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Water Safety

How do you keep your toddler safe in the water?

Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: You really have to up the babyproofing ante with toddlers. We live in Arizona, and so the pool was a big deal. A key to babyproofing with toddlers, who are so clever they can often get around babyproofing devices, is to have several layers of defense. For our pool, for example, we had a fence around the pool, but we also had alarms on all doors and windows, so that a bell chimed if someone opened a window or a door.

We also had a firm rule: For our three children to be in the pool, there had to be at least one adult present. So when my husband was on call and I was alone with my kids, we didn’t swim.

Instead, we played a lot in the bathtub! I probably should have bought stock in Mr. Bubble. When my husband was at work, I’d feed my kids dinner, and then we’d go up and take a long bath. It was something my kids enjoyed, and it kept them busy. My kids were happy because even though they weren’t in the pool, they still got to play in the water.

Lisa Dado, MD, a mom of 23- and 20-year-old daughters and an 18-year-old son, a pediatric anesthesiologist with Valley Anesthesiology Consultants, and the co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization, the Center for Humane Living, which teaches life skills with an innovative approach to traditional martial arts training in six centers in and around Phoenix, AZ

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: When my kids were toddlers, I enrolled them in swimming lessons at a local swimming school called the Swim-in Zone. Even still, when we in the water, I abided by the arm’s length rule: A parent was within arm’s length of  a child in the water at all times.

Also, we never used inflatable flotation devices. They can get holes in them and lose air. Plus, even if a child has those inflatable around her arms, her face can still fall into the water. Instead, I put actual boating life vests on my kids.

Eva Mayer, MD, a mom of an eight-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son and a pediatrician with St. Luke’s Pediatrics Associates, in Bethlehem, PA

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Our Mommy MD Guide’s reply: My advice is to not let your three-year-old out of your reach while in the water! If she will be out of your reach, she needs a life jacket. They need to learn water safety and good swimming technique, but at that age they absolutely still need a flotation device as well. My husband and I took all three of our girls to swimming lessons. But still, we make our four- and one-year-olds wear life jackets almost all of the time when they’re in the water, even when they can touch the bottom. Truth be told, it’s only now at age seven that our oldest can go without her life jacket.

If there’s one adult per kid, you can still have the man-to-man defense. But with three kids, my husband and I now have the zone defense. My husband and I cannot keep our hands on all three kids all of the time. When children are in the water, you can never be too careful.

Kristin C. Lyle, MD, FAAP, a mom of three girls and disaster medical director at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, both in Little Rock


The information on MommyMDGuides.com is not intended to replace the diagnosis, treatment, and services of a physician. Always consult your physician or child care expert if you have any questions concerning your family's health. For severe or life-threatening conditions, seek immediate medical attention.