A controversial program that claims to teach babies and toddlers how to save themselves from drowning is proving popular in Calgary, the only place in the country it’s offered.
Private instructor Holly Murray teaches children as young as six months old to find the surface of the water and stay there by floating during her Infant Swimming Resource classes, a four- to five-week program that follows the methods of U.S. founder Harvey Barnett.
"I teach kids to swim for a little bit, then roll onto their backs, lay there and float to catch their breath and when they're ready, they can go swimming again," Murray said.
"If you can educate a child to respond to water properly, you've just saved that child's life."
Warning from lifeguards
The Canadian Lifesaving Society says there is no evidence that the program prevents drowning and warns it may give parents a false sense of security.
"We need to build awareness that there is no evidence that these programs prevent drowning," said spokeswoman Barbara Costache.
"You cannot train them to save themselves. The only way to save an infant is to have constant supervision and to have an adult within arm's reach at all times."
Children who are around four or five can learn swimming survival skills, she added.
Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death of Canadian children under four, according to the society.
Murray said she receives more than 100 inquiries a day about her classes.
Elizabeth Camren signed up her three-year-old son Felix after she pulled him out of a pool. He was in shock, coughing up large amounts of water. For months, she couldn't get him near the water, even to take a bath.
"I knew regular swim lessons weren't even an option for him," she said.
Infant Swimming Resource has posted a popular promotional video on YouTube: