Sink or Swim: teaching infants water survival - - Jackson, MS

Sink or Swim: teaching infants water survival


In a recent Today Show video, a 6-month-old baby falls face first into the water as adults watch. She then immediately flips onto her back and floats. The video depicts the Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) method of learning to swim. 

Does it seem extreme to you? 

"It does seem a little scary for a parent. We want parents to be very comfortable with the techniques," says Janet Reihle, Director of Developments for the Metropolitan YMCA's of Central Mississippi. 

Reihle says infant swimming classes called Mommy and Me will begin at the Flowood YMCA in August. Aquatics Director Phillip Nichols will teach the classes. 

"For infants we start at six months," he says. 

Unlike ISR, where the mothers are not in the pool during the swimming lesson, Mommy and Me requires a mother to hold her child and go through the techniques the instructor is teaching.

But how will the babies learn to go under water?

"We use a cup and pour it on their head. If that's too much for them we'll take it back some and we'll just take our hands, dip it on the water, rub it on their cheeks," Nichols tells us. "You have techniques where you can blow in the infant's face and they will close their eyes, hold their breath and you can dip them really quick."

No one questions that teaching an infant the survival float that you see in the ISR video is crucial for babies learning to survive if they ever fall into a pool. In fact, mom Keri Morrison, who is seen in the video, defends this technique for infants. She says she wishes her 2 1/2 year old son Jake had learned ISR. Morrison lost Jake to a drowning three years ago. 

"Do I expect my daughter at that young of an age to be alone near the water? No. But the layers of protection can fail," Morrison says.

But getting a baby to the point where they're floating on their own might make a parent uncomfortable.

"A parent has to be comfortable with letting their child struggle just a moment on their back, and in watching the videos, that seems like the most uncomfortable part, is not immediately wanting to offer that child assistance," she says. 

"If the child is really timid in the water you don't want to rush them, because they can end up with a long term fear of water, period," Nichols adds. "It's about consistency, you really want to give them a lot of repetition. And at such a young age, as long as you can get them to do the mechanics and you do it with them, they can begin to do it by themselves." 

Grace Grantier is signing up for the Mommy and Me class, understanding the benefits of teaching her 8-month-old, Shepherd, to survive by himself in a pool. 

"The biggest thing is for him to figure out not to panic, but to go into that default mode of just going onto his back and floating," Grantier said. 

"It makes a huge difference in the long run if you teach them early, start them early," added Nichols. 

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