WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The American Academy of Pediatricians now recommends that children as young as 1 take swim lessons.
In Wilmington, two mothers, Ann Fuerst and Amanda Shrestha, teach Infant Swim Resource (ISR) lessons, which children can begin taking as early as 6 months old.
The lessons teach a float-swim-float sequence, training children what to do and how to survive if they fall into the water. The children continue that sequence until they can get to an adult or get to a stair or ledge to get out of the water.
The students take short, private lessons a few times a week for several weeks to master the practice.
Dr. Lauren Gainor, a pediatrician who works at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, has her son, Wyatt, 3, in the program.
“I work specifically at the ER," she said. "We see every year the tragedy that can come from water accidents and drownings. So, it has very real faces and names for me every year. It just really reiterates the importance.”
Fuerst said the lessons do not replace vigilant parenting around the water; they do, however, add a layer of protection.
Drowning is a leading accidental cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 and the second accidental cause for children ages 1 to 14.
The lessons getting more attention after Olympian Bode Miller and his wife highlighted them in an interview on the Today Show that aired in April.
The two shared their heartbreak over losing their 19-month-old daughter Emmy to drowning in 2018.
They encouraged other parents to take water safety seriously and showed their infant son, Easton, taking ISR lessons.
For Dr. Gainor, it gives her family peace of mind.
“We are so fortunate to live around so much water but it creates such a real danger if we’re not careful,” she said. “Not that we ever are less cautious around the water in any form but I feel confident that if he fell in accidentally, he would turn over and float.”
The ISR lessons in Wilmington are popular and there are very few instructors. Fuerst said there is a waiting list of about 100 children for their program. She said they’re in the process of training more instructors.