There has been lots in the press recently about "drown-proofing" learn to swim methods for babies, following a video uploaded by a mum from Florida called Keri Morrison. After the tragic death of her son, who drowned on a family holiday at the age of two, Keri enrolled her daughter Josie into a controversial intensive "survival" learn to swim programme.
During classes, babies are taught to transition from floating on their backs and breathing to rolling to their front and propelling themselves through the water. The method is believed by some to improve a child's chances of survival if they happened to fall into the water.
First and foremost, my heart goes out to Keri Morrison. The thought of losing a child in the water is horrific for any parent and I completely empathise with her need to try to prevent this awful accident from happening again.
Do "survival" learn to swim methods work? Along with a number of swimming teachers, I would have to answer with a resounding no. Even a competent swimmer can lose their lives in the water - whether it's due to a bump on the head as they fall, or because they fall into cold water. There isn't any way to make a person completely drown-proof, so there's no reason to adopt extreme methods for the "just in case" scenario that the child might fall and be in the situation practised with their teacher. Survival methods are so extreme that a child could be put off going in the pool at all - definitely not a good way to develop as swimmers.
In order to help children to be safe in the water in the long term, it is best to take a gentle, progressive approach to get the used to being in the pool. To keep them safe in the short term, it is absolutely vital that they must be supervised constantly around any water, from a deep swimming pool to a shallow bath or paddling pool, and especially when they're around the sea. As adults, we just can't become complacent - the water must be respected if we want to stay safe.
As parents we face enough pressure, without also being expected to pay out hundreds and being guilt-tripped into methods that claim to be life saving and somehow safer than traditional methods.