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But, Won't My Baby Drown?!

By Lauren Hartmann |

Fern LOVES the water.

As in, she loves it so much she screams and cries when it’s time to get out. This kid is like a fish. I had read that babies can start taking swimming lessons around 6 months of age and the thought had crossed my mind to sign her up for them, but then I remembered that they might try to make me dunk my baby under water and I sort of (super) freaked out.

I know everyone does it, but seriously…can’t my baby drown?! I read that little factoid about how babies (unlike adults) can breathe and swallow at the same time – obviously a breastfeeding necessity – so wouldn’t it stand to reason that a baby could breathe water into their lungs and drown then?

Am I over-thinking this?

We went swimming last night with a friend of mine who was a lifeguard for years and taught baby swimming lessons as well and she taught me some techniques for “swimming” with babies and explained the technique used when *dunking babies underwater (*It’s not really so much “dunking” completely like I thought as it is a slight “skimming”, but still…).  My friend watched Fern in the water and commented that she was a natural and that if she was in her baby swimming class that she would have no qualms about trying the “dunking” technique, but said that I shouldn’t do it if I felt uncomfortable with it.

I myself am not a very strong swimmer. I can basically swim to save my life, but that’s about it, and I really would love it if Fern grew up to enjoy swimming and be a better swimmer than me. Maybe I’m just projecting my own fears onto her and she’d be just fine if I let her go under water? Maybe?

Am I the only one who thinks dunking a baby underwater is scary? Have any of you tried it? How did it go?

Maybe I just need to sign up for swimming lessons.

Lauren Hartmann is the founder of The Little Things We Do, a blog about life and adventures in Portland Oregon. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook, or catch up on all of her posts here on Babble.

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About Lauren Hartmann


Lauren Hartmann

Lauren Hartmann is a wife, wardrobe stylist, and mama living in Portland, Oregon. She writes about her adventures in motherhood on Babble's Baby Channel. You can also find her blogging at The Little Things We Do or obsessively partaking in social media. Read bio and latest posts → Read Lauren's latest posts →

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8 thoughts on “But, Won't My Baby Drown?!

  1. Kira says:

    I feel exactly the same way. The idea of putting Pearl under water completely freaks me out, but I think it’s mostly because I hate going under water. I am kind of like you, I’m not a very good swimmer and I don’t enjoy it too much. Pearl seems to love it and I know I should sign her up for swimming lessons, but I don’t want to have to go in the pool and I would rather someone who is more competent be her partner in this whole swimming situation.

  2. Erin says:

    I am a dunker. I started swim classes with Elise when she was 6 months (8 1/2 months now). After blowing bubbles, getting their ears wet, and assorted other not scary things, the instructor told us to dunk. I got away with three weeks of not dunking, before the instructor pulled me aside and explained that it is important because it will teach her to not panic in the water. Panic leads to unsafe situations, she said. So, I dunked. And Elise was fine. Now we do it several times per class and she’s never once choked, aspirated water, or even cried. But, yes, it felt totally unnatural to purposely stick my baby’s head underwater the first time.

  3. Cole says:

    I grew up with a pool and we were the ones to have swimming lessons for the neighborhood at our house. I’m pretty adamant that Rivers will start swimming lessons at 6 months so he’ll be comfortable in the water next summer. I think it’s important for kids to be comfortable in the water but also for you to be comfortable with what the instructor is having Fern do. I hope you’re able to find an instructor that you trust & will let you move at a pace you’re comfortable with!

  4. yuri says:

    omg…I’m right there with you. since fern and David are the same age it seems like that happens often lol. I swam my whole life, played water polo for 12 years and am terrified of dunking!! please keep us updated so I know what to do lol

  5. Daniel says:

    Jonah just turned 6 months, and we’ve been to a few pools, the beach, and a lake so far this summer. I’ve dunked him a few times, and he loves it. He comes out surprised at what just happened, and then gets a big grin and giggle.

  6. Coralyn says:

    I used to teach the infant class, and EVERYTHING is optional. But rest assured that we would not do anything that would be harmful or would cause a baby to drown. Of course being in the water there are inherent risks, but if you are taking lessons with a certified instructor they will spend a significant amount of time teaching safety. Infant lessons focus on teaching safe behavior around water, getting them used to being in the water, getting their faces and head wet, playing water games, and some basic ” swimming” (blowing bubbles, kicking and reaching with their arms, and back floats). Some babies take longer to become comfortable switching positions in the water (prone to supine) and with getting their face/head wet, so the instructor will push their limits a little, but not so much to scare them. I say go for it!

  7. Karen Faust says:

    I am a certified Safe Start/Infant Swimming Resource instructor for the YMCA of Central Florida. We teach Self-Rescue swimming lessons. At 6 months a child can rollback to float and stay there until someone can come get them. When they can walk they can learn to swim-float-swim. It is very important to teach survival swimming lessons before your child can get in the water and drown. Making them comfortable and love the water makes them more prone to drown. Survival lessons teach them to be competent in the water and safe their own life. Go to and look up an instructor in your area. If you are in the Central Florida area go to or call 407.599.0113. Not One More Child Drowns

  8. Lara says:

    We’ve taken swimming lessons since my daughter was 6 months old. We dunk, though the instructor was fine with us taking all the time we needed to do so. Some kids hated it, some loved it, some were indifferent. Wait until you’re comfortable, but you won’t know how she’ll react until you try it. Now, at a year, she’ll dunk herself on her own, she loves pouring water over her head, and is a little fish!

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