According to statistics, eighty two percent of drowning victims are younger than four years of age and most of the incidents involve bathtubs or bath related products such as buckets, toilets, bath seats and of course, back yard pools. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death of children between 1 and 4 years.
It takes only a few inches of water and a few seconds in time for drowning to take place. Child proofing, removing the obvious hazards, fencing, walls, gates and so forth cannot be counted on to prevent drowning when you have a curious and adventuresome baby.
Instinctive Drowning Response
Drowning takes place in silence unlike the movies and TV shows where scenes of thrashing, waving and yelling are portrayed. The Instinctive Drowning Response is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water.
Because the respiratory system was designed for breathing and speech is a secondary function, drowning people are physiologically unable to call for help since breathing must come first before speech is possible. According to Francesco A. Pia, PhD. nature instinctively forces drowning people to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface permitting them to lift their mouth out of the water to breathe but not long enough to exhale, inhale and call for help. Typically, bodies remain upright with no kicking movement and the struggle lasts only 20 to 60 seconds before drowning occurs.
Your Baby Has Built-In Water-Wise Reflexes
Babies, one to four months old, have built in reflexes which, with your help, can be used and reinforced to enable them to become water-wise. These reflexes are in full force until the fourth month when they begin to wane.
Your baby was in warm water for nine months and she is born knowing how to swim. Placed face down and fully submerged in warm water she has no fear and will make swimming motions with her arms and legs and side to side motions with her tiny torso.
Your baby has a reflex in her throat that closes it the minute she goes under water so that no water gets into her lungs.
Your baby has a grip reflex that can support her own weight. The baby who is helped to use her fists through exercise keeps her grip and improves it so that she can hold on to the side of the pool.
The baby who uses her inborn ability to hold her breath underwater and to swim continues to do both better and better.
Where Do You Start?
In the bathtub of course. And at about two weeks old. Remember the built-in reflexes begin to wane at about four months so the sooner you begin to use and reinforce them the better.
Most pool programs don’t take babies that young so it is up to you to begin now. Don’t waste the first four months when built in reflexes are in full force and waiting to be used.
For step-by-step instructions read Bonnie’s books: Your Baby Can Swim, or How to Keep Your Child Fit from Birth to Six.
The History of Bonnie Prudden Baby Swim Programs
Baby swim and gym started in the Detroit YMCA with a baby, a mother, a teacher and the Detroit Free Press. Into the water went the three and into the Sunday Supplement went the story. The phones started ringing and the classes overflowed.
Your Baby Can Swim, by Bonnie Prudden
“I started the first Baby-Swim-and-Gym classes back in the fifties. At first there were no repercussions. When you first start anything new, there is a hiatus while people get over the shock and while the usual non-producers gather ammunition to launch. The first missile was about urinating in the pool. Well, when you consider the size of a baby’s bladder as compared to a twelve-year-old’s the argument is foolish. Besides, urine is sterile.
Next, there was the possibility that something more solid might be deposited. I have seen that twice in forty-seven years…once when my husband was left holding our daughter in her bathtub while I went to give some needed instruction on the phone and once in a baby’s too warm wading pool, where a naked baby was just lying around. In swim class the water should be warm, but not soupy…and there should be lots of action. Relaxation is for later.
The next complaint came from people I call perennially menopausal: they can always dream up something to fret about. The ones who dreamed this one up were males. It was suggested that mothers who attended swim classes with their babies might overestimate the abilities of their children, thinking them ‘drown-proofed.’ That was really a case of underestimating women. There is nothing like a Baby Swim class to teach you exactly what your baby can and cannot do.
Next came viruses. The babies would be ‘Subjected to significant exposures of enteroviruses, adenoviruses, and other potentially dangerous microorganisms.’ So far, in thirty years this has not happened. If you do have a child with a tendency toward ear infections, then it is best to wait awhile, but the rest appears to be the menopausal heebie-jeebies talking”…and many of them were male MDs.
- Heightened sensitivity is developed; both yours and your baby’s;
- The long neglected but desperately needed quality of nonverbal communication is developed;
- There is a building of trust and cooperation as new skills are introduced and old skills are practiced;
- Your baby has something to teach you; love is the most send-able message there is;
- Babies hear and understand the intent of your words although they may not understand the words themselves
- As your baby’s water lessons progress you will note longer time underwater as leg strength and kicks are stronger, the breathing reflex is improved and you become more relaxed
- Since water provides resistance as YOU walk through the water you will note that YOUR legs are also stronger and more toned
- Your baby is developing curiosity, courage and intuition.
- She is developing a strong healthy body and relieving stress (yes, babies have stress too).
- Your baby will relax better, sleep better and eat better.
- You are opening your baby’s world to a whole new under water experience which may some day blossom to include diving, scuba, sailing, fishing, swim team and Olympics.
What a gift!
Remember, “You can’t protect your children from life, you can only prepare them for it.” —Bonnie Prudden, How to Keep Your Child Fit From Birth to Six
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. And enjoy the video below in which Bonnie discusses and demonstrates baby swim! Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®