Meandering through facebook with my morning coffee a couple of weeks ago, I came across a video of a baby, face-up in a pool. I watched the video of the baby escaping through a patio door, onto the pool deck and ultimately tumble into the pool. My heart was thumping in my chest, even though I knew the point of the exercise was to show the baby save himself from drowning. Years ago, before my own five kids came along, I was a nanny. One family I worked for had two little boys who took swim lessons in a beautiful outdoor pool, run by a tanned, blonde, fearsome force of a woman who had been an Olympic medalist back in the day. I watched this woman take tiny babies and show them, often wailing and protesting, to roll over and float on their backs. Incredible! My own kids can swim. They learned early and as soon as I could, I threw them all on swim team. But this is a different kettle of fish entirely. This is survival. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for infants and young children between the ages of 1-4. I started poking around on the web, looking for lessons. Only one person popped up in Connecticut who teaches these techniques to kids between the ages of six months to six years. Jody King Mantie. Jody became certified through ISR and has been teaching since 2008 at two locations, North Haven and Farmington. I contacted her and asked if my daughter and I could come watch a lesson and talk for a few minutes with the purpose of getting this news out to more parents. When we arrived, a baby was in the water with her. A tiny baby! I would say, six months old. She was a bit irritable about being in the water, especially during the face down moments! Bea and I were equally uncomfortable. It’s tough to watch a baby with it’s face in the water, but Jody was wonderful with her. She watched and held and talked soothingly to her, all the while teaching and moving her little body and helping her learn the techniques that she will hopefully never have to use for survival.
My daughter Beatrice ( Nom de Plume for the sake of this and all future articles!) interviewed Jody.
Bea : What made you want to teach these techniques to babies?
Jody: I was a stay at home mom, always involved in health and fitness. As my kids grew up I needed to do more. My sister in law had been doing this for 20 years and suggested I bring ISR to Connecticut as nobody else was offering it.
Jody: Infant Swimming Resource.
Bea: I have been a swimmer my whole life and now I’m a lifeguard and teach swim lessons. The first thing I try to do is get the child to feel comfortable in the water. It seems that what you’re doing is very different.
Jody: Yes. I think the biggest reason that the babies cry is separation anxiety. I try to distract them by talking to them and building trust.
Bea: This is not easy to sit and watch when the child is crying. Do you prepare the parents?
Jody: Yes, I warn them! I don’t sugarcoat it. It’s a lot of hard work.
Bea: How many babies and children have you taken through the program?
Jody: Oh, I don’t know, maybe a hundred and fifty.
Bea: How long does it take?
Jody: It varies, for most babies 6 to 12 months old, I teach them to roll on their back and float and it takes 15 – 20 daily ten minute lessons over 3 – 4 weeks.
For children ages 1 to 6 years old, they learn swim - float - swim technique and it takes 20 to 30 lessons over 4 – 6 weeks.
Bea: This is so different from traditional swim lessons. Can everyone learn to do this?
Jody: Yes. I have taught some special needs kids these techniques. Everyone can do it.
Bea: When the kids are finished with the course and you think they are ready, do you test them?
Jody: We have them come in fully clothed. Clothes that will be heavy when wet, like sweat pants and they all do it.
Bea and I watched four children take their lessons that day and came off the pool deck with some pretty big warm fuzzies. Jody is one of those warm, comforting, nurturing women who you instinctively know will keep your baby safe. She has that uncommon ability, like all really good teachers, to be genuinely caring and firm in equal measure. You can find her and learn more about ISR on the web at
or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jody also mentioned that Fox news had run a piece on her and gave me the link. http://foxct.com/2014/05/14/infant-swimming-classes-saving-lives/
There is a side note that I’d like to mention. You may have read the California mom’s blog about her child and secondary drowning. It’s something I was unaware of. I called our pediatrician to check it out and he gave me a basic explanation. It happens after someone has breathed in water, has been pulled out to safety and seems fine immediately after. Then later, symptoms begin to appear and immediate medical care becomes necessary. Very scary. It is also known as dry drowning. I found this link for anyone who’s interested.
Karen Delia is a local childcare co-ordinator in Newtown Ct.