Our Experience with ISR

I can’t believe it’s almost summer! Today, I  wanted to share about our experience with ISR Self-Rescue swim lessons. We first learned about ISR a few years ago, and decided that we would enroll Lucy. She did her first ISR session at the age of 17 months and her second session around two and a half years old. This summer will be Lucy’s third summer of ISR lessons (about 3.5) and Winnie’s first summer — she will be 16 months when the lessons begin.

I’ve shared more about our ISR experience in this saved Instagram story highlight, but wanted to keep here on my blog too!


ISR Infant Self Rescue is an intensive, 4-6 week water safety program that teaches children to save themselves from drowning. Basically, they learn to swim until they need air, rotate to back to float/get air, and then continue swimming to side of pool or steps. The ultimate goal is for children to save themselves if they happen to be in a potential drowning situation.


Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1-4. Drowning also often happens very quickly (within seconds) and silently.

Eric grew up around water and I’ve always loved swimming. Both of our children have fearless personalities and for us, ISR lessons are a way to develop a healthy understanding of what to do in the water and skills to save themselves.

Of course, all self-rescue lessons (or swim lessons) are just one important aspect of water safety and drowning prevention. I’ve linked a few more resources at the bottom of this post.


Cost: SR is more expensive than group or even private/semi-private swimming lessons. The cost will vary by location, but in the Nashville area, the 4-6 week session was $115 per week x 4-6 weeks (so $460-690) + a $105 ISR registration fee. Obviously, this is EXPENSIVE and I recognize that being able to afford these lessons is a privilege. There are scholarships available via ISR and various foundations.

Time Commitment: ISR lessons last for 10 minutes per day, five days per week fo 4-6 weeks. After the first year of ISR lessons, the ongoing sessions are “refresher” lessons so only a 3 week period instead of the usual 4-6 weeks. ISR is a one-on-one lesson that is individualized for your child’s specific age, comfort level, water experience, learning speed, etc. Committing to doing ISR lessons is TIME CONSUMING. It’s definitely annoying to have to drive to the lesson for 10 minutes of water time and drive home every single day, but after a week or so, we’ve been able to get into a good groove.


This first video shows Lucy’s progress during her first summer of ISR at 17-18 months old.

This second video shows Lucy’s progress during her second summer of “refresher” ISR lessons at 2.5.


Yes, your child will likely cry. Of course, it’s awful to hear your child cry. The first couple of sessions were hard for me to watch. Within a couple of days, Lucy stopped crying and was eventually SO proud of herself and excited for lessons. Like a lot of things in parenting (leaving your child overnight for the first time, starting school/daycare, sleep training, etc.) I’ve found the upfront anxiety a lot worse than once you start doing it. What’s been helpful for us is reminding ourselves that this is an important skill and safety thing. Just like the carseat keeps her safe in the car, ISR lessons and learning water safety skills are a way to keep her safe around the water.

ISR is not the same as swim lessons. Your child won’t be learning swimming strokes, although I’ve been told by our ISR instructor that this summer Lucy will begin transitioning from just rescue skills to swimming skills. But overall, the purpose is to teach your child to save themselves in the water.

Kids are quick learners and very adaptable! I  was AMAZED at how much Lucy progressed even within one week. While the first few days were a big transition, things quickly got a lot easier in terms of her being more confident and comfortable with the lesson. By the end, she was OBSESSED and we had so much fun in the water with her in the weeks after her lessons.


I don’t think I’m a “better” parent for having my children take ISR lessons.  If ISR isn’t your thing – that is totally totally fine!

I absolutely in no way, shape, or form think there is one way to parent. There is not a one size fits all approach, ever. What works for my family and my kids might not be what works for you and that’s okay! What works for one of my kids might not necessarily work for the next. We choose to make the best decisions we can – for our children, for our family – as they come up.

There is so much judgment in parenting – from sleep training to vaccines to nap schedules to swim lessons to daycare and every single big and small thing in between.

Making decisions for YOUR family and YOUR child is the most important thing. ISR was a decision we made for ours, but I’m not trying to convince, persuade, or push you to do it. I’m simply sharing my experience as a family who has had a positive experience with ISR and about t begin our third summer of ISR lessons/refresher courses.



ISR Infant Self-Rescue Program

Infant and Toddler Water Safety (Mayo Clinic)

Instinctive Drowning Response (it’s not as easy to spot as you may think!) (Slate)

Drowning Prevention & A Mother’s Personal Story (Mother Mag)

ISR Overview & Child Water Safety Advice (Fatherly)

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