After a long, hard day of being a baby, there's nothing better than kicking off your booties and heading to the spa.
At least that's what Houston tots can do now that Float Baby, a business offering water and massage therapy to infants, recently set up shop.
"What I see during class are peaceful, happy babies enjoying the bonding process and the sensory stimulation," owner Kristi Ison told USA TODAY Network in an e-mail (she declined a request for an interview).
At float sessions, infants wear inflatable tubes around their necks and float in a small pool of water with up to three other babies. The flotation device, which is patent-pending, allows each baby to move their arms and legs freely while floating independently.
"What we find is that the babies find the water very soothing and relaxing," Ison told TODAY Moms in May. Babies take to the water quickly because of their recent time in the womb, Ison said in the interview.
After their time in the water, babies are dried off and instructors guide caregivers through infant massage.
Although the term "spa" is used by the company on their Facebook page, Ison said in her e-mail that the business is "not a Baby Spa," but rather an environment focused on a baby's development
Ison cited research suggesting water therapy improves babies' physical strength and discipline. However, a pediatrics expert says the jury may still be out on whether this form of therapy is truly beneficial.
"We don't have a huge amount of information and data from an academic standpoint, either positively or negatively," Hilary McClafferty, a fellow with the American Academy of Pediatrics who focuses on integrative medicine, told USA TODAY Network when asked about the benefits of water therapy for infants.
"I don't think there's anything necessarily extraordinary about putting them in water," McClafferty said, noting that she didn't want parents to think their babies would be missing out if they couldn't afford the $65 a session fee.
"While it has potential to be a relaxing and enjoyable experience if properly supervised, a baby could get a similar effect in a tub in another setting with a caretaker or a parent," she added.
And while she can't speak to this particular facility, McClafferty did say that parents who take their babies to water spas should thoroughly check out how the facility is maintained.
"You would want to ask what method is used to purify the water," she said. "Very, very young babies, their immune system isn't mature yet, and if there is another baby that has a skin condition or leakage of the swim diaper, anything could be transmitted."
She also advised that parents ask what is in the material used for the pool area in case there is a chemical like BPA in the plastic. "That poses a risk to babies similar to the chemicals leached from baby bottles," she said.
According to the interview with TODAY, the Float Baby water is purified and the pools are cleaned daily.
As for massage, there is research to prove that massage calms babies, promotes growth and encourages normal food movement, McClafferty said.
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