Swimming Blog

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests starting your kids swimming at an early age

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) actually USED to say kids shouldn’t start swimming until age 4, and then changed their stance in 2010 as seen below to suggest age one. Differently, The United States Swim School Association wants kids to start swimming as young as 6 months, while babies still have their natural swimming reflexes and when their lungs are more developed than say a two year old’s. There are still differences between the AAP and USSA in regards to when a child should start swimming lessons. Ultimately as a parent, it is up to you to make an informed decision.

I personally don’t believe infants can save themselves, but I do believe that little babies can grow into water safety skills as they develop, which can accelerate their path to water safety.

As a mom, former teacher, and water-lover, I think it is worth it to start your kids as babies. I taught my kids to fully swim by the age of two. And by swimming I mean turned they could completely swim independently and get their heads up for regular breaths. They were competent fish swimmers and that was how my business began. I don’t believe they would have been so competent at such a young age had I not taught them to swim as babies and never stopped. And while they could not save themselves as young infants, the time in the water proved to be a fun, bonding, worthwhile experience for my family.

IF YOU START THEM AS BABIES:

1) If you start kids swimming early, you can capitalize on their innate reflexes and not worry about teaching breath control or even kicking later.

2) If you start early and keep it up your child will not be fearful of the water.

3) If you start early you can pass the baby between adults, teaching the baby to swim in a prone position. Many older kids have a hard time learning to swim because they are “water walkers” and try to swim vertically, a process which can take a lot of time and conditioning to change.

4) The younger your child learns to swim, the earlier you can have more fun with h/her in the water as a family.

REFLEXES as quoted by the United States Swim School Association:
While thinking about drowning is scary, know that if you start your baby swimming s/he has reflexes that will help jumpstart the process to advancing water safety skills. Babies are born with several reflexes. Most reflexes are replaced by cognitive functions during the first few years of life. The reflexes can’t be stopped or controlled and are related to survival behaviors.

1. One is the epiglottal reflex. It’s also called the gag and breath holding reflex. It’s an involuntary spasm of the epiglottis and it stops fluid from entering the trachea. It doesn’t prevent water from entering the esophagus. A child who is not gagging may still be drinking when submerged. This reflex is well defined at birth but diminishes over the first 12 to 18 months. It is trigged by most consistently when the child’s whole head is under water.

2) Righting Reflexes: When an infant is on their back they will attempt to position their head upright possibly to prevent suffocation. This could explain why infants under six months are able to roll on their backs when submerged.

3) The Swimming Reflex: When infants are released in the prone position, the infant’s arms, legs and torso move rhythmically. They can swim two to three meters in three to five seconds. This reflex is displayed in the first few months of life and it cannot be reinforced. Some feel all of these reflexes are evidence of humans having been born with a partial adaptation to water in our evolutionary development. With all these reflexes we learn to limit submersions with infants under six months in less than three seconds until conscious breath holding is observed.

If you do not start lessons early, your child can still be taught to swim-but all of the reflexes that were once innate will have to be taught.

Those who have no fear can learn to swim in a more safe way if they take formal swim lessons.

The sooner people learn to swim; the faster they can be safe in the water. Once proficient, people can use the pool to relax and enjoy ourselves for life.

*On May 24th, 2010 The American Academy of Pediatrics updated their guidance on water safety and drowning prevention. The updated policy states:
“To protect their children, parents need to think about layers of protection. Children need to learn to swim. Swimming lessons can be an important part of the overall protection, which should include pool barriers and constant, capable supervision.”
The statement goes on to say that new evidence shows that children ages 1 to 4 may be less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming instruction.

HAPPY SWIMMING!

For more information and to sign up for swimming classes contact:

Emily Cohen
The Water Whisperer
www.TheWaterWhisperer.com
inquiries@thewaterwhisperer.com