naps Summer Safety - Part 1 Water Safety

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naps Summer Safety - Part 1 Water Safety

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Originally published by naps™ 23 May 2023

Jamie here! As we are only a week out from Memorial Day Weekend, I thought it would be a great time to talk about summer safety in a two part series. Part 1 (today) I will be addressing water safety, and Part 2 (Sunday) I will address sun safety. So let’s start with water safety.

One thing that really scares me as a parent is water… in particular pools and open water. I think it’s equal parts me having my own fear of open water (despite growing up in a house with a pool!) and knowing that water is one of those things that is pretty risky with kids, especially kids under age 5.

Then layer in the tragedies that you hear about related to water—we just had one here in South Boston— and you can’t help but think that these tragedies could happen to anyone, including your family, and that fear can at times feel paralyzing.

But as Emily Oster recently said, nothing comes without risk. And if we can start thinking about all of the decisions we make as the risks and benefits vs. good or bad, then we can start making better decisions that make us feel less guilty and more in control. Thinking about water safety is no different.

I have broken down risk factors, so we can talk about the highest risk by age, and then the subsequent steps that can help reduce the risk. First, there are three key concepts about drowning that are important to remember across all age groups:

  1. Drowning is a silent event.
  2. Supervision is the gold standard to prevention/reducing the risk. Swim lessons are not a replacement for supervision, but are still encouraged!
  3. The highest risk are children under age four. I have broke this group down into infants (12 months and younger) and babies/toddlers (1-4 years).

For Infants (12 months and younger) the most common location for drowning is the bathtub. Knowing this, there are a few things you can do to prevent/reduce the risk of drowning in the tub:

  1. Supervision: Never leave a child unattended in the bathtub. Even if they are in a seat, and you don’t think they can get out, it’s still not safe to leave them. Remember, drowning is a silent event, so if you need to leave the bathroom for any reason, bring your child with you or have someone come in to sit with them.
  2. Drain the tub: When you are finished with the tub, be sure to drain it. Drowning can happen in as little as 2 inches of water. So draining the tub and closing the toilet seat are important water safety tips for the home.
  3. Don’t overfill the tub: A good rule of thumb for the tub is to not fill it more than the level of a child’s belly button once they are able to sit unassisted in the tub. Prior to that, about 2 inches of water is recommended.
  4. Swim lessons are not a substitute for supervision: While many places start swim lessons before age 1, this is not a replacement for supervision. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with starting swim lessons* prior to a year, but the expectation is not that your child will learn to swim.

For babies and toddlers (ages 1-4 years old) the most common location for drowning is a pool or open water. Knowing this, there are a few things you can do to prevent/reduce or lower the risk of drowning for this age group:

  1. Supervision: Have I made my point yet about supervision?! But seriously, at this age, supervision is key because they are able to move around. 70% of drowning accidents happen when the child wasn’t even expected to be in water or swimming, so it’s not just supervision when they are in the pool or around water, but also just in general, especially when near a beach or at a home with a pool. When at a pool or beach party, have a designated adult watching the kids at any given time. You can even use some kind of visual signal of who is the adult in charge with a lanyard or a hat. When it is your turn to be in charge, you are not on your phone and you never have your back turned on the pool or open water, you are watching the kids.
  2. Use a coast guard approved life jacket: the gold standard for life jackets is one that is coast guard approved. Here is an example. You can find this seal of approval on the inside of the life jacket.
  3. Educate your child and caregivers about water safety: When your kids are old enough, be sure to educate them on water safety. Things like:
    • Never go to the pool or beach without an adult.
    • When in a pool, the closest wall is almost always the wall that is BEHIND you. So if you fall in, look behind you, don’t try and swim across the pool to the opposing side.
    • Whenever you are near water you must have on your life vest.
    • When under your control, ensure that a pool has a fence that completely encloses the pool with a lock.
    • Swim lessons are not a substitute for supervision: For older kids, swim lessons* can help decrease the risk, because they are actually able to learn to swim. However, this is still not a replacement for supervision, and the number one way to reduce the risk of drowning at this age is still through supervision.

For children ages 5-14, the risk for drowning goes down and the assumption is that it’s because they can;

  1. Understand instructions related to water and pool safety and,
  2. Tend to be better and more experienced swimmers. But again, this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be supervised, they still should be!

For children ages 15-19, the risk then goes up again.This is because this age group tends to go unsupervised, and alcohol plays a factor in drowning risk. So, eventually (I know this is so far off for many of us) it is important to educate our children about water safety in the presence of alcohol.

The last thing I want to address is secondary drowning. Inevitably, we get a number of questions about this every summer, so I want to address this specific topic. First, let’s start with the facts... secondary drowning is VERY RARE. It only makes up 1-2% of all drowning cases. Second, it doesn’t come out of nowhere. There are specific signs and symptoms you will see your child exhibiting like coughing, vomiting, shortness of breath, and fatigue. These symptoms, combined with what was likely a risky or near drowning incident, would likely trigger you to seek out medical attention.

Again, this newsletter is not meant to scare you, but more so to help you understand the key factors that help reduce the risk or prevent drowning incidents, so you can assess the risks vs. benefits and make the best decisions about water safety for your family.

Enjoy the beautiful weather, and stay safe!

*If you are looking into swim lessons and local to Boston, you can get your first lesson free at Goldfish Swim (Needham, Burlington, Brookline, and Danvers) using the code NAPS.


Who is Jamie, and why she's worth a listen

Jamie from NAPs

Jamie O’Day is a registered nurse, international board certified lactation consultant, mom to 3 girls, and the Co-Founder of NAPS (stands for Newborn and Parenting Support). NAPS supports families from pregnancy through early childhood with evidence-based care, support, and services through our team of Registered Nurses. Jamie knows first hand as a parent and nurse that there is no one right way to parent, which is why she is most passionate about helping parents cut through all the noise and judgment and find the way that works best for them.


To find out more or join Newborn & Parenting Support (naps) visit:


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