Prescriptions for Swim Lessons Saving Babies’ Lives

Sue Mackie

This article, entitled "Prescriptions for Swim Lessons Saving Babies' Lives," comes from Sue Mackie, Executive Director US Swim School Association.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, on average, two children a day die as a result of drowning, and in children ages 1-4 drowning is responsible for more deaths than any other cause except birth defects. Deaths and injuries caused by drowning can be prevented by parents and caregivers through safety measures such as pool fences, door alarms, personal flotation devices, and most importantly, swimming lessons.

A new initiative is sweeping the country in an attempt to decrease the number of children who become victims of drowning and non-fatal submersion injuries. It is called Water SMART (Safety Methods and Rescue Techniques) Babies, and it is a program that is spreading amongst pediatricians who are now writing prescriptions for infant swim lessons.

The United States Swim School Association recommends parents begin swimming lessons with their infants starting at 6 months of age and continue them on an ongoing basis throughout childhood. However, many parents do not start swim lessons with their children until they are planning a trip to the coast or they only enroll their children in lessons during summer months.

The Water Smart Babies Program provides educational materials and informational training to pediatricians on the importance of urging parents to enroll their infants in swim lessons. Through the Water Smart Babies Program, pediatricians in Florida, Arizona, California and New York now write prescriptions for swim lessons and water safety education classes at children’s 9 month and one year well-visit appointments. Parents are also given the Water Smart Babies Program handbook that include tips on home water safety, and safety device information, such as pool fencing, door and pool alarms.

Accidents happen when least expected, even when barriers are placed between a child and water there is still always a chance that a child could drown. Because of this, there are certain safety and self-rescue lessons all young children should be taught, including:

  • Invitation into the water - a child should learn to wait for a supervising adult's invitation to enter the water.

  • Shallow water self-rescue - a child needs to know how to push up if they are lying face down in shallow water, a bucket, toilet, or bathtub.

  • Fall in and return to the wall - the edge of the pool will always be there, but an adult may not. The child must learn to get herself back to the wall for safety rather than depending on an adult to lift them from the water.

  • Float on their backs - a child should learn to float on his back to rest, breathe, calm down, and call for help. The ability to rest while floating in the water is essential for any level of swimmer.

  • Climb out - toddlers younger than two years are capable of climbing out of a pool. A child must learn how to climb out correctly through practice.

  • Blow bubbles - if a child falls in, he needs to blow bubbles to be able to stay calm and make proper safety decisions.

These and other valuable lessons are taught in infant and toddler swimming lesson classes. To find a nearby swim school that offers infant and toddler-specific classes, visit: http://www.usswimschools.org/ssdirectory.php.

For pediatricians interested in learning more or joining the Water SMART Babies program, details can be found at: http://www.watersmartbabies.com/how-to-implement.php.



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