Dear Addie: This is my first summer as a mom of an active 11-month-old. She’s already walking and is into everything! It makes me extremely nervous about going to the pool this summer. Is she old enough for swim lessons? Should I just put her in floaties and chill out? Help! —Sheryl
Dear Sheryl: Walking at 11 months? Phew! I don’t blame you for being a little anxious, especially around the pool. It’s understandable—and with good reason—that you’re nervous for your baby’s safety. From the scary fact category, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in ages 1-14. Last year from Memorial Day to Labor Day, according to the USA Swimming Foundation, at least 202 children between the ages of 1 and 14 years drowned in swimming pools or spas in the United States. And 143 of those kids were younger than 5 years old. Scared yet? Good! That means you’re ready to take action!
When my children were younger, we tried several different swim schools, and they were fine, but not, in my opinion, completely effective. Then I learned about Infant Swimming Resource, or ISR. A program launched in 1966 by Dr. Harvey Barnett, the ISR approach is all about survival swimming and self-rescue, skills that children as young as 6 months old are completely capable of. Sound crazy? It’s not.
The program is intensive, but it works. Each of my children—at the time, 6 months, 2.5 years and 4.5 years—learned how to roll onto their backs and float by themselves. The older two were even capable of rolling into a float, swimming a little, floating some more, and continuing that pattern until they reached the side of the pool. What’s more, to graduate from the program, each participant must be able to do that fully clothed. I watched my children—each dressed in jeans, jackets and tennis shoes—demonstrate how they would survive until help arrived in the event that they fell into a body of water and were unattended for a few minutes.
Don’t believe me? Watch this video. It depicts a very life-like and frightening scenario that could play out anywhere at any time. However, the outcome is much different than you might expect thanks to ISR.
Now, on to my advice. Always take the following basic safety measures:
- Never leave a child unattended around any kind of water including bathtubs, toilets, pools, lakes, oceans, etc. EVER!
- If you need to go to the bathroom or run inside, either take your little one with you or designate a trustworthy adult to watch your child until you get back.
- Learn CPR.
Finally, and most importantly, find an ISR program near you at infantswim.com. And enjoy your summer!
Dear Addie is a wife and mom of three (with one on the way!) who has done her fair share of diaper changing, morning snuggling, boo-boo kissing, cold nursing, lullaby singing, baby rocking, field trip chaperoning and sideline cheering. She believes that there is no degree required to be a parenting “expert.” You just have to roll up your sleeves, dig in, ask the questions, get the answers, and give it your best shot. Oh, and have a whole lot of love and patience on-hand!
Have parenting questions? Fire away! Send them to [email protected].