Swim lessons for babies could 'sink' drowning stats

Posted July 4, 2016 11:34 a.m. EDT
Updated July 4, 2016 1:43 p.m. EDT

Teaching kids to swim at young age can help prevent drownings.

— It's the middle of pool season, and more parents than ever are arming their children with life-saving water skills at a very early age.

Teaching babies to float at 6 months old might sound unusual, but parents and swim instructors are hoping that these lessons could banish a frightening statistic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, between 3,536 kids drowned annually between 2005 and 2014. That's almost 10 accidents a day, and it's a situation that no parent wants to experience.

Emma Hernandez knows that, in only a matter of minutes, the unimaginable can happen. It was a terrifying moment for her last July when she turned away for just a moment to find her 4-year-old daughter, Sitlaly, floating in Windsor Lake.

"That moment was really tough," she said. "Sitlaly wasn't responding. She had no pulse, so she basically wasn't here anymore."

Thankfully, Sitlaly was resuscitated made a full recovery after spending some time in the hospital.

"It's scary," said Hernandez, "especially when they tell you your child is in the intensive care unit and that you have to be prepared for what happens."

For every child that dies from drowning, five - like Sitlaly - survive the submersion.

That number isn't good enough for Lia Dahlr, who recently enrolled her son in a water safety class at Infant Swimming Rescue, a school that teaches survival skills to babies as early as six months of age.

"I just want to make sure he is prepared to take care of himself if there's a lapse or a 30 second window where we don't see something happen," she said.

At only 10 months old, Wylder is learning survival skills like floating and breathing from Janna Wertz, his swimming instructor.

"[Kids] have to get comfortable holding their breath, and, once they do, they really start to relax," said Jenna Wertz, a swimming instructor. "That's why they can learn at such a young age in the water. A program that teaches them to float and how to get comfortable in that float is very important."

"It's crucial," said Hernandez. "It could save his life one day."