Mom Krysta Meyer never expected a video of her 8-month-old baby boy's swimming lessons to go viral, but a clip of her son, Oliver, being thrown into a pool by his swim instructor is causing controversy this week. The clip has been watched millions of times on TikTok and viewed by millions more on Twitter.
"Oliver amazes me every week!" Meyer captioned the now-viral clip. "I can't believe he is barely 2 months in [to swimming lessons] and is catching on so fast. He is a little fish."
Many commenters reacted with alarm to the video, and Meyer tells Motherly she understands why people are freaked out when watching the video out of context but feels what happened in the video was appropriate and that the death threats she's now receiving are not.
"I get it, it looks bad. It's not for everyone," she tells Motherly, adding that she welcomes the controversy because anything that gets parents talking about water safety could save lives.
As Dr. Andrew J. Bernstein, a pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, previously told Fatherly, pediatricians do not recommend this method. "Although it seems to work for some children, there is a significant risk water getting into the lungs if a baby doesn't hold his or her breath for long enough, or at the right time," Bernstein explained, adding that this can lead to a lack of oxygen to the brain, pneumonia, or drowning.
Here's what you need to know about this viral clip:
The video was taken during Infant Survival swimming lessons at Little Fins Swim School in Colorado Springs.
It's important here to make the distinction between Little Fins' Infant Survival lessons and Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) lessons. For many years ISR instructors have been speaking out about the common misconception that ISR involves throwing babies into water.
"Your baby will never be thrown into the water," the ISR website states in several places.
In ISR children aren't tossed into the pool from the heights seen in Meyer's clips. The pool entry In ISR is meant to mimic a more common entry, like falling into the pool from the side or by scooting off the stairs.
Motherly reached out to owner of Little Fins Swim School, Lauri Armstrong, who explains that her lessons are different from ISR lessons.
Her statement to Motherly reads, in part: "Our instructors are highly trained and we provide constant ongoing professional development training and skills workshops to keep up on all the latest safety information and skills. In the video, Ms. Jill tossed the baby in the pool. We do this as part of our safety and survival level to pass, because when kids fall into water, it's not always graceful or pretty. It can be a disorienting experience."
Meyer says she wasn't even aware of the distinction between the two techniques until internet commenters objected to her using the ISR hashtag on videos taken at Little Fins.
Meyer's older son, 3-year-old Jayce, has been in lessons at Little Fins since he was a year old. In a previous video caption, Meyers explained that putting Jayce into swimming lessons at Little Fins was "one of the best decisions I ever made...Gives me a peace of mind my child is safe around water."
It is important to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't recommend swimming lessons until children are a year old and wants parents to be aware that swimming lessons at any age can't "drown proof" a child. The AAP stresses the importance of constant adult supervision around water (we should always be within arms reach), pool barriers and CPR training for parents.
Meyer tells Motherly that she agrees with the AAP's stance on supervision and that the lessons at Little Fins Swim School are just one way to make her children safer.
Tips to reduce the risk of childhood drowning from the AAP:
- If you have a pool, install a "4 foot, 4-sided, isolation fence that separates the pool from the house and the rest of the yard with a self-closing, self- latching gate". Also keep "a telephone and rescue equipment approved by the US Coast Guard (eg, life buoys, life jackets, and a reach tool, such as a shepherd's crook)" by the pool.
- When visiting a home or business with a pool or hot tub, parents "should carefully assess the premises to ensure basic barriers are in place, such as sliding door locks and pool fences with closed gates in good working order and ensure that supervision will be consistent."
- Learn CPR.
- During a pool party, parents and adults should take turns tapping in as the "designated watcher" and fully focus on the kids playing in or around a pool.
- If swimming at a beach or lake, choose a location with lifeguards and designated areas for swimming.
- Teach kids to stay away from bodies of water in all seasons, even winter when they are covered in ice.
[A version of this post was originally published April 24, 2019. It has been updated.]