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Does My Baby Need ISR? Part 2

Posted in Benefits of Swim Lessons

There are often endless questions swirling in a new parent’s mind, many of which concern the health and safety of their newborn. And the chatter among other well-meaning parents and friends can compound the uncertainty, especially when there are discussions about the practices, activities, and approaches that each feels is best for a baby. Swimming can fall into this category and become a hot-button issue if a parent feels strongly about a particular methodology.


Some parents prefer family swim schools, like Hubbard, while others believe in the Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) program. If you’re interested in a gentle, gradual, and parent-involved approach like the one at Hubbard, you might get pushback from other parents telling you that your child needs infant survival swimming classes too. So, what is ISR? And does your baby really need it? Here’s our take.


The #1 Way to Prevent Drowning


Many people who feel strongly about ISR have great intentions. A common line of reasoning among pro-ISR parents is that infant survival swimming classes teach babies and children, within four to six weeks, how to rescue themselves from the water. This, of course, sounds like a very important and valuable skill, especially to parents who are very concerned about drowning.


But, whether you choose ISR or a family swim school for swimming lessons, the fact remains that no type of swim program on its own should be considered an effective, standalone way to prevent drowning. Proper adult supervision around pools, beaches, lakes and bathtubs – which means being within touching distance of a child – is still the most effective, proven way to ensure child safety around water. Swim lessons are an important secondary line of defense, but an adult should always be present regardless of the skill level of the child.


Consider the Long-Term Impact


The condensed nature of infant survival swim classes is often touted as a benefit of ISR, since skills are taught quickly. But just because children can master the survival skills in a short matter of time doesn’t always paint the whole picture. The intensity of these classes, held daily, can be extreme for babies and young children. They also largely center on cause-and-effect teaching, wherein the children are given minimal instructions and then expected to get themselves above water and back to air on their own (with some support as needed). While this can accelerate the learning of skills, it also uses fear since air is withheld until the child can maneuver above water. In other words, drowning is somewhat simulated.


More research studies should be done to determine the long-term effects of such classes, but they can appear to children as repeated, traumatic events. This approach may be extremely frightening, scare a child away from water, and leave them trepidation from the experience. While family swim school programs may take longer for skills to be absorbed, they are reinforced weekly (on an ongoing basis) and are mastered in a positive environment. From the get-go, swimming is viewed as a happy, family activity that encourages the child to thrive.



As always, you need to make the right choice for you and your child. If you’re still on the fence here’s more information about the differences between our swim school program at Hubbard and that of ISR. What your baby needs is uplifting swim instruction, parent/baby bonding in the pool, ongoing reinforcement of skills and constant adult supervision, no matter what. That’s what we believe is the recipe for safe, confident, happy little swimmers – now and for a lifetime. Being a new parent is tough business, if you have more questions please contact us to learn more about our unique approach.