Mum defends distressing baby swimming video

Little Julia was demonstrating 'self saving' technique in family pool

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Wow. There is a video doing the rounds which makes for pretty distressing viewing, even if the mum behind it has released it for all the right reasons.

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Keri Morrison has been teaching her 13-month-old baby girl Julia to swim as a matter of urgency since she lost her 2-and-a-half year old son Jake in a drowning accident. The family were on holiday in Florida when he slipped out of the house after dark and fell into a dock.

As a result of Jake’s tragic death, Keri has been using a controversial technique used in Infant Swimming Resource lessons with Julia to keep her safe in water.

She shared a video of Julia putting it into practice on her Facebook page, captioning it “so hard to watch but every kid should learn this young”.

The 2-minute video shows the tiny tot fully clothed in a yellow dress and knickers making a grab for a sandal that is floating past her as she sits at the edge of a pool.

Her family are all seated near by watching her. Little Julia then falls face down in the water, but instead of instantly being dragged out, has to save her herself.

She begins flailing about while trying to keep her head above water and trying to swim.

Her family remain near the pool as the little girl cries and struggles in the water – which is pretty hard to watch.

Eventually, Julia flips on to her back and has her head out of the water, and paddles with her arms and legs, at which point a woman’s voice can be heard on the film saying ‘good girl’.  

The film has courted a LOT of controversy, with people branding it cruel and distressing, but Keri says that it is essential Julia learns to ‘self save’ because of what happened to her little boy.

“Because I know the alternative my son is no longer with us because he didn’t have these skills,” she told Fox News.

“‘To me, I’m protecting her and that is what a mother is supposed to do protect her. I feel like I failed my son and I’m not going to fail my daughters.”

“One of the things I really struggle with is that my son fell in the water not knowing what to do, and that thought and vision fires me up to make sure that not just my children but children all over are safe and can do this in the water.”

The technique is one taught by Infant Swimming Resource, which claims babies can self save themselves with the right training – which with their system is based on four weeks of daily, 10-minute lessons.

Their website claims that while “pool fences, supervision, and pool alarms are important parts of a necessary multi-layered approach to drowning prevention” these traditional approaches are “missing a key component: the child.”

Not everyone agrees though – one Australian Olympic swimming coach reacted angrily to the video saying that no child should learn to swim through ‘force or fear’.

Laurie Lawrence went as far as to tell the Nine News Channel that the practice could even lead to ‘water intoxication’.

“There is the trend [Infant Self Rescue] which normally involved throwing the kids into the water and parents using their hands to create water pressure to flip the children onto their backs,” he said.

“Eventually if you do it over and over again kids become conditioned but it’s through fear. I don’t believe any kid should learn to swim through force or fear.”

And when self-saving was in the news previously, Richard Lichenstein, a pediatric emergency medical physician at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children in Baltimore, Maryland, told the Independent that he does not recommend it, and that it does not necessarily teach babies how to save themselves:

“The technique does not teach a baby to swim nor can it be conclusively proven that it teaches an infant to survive,” he said. “Worse it may give a parent the false sense that their child will not drown or knows how to swim.

He also warned of other risks from children being in the water under such conditions, saying: 

“Infants can become hypothermic from exposure, get water intoxication from swallowing water and develop gastrointestinal and skin infections. There are risks associated with infant swimming.”

Over here, the Amateur Swimming Association advise taking babies swimming from the age of six months, but before this age they say that ‘preliminary swimming skills and familiarisation with water can be taught in the bath at home’ – which sounds a lot safer to us.

What do you think?

Picture: Keri Morrison/Facebook

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