I started teaching my triplet boys in the bath tub pouring rinse water over their heads, breath holding, blowing big bubbles, kicking, and one arm stroking. Then I did the same home skills in the shallow end of the pool.
By the time they were 14 months old they were like turtles in the deep diving well where I was a swim coach. I taught them the basic skills at home so they would be familiar with those skills when we transferred them to the pool. There was no fear, but of course I watched them like a hawk until they had the confidence to float really well – like a turtle relaxed on the surface.
After 18 months a child’s brain starts to function better. Your brain is designed to protect you so anything new, strange, or unfamiliar will cause your child to give you that look of doubt and NO! Then it becomes a battle to get them more familiar with skills they should have already mastered like floating and breath holding.
Your child will naturally hold their breath. You don’t have to blow in their face or worse tell them to close their mouth. If they close their mouth they lose the natural air lock with the nose and will try to inhale!
Of course you never let your child dangle free in the water for any long period of time. But babies naturally have fat and float really well on their backs when they lie motionless. Teach them that position in their crib.
In the shallow end of the pool cradle their head in the groove of your upper arm and chest. Take that same hand and support their lower back while getting them to relax and float with their arms more toward their sides. Gently reduce your supporting hand, but stay in slight contact.
Your mouth is right next to their ears so talk softly and reassuringly. Give them your instructions.
You can do this same back float position starting at home in your bath tub with only a few inches of water so they can feel floating with less worries.