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In recent years, infant swimming lessons have been the subject of a great deal of controversy. There are still a number of very legitimate concerns about infant swimming programs. The issues and concerns involve hyponatremia, retention of skills, a false sense of security parents may gain when their child has had swimming lessons and the need for lessons in the first place.
The retention of the skills taught to the baby will obviously depend upon the quality and manner of the instruction. Swimming must be taught to the baby as a sensory-motor skill. The skills cannot be combined with games and songs; if swimming is presented as an intellectual skill, then, yes, he or she will probably forget the games, the songs and how to swim.

Our retention figures range between 94 and 100 percent after one year of no lessons. ISR instructors require that the parents monitor their baby's urine and bowel output as well as record the sleep and diet of their baby while he is enrolled in lessons. The ISR instructor has been trained to analyze this data on a form called the BUDS sheet that each parent is required to bring to the pool daily. This is used to alert the instructor of the possibility of land-based complications that could predispose the child to hyponatremia during an otherwise normal lesson situation. In addition, factors such as injury, illness, teething and medications are all critically related to the child's performance in the water and must be considered if the child is to receive the safest possible lesson.

Hyponatremia has been repeatedly reported in the press as a major hazard of infant swimming lessons. Hyponatremia (or water intoxication) occurs when an infant either drinks too much water or is not excreting enough fluids properly or a combination of the two. Only three cases of water intoxication from other "infant swimming programs" have been reported in the professional medical literature nationwide. It is valid and sensible that many physicians and their organizations have spoken out against infant swimming programs. However, some pediatricians are now calling infant drowning an epidemic. Some have researched our program and recommend it to their patients. In 1988, two pediatricians became trained ISR instructors. Dr. Barnett and the two pediatricians have spoken at several pediatric meetings in an effort to shed some light on concerns that the media has eagerly picked up on and presented as controversy. There is no controversy that infants should be taught to swim because it is a matter of survival.

The controversy is how these survival swimming experiences should be conducted and how the consumer can be educated and protected.

Infant Swimming Resource has developed a complete program of parent education concerning many facets of drowning prevention. This is called the Parent Resource Book and is required reading for all parents registering their child in ISR lessons. The topics covered in this book are: attitude and emotions, physiology and safety before, during and after the lesson, factors in learning, behaviorism, family aquatic safety, CPR and first aid.

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