A video clip from former Kenya Sevens international Dennis Ombachi tossing his son into the pool with one hand.
The caption, “4 weeks since we started water safety classes and my son graduated today, officially WATER SAFE! Last class he get to go in with 4 layers of clothing including two diapers, more than doubling his weight in water. Proud father.”
The clip that has gone viral on Twitter where it stirred up a debate around the technique.
While some self-described experts warned against the method, others asserted that it’s safe because babies can “float on instinct.”
According to the Ombachi, his son was taught this specialized class, referred to as infant survival class which is designed for children as young as 6 months.
The goal of the technique is to teach infants to swim and to be so comfortable in the water that they know how to safely react if they happen to fall in.
An expert explained that the program behind the more than 50-year-old method, Infant Swimming Resource (ISR), explains on their website, “Children are curious, capable, and have an uncanny ability to overcome obstacles like pool fences; at ISR we take that ability and teach them skills to potentially save themselves if they find themselves in the water alone.”
Instructors who are trained by the ISR program don’t just throw the baby into the water. “That is the final test.”
“They teach the baby how to flip onto their back and float if they are in water. This is actually a very important lesson for infants and children to learn—especially if they will be near water or have a pool in the backyard. This has saved many lives so far.”
Not all doctors are on board with the method.
“An infant or young child might be injured by the force and angle of the fall to the water’s surface, that they can be forced too deep into the water and either not hold their breath at the right time or be unable to hold it for a long enough time period,” she says, noting it could even increase the risk of decreased oxygenation of the brain, pneumonia, or even death.
“Furthermore, this simply isn’t one of the more realistic scenarios that a child will face when near water. Most infants and young children will fall into the water at the water’s edge, not from several feet above.”