Are babies born knowing how to swim?

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Jesse Nasir

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Are babies born knowing how to swim?
« on: 16/11/2010 04:30:02 »
Jesse Nasir asked the Naked Scientists:
Are babies born knowing how to swim?

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 16/11/2010 04:30:02 by _system »


Offline JnA

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Are babies born knowing how to swim?
« Reply #1 on: 16/11/2010 14:22:30 »
no. The key words here are "mammalian gag"

Human, and other, babies have been observed to stop breathing if placed underwater. This prevents fluid from entering the lungs, so they won't 'drown' (in the sense that most people understand it). Of course if you leave them underwater the chance of dying is likely since no air will be getting to the lung either.
This reflex is thought to aid the sucking breathing system babies have going when feeding - perhaps a bit like circular breathing -

Babies may also flail their arms and kick legs (as they do in the womb), but is is powerful or sustained enough to help them swim?  I'd doubt it.

I have seen a two year old learn how to float, but most babies sink like stones in the water.