Surprisingly, the world of baby swimming has been pretty liberal in terms of what was allowed - it was up to swim schools or individual swimming teachers to decide on best practice, and there were few restrictions on who could set a swim school up. In recent months, the two main national bodies for swimming teaching (the Amateur Swimming Association, or ASA, and the Swimming Teachers' Association, or STA) have recently released guidelines for swim schools in an effort to regulate the industry.
One thing that features in both documents is new advice on baby submersion. As a parent myself, I felt this could be of interest to other parents, and could help them to make an informed decision about when and how to submerge their own children during a lesson.
Both bodies emphasise building up the length, frequency and depth of submersions, and they both suggest a limit to these three things depending on the age of the child.
Up to 6 months: no more than six intentional submersions per lesson to a maximum of 1m depth and up to 3 seconds;
Aged 6-12 months: no more than 12 intentional submersions per lesson to a maximum of 1m depth and up to 3 seconds;
Aged 12 months and above: no limit on intentional submersions (to up to 1.5m and for up to 10 seconds), as long as the STA N2 Baby Swimming Policy is followed - this is an interesting document and can be found here)
The STA define three types of submersion; intentional (an intentional parent of a structured lesson, led by the baby/child), pre-schooler initiated (including jumping in or blowing bubbles), or accidental (the baby/preschooler goes under or is submerged during an activity - these submersions are avoided). They also give guidelines on best practice for submersions - they should only happen when the baby is shows signs of readiness, and as part of a fun activity, they should be progressive and stop at any sign of distress or unhappiness, and they should only happen with the active involvement of the child (not when they are looking away of unaware of what is about to happen). They also point out that submersions carried out at an inappropriate time can lead to a long term fear of water, and that excessive submersions are not ethically acceptable. In terms of frequency, depth and duration, they recommend the following:
Up to 6 months: initially just one or two submersions, building to a maximum of four, to a maximum depth of 1m and for up to 3 seconds;
Aged 6-12 months: no more than 6 intentional submersions, in addition to any pre-schooler initiated submersions, to a maximum depth of 1m and a duration of up to 3 seconds;
Aged 12 months and above: no maximum limit on frequency, as long as they are child-led and in the context of a happy interaction with the adult, to no deeper than 1m and for up to 10 seconds.
The STA also suggest surface swims with the face submerged, rather than submerged swims under the water from the start.
The STA guidelines can be found here and I really recommend reading them. They include loads of information, including a description of water intoxication. The ASA guidelines can be purchased here for £75 plus P&P.
PLEASE NOTE: All information in this article is taken directly from ASA PAS 520:2015 and STA Baby Swimming Policy, on June 30th 2016. I am not responsible for any submersions carried out after having read the guidelines quoted. It is important that anyone keen to submerge their baby should do so only with a qualified instructor present.