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Swim Early and Often

Since our very first baby class in 1979, LPB has paved the way for infant swim in the Bay Area and beyond. LPB co-founders, John Kolbisen and Irene Madrid, designed their unique swim curriculum with child development in mind. They were one of the first swim schools in the nation to do so!

When asked about the importance of baby swim, Madrid shares:

“Having grown up with baby swim myself and putting my own children in the water at a week old (yes, I did), I realized just how important those swim sessions were to our family life. I got to understand my baby much quicker and the intimate time together was heartfelt, rewarding and healthy. As a young college student I started to read about child development and soon understood that what I experienced as a toddler was very much a rudimentary form of child development lessons from my father. I became an avid student of child development and knew that my future would eventually lead me to a swim school with these principles implemented. Now, whenever I swim with one of my infant grandchildren, I am fortunate to again experience love in the water.”

For Kolbisen, his passion lies in water-safety education and drowning prevention, which is why LPB partners with organizations like Stop Drowning Now and the Hope Floats Foundation. He says:

“Since drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in the country, La Petite Baleen Swim Schools want to do what we can to educate new parents about safety around water.  Getting those parents into our pools with their infants, free of charge, is a great way to teach the parents how important it is to have safety procedures in place and to take preventive measures to protect babies by fencing pools, etc.”

According to the CDC, formal swim lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by up to 88%. But it’s not just swim lessons that could help save a child’s life. Kolbisen adds, “One of the most important things all parents can do is learn how to perform CPR.  If there is an incident, chance of survival is many times higher provided CPR is administered immediately.”

LPB’s Free Infant Swim program was born as a way to get new parents and infants into the water sooner, and continue the education of the developmental and proven water-safety benefits of early year-round swim lessons. Since launching in February of 2016 the program has has since provided free lessons to more than 4,000 infants.



Reflex… Infants are born with many reflexes. The startle reflex (or Moro reflex) is one that causes babies to inhale (perfect for breath control underwater!). By blowing in the baby's face, we are able to take advantage of this natural reflex when submerging infants. This reflex doesn't last forever though and typically disappears around 7 months. It's a shame to miss this excellent window that mother nature gives us.

Bonding… There are few “activities” parents can do with their non-mobile infant. Swim class provides myriad sensory stimuli including eye contact and skin-to-skin contact. LPB provides a safe, clean and warm environment for parents and babies to connect.

Sleep… In our many years of teaching infant swim, we consistently receive parent feedback (and gratitude) about how well their babies sleep after swim class. All that sensory stimulation makes a growing baby sleepy (and hungry!).

Tummy time… In swim class we primarily hold infants in a prone position. Teachers will teach you how to properly support your baby's head, but we find that infants tend to hold their heads up very well in the water. We also practice tummy time on the magic carpet, further strengthening neck and back muscles.

Socialization… Songs and games on the magic carpet encourage infants to connect with their fellow classmates. Moms and Dads get to make new friends too, sharing stories about how much (or little) sleep they got the night before. We've had many LPB playgroups form over the years from our Baby and Me classes.

“I have been told I have a huge grin on my face whenever I visit one of my swim schools and watch baby/toddler classes. It brings me joy to see parents bring their infants to lessons as part of a holistic lifestyle. Babies brains EXPLODE with connecting neurons  and exposure to new experiences makes that explosion even greater. The infant/caregiver couple are at eye level, enjoying cuddles together, with the feel of warm water, songs, movement… ALL DELIGHTFUL, all important for developing a baby's 'sense of self. Have fun and kiss baby for me!” - Irene Madrid, LPB co-founder

Learn more about our Free Infant Swim program here.