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Sink or Swim. A Mom’s Guide to Surviving ISR

According to “Sir Know it All” - Google:
ISR – Infant Swimming Recourse or Self Rescue (depending on Google’s time of the month) is a technique said to be the safest and most effective water survival training for children from six months to six years, teaching them how to, well basically, stay alive if they were to fall into a body of water alone.

While I mostly agree with this paraphrased statement, the following will be an over dramatized depiction of my personal ISR experience to

A. get a laugh and

B. show support to those mamas going through it right now.

When hearing about this form of “swim lessons” and knowing that my soon to be babe would be around pools all the time (despite the fact that we ourselves did not have one,) I thought, “no brainer, sign us up (for the waiting list,) baby and I are tough as nails. Who needs mommy and me splash around silliness when we can partake in the best of the best when it comes to water safety?”

Fast forward a year and countless amounts of money spent at Target prepping:

My ISR Check List
• 3 super absorbent towels –1. For post lesson roll over and spit up (more on this later) 2. For post swim drying 3. To wipe away the adult tears
• Swimmy Diapers – for obvious reasons
• Swimmy Diaper Covers – For the occasions when baby poo-poos herself out of fear and sheer exhaustion
• A new swim suit – If she looks good, you feel good
• A full winter outfit including down jacket (wks 5 and 6)
• Terry Cloth Cover Up – For the sobbing, visibly chattering out of fear and cold, baby when there’s no way you’re getting them into actual clothing
• XL Swim Bag – To hold all of the above along with any and all loveys, brought along and shoved in baby’s face post-lesson in hopes to reassure them that you’re are in fact trying to save them, not kill them

Here’s the Guantanamo Bay for Babies (ISR) drill:

ISR lessons (or at least those we attended) last for 6 wks (reduced to 5 if results are speedy,) 4 times a week for 10 minutes.

Only 10 minutes I asked? How can they learn anything in 10 minutes?

Answer: Have you ever been fully submerged in water while crying and coughing, screaming for your mama? That’s hard to sustain for any amount of time longer than 10 minutes. Ask the Navy Seals…


Step 1: Hand crying baby to instructor

Step 2: Watch as the instructor attempts to sooth irate and/or terrified baby while gently dunking her under water, all the while letting you know she will be just fine

Step 3: Hold your breath as baby gasps for air and wails (similar to moments after baby was born,) ingesting way too much water for what you feel is unhealthy for any non-amphibian

Step 4: Repeat steps 3 & 4 for the next 10 minutes.

Step 5: At minute 9 when you can’t stand it any longer, sternly suggest to the instructor that the lesson is over as baby has had enough water intake for a whale

Step 6: Snatch your baby, wrap her in a towel, and cry along with her, promising you will never do that to her again

Step 7: Quit crying and quickly lay her on towel #2 so that she can roll over and spit up all the water she has taken in

Step 8 and beyond: Note to self to google dry drowning as soon as you have a free hand, quickly panic because this is only day 1 of 24 and there’s no way you or your baby will live through this, get your act together and pack up your baby and head home to do the same thing tomorrow.

Edit the above for weeks 5 and 6 with the following:
Step 1: Hand fully clothed (I mean ready for a blizzard) crying baby to instructor
Step 2: Watch as the instructor attempts to sooth irate and/ or terrified baby while flipping her in the air and dropping her into the pool as she loudly claps with excitement as fully clothed baby churns underwater and then eventually resurfaces all the while letting you know she will be just fine
- “Nothing Lasts Forever” – Navy Seals


Despite the fact that there are yearly ISR refresher courses, we have decided not to partake due to my Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome.

I will say that in the end of the day, I was proud of us (baby and me) for graduating, in 5 weeks no doubt, neither of us suffering from lasting side effects (due to the water-boarding, exhaustion, dry drowning, or stress).

Baby is now 2 and loves swimming, can float on her back (read: survive if she jumps into a body of water in a snow suite,) and only has the occasional ISR night terror.
- “Only the Strong Survive” – Navy Seals

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