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HomeArticlesWhat Every Parent Needs to Know About Water Safety

What Every Parent Needs to Know About Water Safety

Photo by Jodi Amick.

How long should I keep my baby in an infant bath seat? Should I be taking them to swim lessons? What about Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) classes? What’s the difference? What age should I sign them up?

Have any of these questions ever crossed your mind? I’ve had these thoughts, too and easily gotten overwhelmed by it all.

While having a new baby can bring about information overload, knowing the ins and outs of keeping your little one safe around water can bring a lot of peace of mind.

Tracy Herbst, a Board Member with Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona and ISR Instructor offered valuable insight on what you need to know to keep your baby safe around water.

Bath Time Safety Tips

  • Never leave your baby unattended in the bath. While this might seem obvious, day to day interruptions such as the doorbell ringing, forgetting your phone in the other room, or needing to grab a towel, might have you tempted to leave the baby for just a split second. “Don’t think the infant bath seats are going to be a substitute for supervision,” said Herbst. “There’s no excuse to ever leave the child in the bathtub.”
  • Have access to a phone. While it’s a good idea to have a cell phone with you while your baby is in the tub in case of emergency, Herbst advises not to be on the phone while bathing your child.
  • Check the water temperature. Herbst says that it’s best to keep the water under 100 degrees and to keep water levels at or near the baby’s waist to keep them warm during the bath.
  • Use an infant bath seat. Continue using an infant bath seat even if your baby is starting to sit up on their own. “I wouldn’t trust a baby that’s just learning to sit up,” said Herbst. “For most, it’s probably safer to wait until they are closer to a year old when they’re more stable sitting up. Just because they can sit on their own for a period of time doesn’t mean they can sit for long times safely.”

Baby Swim Classes and Infant Swimming Resource (ISR)

Apart from knowing how to keep your little one safe around water, there are also classes available to teach your child water survival skills.

Infant Swimming Resource, or ISR, is known to do just that.

“ISR teaches children to survive and safety around water,” said Herbst. “It teaches them that this body of water is potentially dangerous and how to save themselves if needed.”
ISR can begin at 6 months of age or when the child can sit up on their own and can be done up until 6 years old. Lessons are one-on-one with the instructor and customized to each child’s individual abilities and skill levels.

For those under the age of 1 or who aren’t walking yet, ISR will teach them how to flip onto their back and float while in the water until they are able to be rescued. Kids who are older will learn a swim-float technique to safely get to the edge of the pool or body of water.
“Majority of drowning accidents of children 5 and under happen when they’re fully clothed,” said Herbst. “So ISR does a full clothes lesson and makes sure that child can still do it fully clothed.”

Herbst said baby swimming lessons on the other hand, are more of a bonding experience to get both the parent and baby more comfortable in the water.

These lessons can start as early as 3 months old and are typically taught in group settings where parents join their child in the water.

“[Swim lessons] are particularly good for new parents to get more comfortable letting their child in the water,” said Herbst. “It’s more of a fun play time for parents and their children.”
As an ISR instructor for nearly 18 years, Herbst said she recommends that every baby does ISR.

“Parents can go to mommy and me classes to get comfortable in the water, especially for the parent to get used to seeing their child in the water,” she said. “Then, as a foundation for survival, I think every child should do ISR. It’s proven it works.”

Diapering Necessities in the Pool

Maricopa County Health Code requires that a child wears a tight fitting rubber or plastic pants or a swim diaper.

ISR and most swim schools, however, require a minimum of two layers of protection to protect the body of water. A swim diaper that is tight on their legs and tight on the waist and a reusable swim diaper or diaper cover over it.

“The more layers the better,” said Herbst. “The built-in swim diaper in swimsuits alone is not usually enough.”

You’ll want to check with the particular swim school or instructor to make sure you are following their requirements.

Other Important Tips

“One of the biggest things we emphasize as a member of the Drowning Prevention Coalition is the ABCs of water safety,” said Herbst.

A: Adult Supervision: Always have eyes on the child. “Have someone who’s designated to watch the water. Not on their phone, not drinking, eating, talking, etc. That person wears that ‘Water Watcher Badge’ and then they switch every 15 minutes with another adult,” said Herbst.

B: Barriers: Make sure you have fences, door locks, window locks, all types of things that prevent a child from having access to a body of water.

C: Classes: “Learning to swim is key and that goes for adults as well,” said Herbst. “Children by the age of 1 should be taking swim lessons. You also want to make sure that your caregivers are comfortable in the water and have CPR training as well.”

For more information on water safety, to find an ISR instructor, or for swim school resources visit infantswim.com or preventdrownings.org

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