What parents need to know about infant swimming

| June 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

When is the right time to teach kids to learn to swim? This question has vexed parents, swimming advocates and doctors for years. And it’s more than just academic: Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children under age 4.

Swimming infant

When is the right time to teach your child to swim? It’s a hotly debated subject. From Webb Zahn.

Everyone agrees, one of the best protections against their drowning is learning to swim. Many swimming advocates believe swim lessons can start as soon as babies are born. But for years, doctors disagreed — particularly the recalcitrant American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP’s said no scientific evidence existed to back up the claim that early swimming lessons prevented drowning, or that it helped develop swimming skills. It also argued that such lessons may give parents a false sense of security. But after years of argument, the two sides finally came to agreement. In 2010, the AAP relented on its stand, and agreed with the swimming advocates that it’s okay for babies as early as age 1 to learn to swim.

A convincing study published in JAMA helped change the AAP’s mind. It found: “Participation in formal swimming lessons was associated with an 88% reduction in the risk of drowning in the 1- to 4-year-old children….”

Today, infant swim classes seem to be gaining popularity and acceptance. There’s even a new photography book of adorable babies in water that’s soon to be released.

The pictures say it all: Babies are almost supernaturally comfortable in water. Turns out this is backed up by solid science as well. Babies are born with two reflexes that make them act like natural swimmers. The first is the dive reflex, also called the bradycardic response, which causes babies to hold their breath and open their eyes under water. The second is the swim reflex, which makes babies move their arms and legs in a swimming motion.

While these reflexes protect babies from drowning, parents should understand they do not mean babies can take care of themselves in water. But infant swim programs seek to bolster those skills so that babies can save themselves if needed. One of the leading infant swim programs claims to have saved 800 lives with this method.

Still, everyone agrees that no matter what the age of children in water, parental supervision is crucial to keeping kids safe. Properly supervised children are within arm’s reach of a parent who maintains eye contact at all times. Remember, water safety is more than child’s play!

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Category: Safety

About the Author

Gary Thill is the former editor of Aquatics International, an award-winning magazine for the commercial pool and waterpark markets. He is a nationally recognized writer and editor with an extensive communications background that includes print, online and social media.

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