Baby swimming
Viral video sparks debate about infant swimming Image Credit: Twitter

A viral video of a swim instructor tossing a baby into a pool that sent online users into a state of “panic” and has started a debate on swimming lessons for infants.

Krysta Meyer, a 27-year-old mother of two boys in Colorado Springs, US, shared videos featuring her youngest son, eight-month-old Oliver, on TikTok.

The clips soon went viral, being viewed more than 51 million times on TikTok and over 22 million times on Twitter.

The video shows the baby being tossed into a pool by a swim instructor.

"Oliver amazes me every week!" she captioned it. "I can’t believe he is barely two months in and is catching on so fast. He is a little fish,” it read.

More than 100,000 people commented on the TikTok, with some making jokes and others expressing concern over Oliver.

Meyer, who filmed the video on Saturday at the Little Fins Swim School where she has long taken her two boys for classes, told American media agency BuzzFeed News that she knows the clip is controversial and shocking to many people.

"A lot of people are seeing a kid being thrown into the water and thinking, That's not good! You shouldn't be doing that!" she was quoted as saying.

"I've gotten death threats. I've had people tell me I'm the worst kind of mum, that I'm endangering my children, that I'm traumatising them."

Meyer has said that the class is an infant survival class.

"The whole premise behind what we do is safety," Little Fins co-owner Lauri Armstrong was quoted as saying.

"We teach eight-month-olds to assess their situation and find an exit strategy [in water]. I know it seems crazy," she added.

Armstrong has had her swim school for more than seven years and trains her instructors for months to teach this specialised class designed for children as young as six months.

The aim is not to teach the infants how to swim, but to get them comfortable in water, to learn how to recover and flip over if they fall in, and to float on their backs.

Netizens debate on infant swimming

The clip soon became a meme on Twitter.

Tweep @DoctorLFC wrote: “First year medical post-grad student's orientation class during COVID-19.”

While many people expressed their concern.

Tweep @madeleinemua shared what her reaction was watching the clip: “The scream I let out.”

To which, Twitter user @SoSassy_Inc replied: “Babies are not natural born swimmers this baby has been taught this. Parents are teaching their children to swim as toddlers now, and this is probably just a lesson. Please don't go tossing your toddler in the pool expecting it to bounce back like this.”

Tweep @FishwickJonny wrote: “Nothing wrong with this. Same happens at water birth and toddlers first swimming lessons. Life skill that everyone should be taught being able to swim.”

Infant care website, states: “You may have seen videos of very young babies moving under water or heard that newborns have an innate swimming ability due to floating in the womb. These stories and videos are deceptive because a newborn cannot float or hold his head above water. Newborns do possess two reflexes that simulate swimming, which could make it appear that the baby is swimming.”

Concerns have been raised that kids who take lessons too early might develop a false sense of security around water and therefore be more in danger of drowning than kids who don’t.

According to a report by The Washington Post, The American Association of Paediatrics (AAP) says children can safely take swim lessons as early as age one. Until 2010, the AAP had specified this number as age four, but when research showed a reduced risk of drowning in preschoolers who had taken swimming lessons, the organisation amended its advice.