We’ve just moved into a new house with a swimming pool in the backyard. I’m delighted—but terrified. What kind of precautions do we need to take to ensure our 9-month-old stays safe?
A: Securing the pool physically, so your baby cannot access it, is the first step. Install a pool fence with a self-latching, locking gate as an essential barrier. Whenever you use the pool, make sure the gate is fully closed and locked when you are done. If you have a pool service providing maintenance, check the gate after every visit. If your pool is above ground, remove ladders or obstruct access to them.
Once you are sure your baby cannot gain access to the pool without the assistance of an adult, evaluate the doors on your home. Check that locks and dead bolts are not within a child’s reach. If necessary, switch the positioning of handles and locks, or install a latch at the top of the door. Homes with sliding glass doors should also be equipped with a self-closing system.
Another access point that is often overlooked—and that babies can easily slip out of—are pet doors. Make sure your baby is under constant supervision when near a pet door, or keep it locked.
Beyond physically restricting access to a swimming pool, parents can also safeguard their children by teaching them water safety skills as early as 4 months of age. Babies can learn to hold their breath underwater and roll over from their stomachs to their backs and float until help arrives. Enrolling in an accredited infant swim class can help both parents and babies learn lifesaving skills and feel safer in the water. In addition to accident prevention, parents should also learn age-appropriate CPR in case of emergency.
—Sue Mackie, executive director of the United States Swim School Association and former owner of Aquatics Unlimited Swim School