Roll and Float Infant Swimming Method (Review)

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A popular method for teaching infant swimming is what I like to call the “roll and float” method. It is a survival swimming technique popularized by Infant Swim Resource that teaches babies how to get to the surface of a pool if they fall in, roll onto their backs, and keep themselves in a floating position with their faces out of the water until help arrives (or at least buy them a few minutes – I don’t know how long it is truly possible for a baby to stay in this position).

I personally use the Doman method in teaching my babies to swim, but Doman doesn’t really put very much emphasis on back floating and breathing as a survival method. For Doman, the emphasis is mostly on:

  • multiple swimming skills and general fitness (for health and cognitive function – before age two or so, most swimming is underwater)
  • learning safety (like don’t ever enter the pool without a parent, don’t run near pool, respect for rules, etc.)
  • having fun, bonding with your child, and developing a lifelong love of swimming as a healthful activity
  • newborns and above are capable of and can benefit from swimming and water exercise

The book also teaches parents to teach their kids about water hygiene (best types of pool detoxification methods, showering practices, etc.), other important safety lessons (such as always using a lifejacket while boating, no matter how good of a swimmer any child or adult is), how and why to always be joyous and other teaching pointers, and more.

I have no personal experience with Infant Swim Resource, but from my understanding the program’s goals and emphasis are quite different:

  • Learn, as quickly as possible, at all costs, how to save self in pool through rescue breathing
  • Lessons can begin at age 6 months, and children under a year only learn rescue breathing
  • Children over a year can learn to rescue breathe, turn over to swim, then roll back onto back to rescue breath again

The technique has it’s merits, certainly, and it is actually through learning about this type of method that I began to start doing exercises with Damien (12 months) to try and teach him how to swim to the surface and roll onto his back, breath and be comfortable in this position. (At the moment, he adores swimming but back floating is the one thing that he can’t stand. So, we’re working on it.)

However, the Infant Swim Resource technique isn’t really in line with my philosophy, in that the means to achieving this survival floating almost always (from my witness of the many of internet videos) involves a lot of frantic, panicking, screaming and crying babies.

Now, I do understand the argument that having a baby scream for a few weeks is by all means better than a dead baby, but for me personally, I believe that there are gentler ways of achieving water safety and prefer to use those with my kids.

I also have broader goals in teaching my child to swim than worst-case-scenario survival. Swimming is about providing an enriching aquatic environment in which my child can learn mobility on a new level, be active, build confidence, and have a fun and enjoyable water experience.

Learning water safety and respect is certainly an important aspect of my approach – but it is recognized that no child is ever, ever truly safe without unwavering adult supervision, so the most important thing in keeping my baby safe is me, not a class he takes or skill he learns at this point.

I do have a goal, however, to more gently introduce him to the “roll and float” techniques, but I don’t necessarily think that he will be achieving this any time in the very near future, considering his, er, “unique” proportions (his big ol’ brain is still in the 95th percentile, while his overall weight is only in the 20th. So basically big head + not much body fat = not the most ideal build for floating).

What do you think about the “roll and float” method and Infant Swim Resources? I do recognize its value, but personally it’s just not for me (at least in its entirety). I would love to hear your stories and experience.


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