish that I had thought of it years ago when teaching in the 80’s. It would have made many a float process far easier all the way around.

Here are some tips that will “lay the foundation” for back float and can help reduce resistance to being on back in the water. Bath time can be great fun and it can turn into a tragedy in an instant. The No.1 rule that needs to be followed at all bath time is to… NEVER turn your back on baby or leave the room. Everything else is unimportant at this point. Drownings in bathtubs happens in minutes.

Bringing baby home…water in eyes and face…yes or no ?

When bathing baby in the small portable baby bath (on the kitchen counter or down in a large sink) they are already in a face up, back float position on a bit of an angle. The conditioning begins from day one and the trick is to keep it going. As you are bathing baby, after rinsing hair thoroughly and soap is all out, take a washcloth or sponge and fill with water… gently squeeze water over babies forehead allowing small amounts of water to trickle gently down around babies eyes and face. This continues to allow baby to experience the sensation of water in their eyes. By protecting them from having water in the eyes (some parents use visors or avoid water in the eyes at all costs) baby is being taught that eyes getting wet is not an OK thing. So, when even the smallest amounts of water get in eyes during a lesson, baby reacts adversely. It is a conditioned response. Keep water away from babies nose and mouth at all times.

Showering with baby can be a bonding experience…

Another way to handle water in eyes is by taking baby into a shower with you. Let water gently run over the back of babies head, allowing very small amounts of water to trickle around the side of the face, in the ears and over the top of the forehead, again keeping water away from babies nose and mouth. The object is to make water around the face a regular part of bath time, reinforcing that water in the face is a natural and expected part of life. Exposure to water around the eyes and face need not be a long process and a parents comfort level really has an influence on how baby responds. And besides showering with baby is a very pleasurable experience for all concerned. It is a great time for bonding.

The BIG move to the BIG bath tub…

Once baby is too big for the baby bath to be on the kitchen sink, graduate to the BIG bath. This is going to be a different time for everyone. You will know when it is time to move on. Probably because the water from the bath time experience is now everywhere except in the small tub! Continue to use the plastic baby bath for just a couple of times. Place the small plastic baby bath in the bottom of the big bathtub. Baby is comfortable here and it is a great transition to the larger bathtub experience. This can be for a couple of baths or until baby outgrows baby bath. Place small bath in the bottom of the tub, place baby in small bath and begin to fill the tub up with water. Allow the water to flow over the sides of the small bath and around babies body. Bring water level up enough so that there is a sensation of water all around the body. Baby is still in a back float position reinforcing the conditioning. Continue the process of using washcloth or sponge filled with water to trickle water around eyes and ears, being careful to not get water in nose and mouth. Sucking in water can cause a negative experience that then gets associated with water in the pool creating unnecessary resistance.

Keep hands on baby at all times…

Eventually remove the baby bath from big bathtub and place baby directly onto the bathtub floor. If you want you can put a towel folded up on the bottom of the tub for softness, or use one of the spongy yellow bath pads (3”thick with a scooped out area for baby to lay in. These can be purchased from any baby department. Here is where it gets important to stay focused and fully attentive to baby at all times. DO NOT take your hands off of baby or leave the bathroom for any reason…SAFETY FIRST IS THE #1 PRIORITY!!! Fill water up to about mid ear level. As baby becomes more comfortable on their back, and the conditioning continues, they will be satisfied to lay there. They will splash and kick with delight getting water in their own faces and everywhere else for that matter. Their expectation becomes that they are on their backs in water, just like they get buckled into a car seat every time they are put into a car. It becomes the expected norm. For the process of conditioning to be most effective NEVER ALLOW THEM TO SIT UP IN THE BATH or ROLL TO TUMMY. If they should try, correct the behavior, reinforcing that being on their back is what you want and expect. So continues the conditioning process, preparing them to be in a back position in the big pool. It will be familiar to them and just another positive water experience.

Baby figures it out …one bath at a time…

Allowing water in the ears is the next step in the process. When baby is placed on back in tub, with water filled up to mid ear level, water in the ears becomes acceptable. Many parents think that water in the ears will cause ear infections. Not the case. Again, baby has spent nine months in water so water in the ears is a natural thing. They begin to take note at a “body level” where the water is in relation to their mouth, nose, ears and eyes. As they get older and gain more control over their bodies they will begin to gently tuck their chins down and realize when water gets too near the mouth, so they will stop and lift chin back up out of water. They will turn head from side to side, taking note of where water is in proximity to their eyes. It is a great process to watch as they become more and more aware of how their own movements have consequences. Swinging hands and kicking cause water to splash all over them. Turning head too far to the side causes water in the eyes. All of these components have to be learned in the Survival Float and getting an earlier start just speeds up the whole process.

Change it up…try a bath with baby…

You can switch bath time options a bit and get into the tub with baby. Fill tub to accommodate your larger body size. Babies head, neck and upper back are cradled in your hands and arms. Make sure that you carefully protect babies neck and spine. Support babies body with your arms as you cradle baby completely in your forearms and hands or have as little support under the lower part of babies body as possible allowing the body to float freely in deeper water. Find your own comfort zone when working in the bath. Again, taking a bath with baby is a great bonding experience. This can also be done in a spa that is in low to mid 90’s, DO NOT put baby in water that is too hot and be aware of the chemical levels. This is a better option for the older baby. Make sure you give them a bath after to help protect their sensitive skin.

The trick is to always keep baby on back and NEVER allow sitting up as an option. Being in water means being on back, so when we get to formal lessons, we are half way there !

The baby in the video, Scottlynn, was nine months old when she graduated from Wallypogs. Monica, her mom, started playing with this “on the back in the bathtub” idea when Scotti came home from the hospital. Scotti had no idea that she could sit up in the bathtub until one month AFTER she graduated from Wallypogs. So, at ten months she had her first “sit-up-in-the bathtub” experience. In addition to that she was able to free float after her fourth formal lesson and she loved every minute she was learning survival float. It was play time at its best !


We have also found, from our many years of experience in teaching back float, that children who experience back float, as an early water experience, have far greater control in the water when it comes to swimming. They know how their bodies work in the water and their ability to get to a “safe place” to both breathe and rest is ingrained in them at a cellular level. It will be something that will serve them for life regardless of age.


After working with baby in bath at home you can schedule a “one-time” lesson called Intro to Survival Float.

We work with you and help you become fully comfortable in working with baby. The more work you do on the front end the less resistance we will have during the process.

Enjoy the Wallypog Experience from the moment you bring baby home and give your little one the gift of Survival Backfloat. Start early, be consistent in your expectations and the rewards will be greater than you can ever imagine

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