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Can babies swim underwater? © Getty Images

Can babies swim underwater?

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The Nirvana - Nevermind baby is iconic, but infants are not as good at swimming as the photo implies.

Asked by: Gary Barker, Durham

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They can’t. The baby on the cover of Nirvana’s iconic album Nevermind is holding its breath, but it isn’t swimming. The breathing response is automatic and part of the mammalian diving reflex. All mammals will automatically close off their trachea and slow their heart rate when their face is immersed in cold water. But human babies younger than four months aren’t strong enough to make effective swimming movements or keep their head above water.


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Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

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