Pros: Easy to inflate and deflate, Canopy offers UV protection
Cons: Don't forget to keep the baby in an arm's reach!
I have two major issues that require the need of extra baby-holding assistance in the pool. First of all, I'm not the best swimmer, and occasionally freak out that I won't be able to keep a safe enough balance for my baby. Second, baby has older siblings who are still young enough to need help in the water, so I need to have enough of my body available for a quick rescue if needed. The best solution to my problems (when Dad's not around to pass the kid to) is the Swimways Swim Steps Baby Spring Float.
The Baby Spring Float is basically a large flat vinyl-like mesh donut sandwiched between two inflatable "chamber" rings (an inner one and outer one). Your baby sits in the center of the donut, in a comfy little seat. This particular Spring Float also comes with a sun canopy you can hook over it, for extra UV protection.
Swimways' Swim Steps Baby Spring Float with UV Sun Canopy comes in a circular mesh bag and consists of two parts: the float and the canopy. The bag is about eight inches in diameter. When you take the float out, it will be wrapped into thirds. A simple twist and the whole float will spring open, reaching about two and a half feet wide. Before you can put baby in it, you will need to inflate the inner and outer rings, which is pretty quick to do (maybe five minutes), since they only get about three inches thick.
If you choose to use the canopy, your next step would be to hook the ends of the canopy on the hooks on the edges of the float. There are three different positions you can put it in: directly overhead, and angled to the front or back. Since we mainly go to indoor pools (thanks to the Pacific Northwest rain), we have only used the canopy once, down in Ecuador. While the sun is at its strongest down there, we opted to just stick with the sun hat on my daughter because the canopy didn't go as high over her head as we would have liked, and it seemed a little unstable.
I have seen the Spring Float in several different color schemes. Ours is a navy blue float with yellow duckies sprinkled around it. I like this particular scheme because it is gender neutral.
Our Experience with the Swimways Baby Spring Float
We bought this for use with my second child on a trip to Ecuador, when she was seven months old. While big sister had had swimming lessons for a few months, she still was not good enough in the water for us to feel she would be okay without hands-on assistance. The Swimways Baby Spring Float was wonderful. I was able to keep one hand on the edge of the Spring Float and hold on to big sister with the other.
Later, we used our Baby Spring Float several times when we went swimming at home. I now use it with my youngest, who is 15 months old. While Swimways recommends this float for use of children aged 9-24 months, I actually used it for my son when he was about four months old. He mainly stayed reclined in it, and I had to watch him closely (which I would have done anyway), but without the Swimways Baby Spring Float, I would not have been able to take his big sisters to the pool at all last summer. Especially with a five and two year old who needed me to have arms available, there is no way I could have just held my son in the pool last summer.
It's obviously a lot more fun for baby to be in the water when he or she can sit up straight without help, and I think that's actually why the manufacturer starts their recommendation at nine months. Now that he's bigger, my son loves that he can reach outside of the donut to splash the water. He can also splash water inside of the donut, since it settles on the mesh. His sisters also like to put lightweight water toys on the mesh, which he immediately throws into the water, so they are able to make a game out of the Spring Float.
Cleaning and Storing Info
Every time we finish a swim, I let the air out of the inflatable chambers and rinse off the Spring Float while I'm rinsing the swimsuits and goggles. I always make sure to run a finger over it, to scrub off anything slimy. Then I hang the Spring Float to dry with the suits, and it's usually dry the next morning.
Storing the Swimwayw Swim Steps Baby Spring Float is easy as well. Once I know it's dry, I usually push down all around both chambers to make sure it's fully deflated. Then, I grab both edges of the float and hug it together, which brings it back into its eight inch circle, and I stick it into the bag. In its compact form, the Spring Float is lightweight, and it takes up about as much space as a folded pair of jeans when you put it into a suitcase, so it is great for traveling.
As I said before, I would not have been able to take my kids swimming alone if I did not have the Swimways Baby Spring Float. For that, my children and I are grateful. Even if you do not have older siblings to worry about, this float makes it so much easier for me to feel that my baby is safe when I bring him in the water. I highly recommend you use this Spring Float when going swimming with a baby who can hold his or her head up.