Shanghai's first infant therapeutic swim center, at the Shanghai International Peace Maternity and Child Health Hospital, is now three months old.
Doctors at the hospital said that swimming is a good way to improve infants' physical and psychological development.
"The water provides a familiar environment like the mother's womb," said Shen Yuehua, director of the newborn department at the hospital. "The sense of safety is beneficial for a child's psychological growth. The feeling of water on the skin enhances the development of the brain and nervous system."
Each day more than 20 babies undergo the service at the infant therapeutic swim center.
Though the program is offered as an "after-delivery service" by the hospital, some parents have brought their baby back, paying 50 yuan (US$6) for the experience each time.
A floatation device is placed around the newborn's neck and an assistant supports the baby as it is in the tailor-made swimming pool. Studies conducted by Western doctors and hospitals also indicate that swimming is good for newborns.
According to Shen, infants can "swim" 24 hours after delivery. The activity is suitable for most newborns, including those born prematurely and babies recovering from illness.
Experts said infants could swim for 10 to 20 minutes each day. After being released from the hospital, parents can take their babies for a "dip" at home, but only after receiving training from hospital staff.
Both the air temperature, at 28 Celsius, and the water temperature at among 38-40 Celsius, needs to be monitored closely.
Doctors cautioned parents not to help their infants swim until they had been properly trained.
(eastday.com July 11, 2003)