Almost 300,000 babies have been taught Infant Swimming Resource's Self Rescue, a technique that works with an infant's inborn knowledge to hold his or her breath, and teaches them to save themselves if they accidentally fall in the water. It also gets the very young to feel comfortable in the water (which keeps them from panicking if they toddle into a pool accidentally), which they can forget as they grow—remember we all floated in liquid before we were born.
Since about 2 children under 14 die every day in the U.S. from drowning (in non-boating accidents), and it is the leading cause of accidental death for kids under four, ISR is a proven way to deal with that problem. The ISR says on their site that over 800 kids and babies have been prevented from dying because they learned these lessons. The man who developed the technique, Harvey Barnett, did so after a neighbor's child died from drowning in 1960s. He told the New York Times: “It gives the baby the best possible chance.” Check out the video below, which shows how the technique saves lives.
While I wasn't taught this technique specifically, I don't ever remember not knowing how to swim; I was born in Australia where it's common for babies to spend a lot of time around water at early ages and swimming babies are more common. My father was and is an avid surfer and swimmer, and so I was plopped in the water at a young age and learned to swim naturally (lessons in refining my strokes came later). I credit that early experience in the ocean and ocean pools in Sydney (click here for a beautiful image of one) with being a strong swimmer, and feeling pretty much as comfortable in the water as I do on land. Yes, babies CAN swim—as early as 16 months as you can see in this video—and before that they can be taught to float and be comfortable in the water, as shown above and below.
You can see that in both these videos (and there's plenty more online) that the kids who know Self-Rescue aren't distressed and know how to handle a dunking. It is not a stressful thing when taught over time by a professional. Have older kids? Teaching them how to swim could save their lives too, so enroll them in a basic swimming class this summer. Most communities offer financial aid for swimming lessons if you think it might be unaffordable for your family, so check into that.
Already a good swimmer? Consider taking a Red Cross basic lifeguarding course (there are more basic ones and more advanced—even a basic one will give you the skills to properly removed a distressed swimmer from the water). I know that my friends always love having me around when their kids (or even just they) are swimming, since I'm First Aid and Lifeguard trained.
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