The AAP is urging parents to get their babies learning to swim as soon as possible. It made me think of the first time I took my son swimming. My son was probably 6 months old and we were staying at a hotel. There are a few things I remember from that first swim. First and foremost, I had abs, so that was awesome.
I also remember holding my son pretty tightly because I didn’t know what exactly to expect.
But what I remember best was the look on his chubby little face. He wasn’t excited or angry or sad or any of that. He was shocked. He couldn’t move. He flexed every muscle in his little body and went stiff as a board. I actually have a video of my wife and I laughing at his reaction to water.
I have three children, and all of them had similar reactions the first time I took them swimming, and I couldn’t help but think back on those early introductions to water as I was reading about the new guidelines put out this month by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
The AAP is urging parents to get their babies learning to swim as early as possible in order to develop water competency and confidence.
Dr. Linda Quan, a co-author of the policy statement, said this in the news release on the new policy. “Research has found that swim lessons are beneficial for children starting around age one, and may lower drowning rates.
Families can talk with their pediatrician about whether their child is developmentally ready for swim lessons, and then look for a program that has experienced, well-trained instructors. Ideally, programs should teach ‘water competency’ too — the ability to get out of the water if your child ends up in the water unexpectedly.”
Now listen, I get it. My youngest is four and I never put her in formal swimming lessons until she was probably three, mostly because I’d observed swimming lessons for younger than that and it just looked like a bunch of splashing and crying and screaming, and honestly, I had enough of that in my life already.
But to add emphasis to their recommendation, the AAP also released a pretty freighting statistic.
“In 2017, drowning claimed the lives of almost 1000 US children…”
Yeah, I paused reading that too.
Naturally, beginning swimming lessons early isn’t a cure-all.
But the goal of this new recommendation is to help young children become confident in the water as early as possible. That way, when they get into a dangerous situation, they don’t freeze up like my children did the first time they went swimming.
One of the best ways to keep from drowning is to not panic, and by helping your children become comfortable with water, can increase their ability to pull themselves out of a bad situation.
AAP also emphasized the importance of life jackets and adult supervision, even in shallow water like the bathtub.
Not that you need your children to take a bath with a life jacket on, but the adult supervision element is a must. Just the other day I was bathing my four-year-old.
I turned my back to get some more shampoo from under the sink, and in that hot moment, my daughter climbed onto the side of the tub, jumped in the water, slipped, and hit her head. She was pretty stunned, and if she’d hit her head just a little harder she could have easily been knocked out.
This is simply one example of many where the situation could have easily gone bad if I hadn’t been watching my little daredevil daughter while she took a bath.
And for life jackets, those really should be a necessity at any pool. Last weekend I took the kids to an indoor pool so my wife could have some alone time. I put on her life jacket, and before I had a chance to get my shoes off, she went sprinting toward the pool and jumped into the deep end. I don’t want to state the obvious, but if she hadn’t been wearing her life jacket, she’d have sunk right to the bottom. I have no doubt.
Most community pools have life jackets available for free, so there really shouldn’t be any excuse for a young child to not be wearing one.
Summer is just around the corner, and if you are like me, you will be spending a lot of time at the pool. Be sure to do it safely. According to Dr. Quan, “Water is everywhere, and we need multiple layers to protect children from the deadly risks it poses.”