Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Babies, Breath Control & Reflex Action




Breath Control

Stop!
Don't believe the publicity about babies and the "Gag" reflex action that stops them from swallowing water.

It is true that babies are born with an airway protective reflex called the 'gag' reflex where the larynx closes to block the entrance to the airway. But after teaching literally hundreds of babies I can categorically state it doesn't always work!

Some people believe that because of this reflex, a baby can be submerged without warning. I believe this practice to be dangerous and irresponsible. You must always, in my opinion, prepare you child thoroughly even before you contemplate putting them under the water.

There are a variety of methods that can be used to prepare baby for submersion. All the responsible ones involve a verbal cue before submersion. "Ready Go" is my preferred cue because it is something we would normally say only before we want to prepare someone to do something; like beginning a race or trying to do something in unison. I've tried "1,2,3 Go" and a few others but we often use 1,2,3 in normal conversation and I've watched the confusion on too many babies faces as they prepare to go under and nothing happens. All the other cues I have tried have the same flaw.

So once you have your verbal cue you can prepare baby with a gentle blow on the face or washing there face with your hand, just to get them to "shut down" (close their eyes and their mouth). I prefer the the washing the face because it is an action that is regularly performed on babies and they are rarely surprised by it. In contrast the blowing on the face is not normal and sometimes carers get a little over zealous with it.
English: Silhouette of a child
Please Don't Forget To Say "Ready Go" before you wash their face! It is not uncommon to watch parents in their enthusiasm to do (wash) "Ready Go" or "Ready (Wash) Go". All of which result in the baby getting a big shock and even getting upset which is something I really do try to avoid. Remember it sequence should be "Ready Go" (wash).

Only when a child automatically "shuts down" on the verbal command alone, are they ready to go under water. Not Before!

As I said there are a variety of methods that can be used to teach babies to "shut down". I have outlined my two preferred above but one others is:
 poring water over the child's head when they are in the bath (after you say "ready go").

There are very successful, some famous swim teachers that swear by this method. I don't like it because I am always concerned by look of shock on the babies; especially the first time as the water goes over their head. I have never seen any reason to shock a child. But as I said, there are some very famous swim instructors that swear by it.

There are other cues, some of which involve disregarding the child even if they are crying and screaming. Personally these methods are just plain irresponsible in my view. There are those that will stand amazed as they see the result of child's learning to swim with these methods and some would say that there results are very impressive. However this is very short sighted: there is no tell the long term effect of these methods on the child's emotional development and all for the short term goal of having a baby float independently.

Despite the way it looks there is no evidence that a child is any more safe even when they can turn themselves into a float. You still cannot leave a child unattended and without vigilant observation, near the water. Children have drowned in inches of water. Don't do it!

I don't see the point in these methods and it is not unusual for teachers like me, to end up with the "failures" from these classes, having to deal with a very traumatised child whenever they come near water.
Prepare your child and watch them carefully and enjoy the water with them.

  Richard

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