Parenting is probably the most difficult, but rewarding, job in the world and will most likely be the most significant thing you ever do. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially, having a baby will drain your resources and leave you gasping for a break and a chance to recuperate.
While you are sitting back feeling sorry for yourself though, think about how hard it is for your poor baby. Just a few weeks ago she was floating about, albeit in a pretty tight space, warm and content with nothing to do except drink her own pee and wee it out again to give her kidneys a bit of a workout.
Then, suddenly, the warm fluid disappears, and she is either squished and squashed by strange, gripping muscles or she is scooped up by hands. Either way, there is a sudden transition from a warm, safe place to a world with bright light, loud noises, cold air on the skin and a lack of tight, swaddled comfort that is so alarming that her arms and legs fly outwards in panic.
No wonder that there is an entirely new industry of baby spas popping up around the world. It is no wonder that your little one needs a relaxing session of a massage and some warm floating after all of that trauma.
16 What Are You Planning Mother?
Obviously, this baby is having his first session at the spa. Already suspicious after being evicted from the warm dark home he had made in-utero, he is looking up at his mother and trying to figure out what she has in store for him next.
Already, he has had his clothes stripped off, and although he has been allowed to keep his diaper on, providing him some safety and comfort, he has now been wrapped in a strange, albeit very warm and comfortable, blanket.
Not only that, but mom has THAT look in her eye. You know the one. That look that says "I've got something in store for you that you're going to love", This usually has mixed results, so we'll reserve judgment, but remain vigilant.
15 Happy Just Chillin'
It turns out that mom was right about this one. I am just so relaxed, I can't even be bothered to work my facial muscles up into a full-on smile. Instead, I will adopt this knowing expression that says "Hey mom, you did well this time. Floating in a nice warm pool where I can just hang out is great."
The water in baby spas is usually cleaned through ozone disinfection, which uses air to kill any potentially harmful germs. This means no harmful chemicals for your baby's skin, and if anyone gets an accidental mouthful, it is entirely safe to drink.
The water is maintained at a comfortable 98 degrees, smack bang in the center of the normal body temperature range, so there are no worries about lowering baby into something that will be shockingly too warm or too cool.
14 Time For A Rub Down
Not only do the mini-mes at baby spas have the opportunity to just to hang out and watch the world go by as they float in warm, comfortable loveliness, they also have a relaxing massage afterward. Obviously, they need to have someone rub out those knotted muscles after a hard day of babying.
However, all joking aside, there are many proven benefits to infant massages. Studies in neonatal ICU's have shown that babies who received deep muscle stimulation massages three times a day for five days, not only slept more soundly and more comfortably but they displayed less behavior associated with suffering pain and they even gained weight at a faster rate than the non-massage groups. Researchers concluded that this was because of the increased blood flow around the body that massage stimulated.
13 Hangin' Out With Ma Buddies
There are not only physical benefits to baby massage and float spas; there are social ones too. Where else can you take your baby to hang out and relax with others in a subdued atmosphere and a warm and safe environment?
While some spas only provide massage sessions with registered massage therapists who are specialized in infant massage, others offer more. The spa from which this photo was taken, hosts baby massage classes so parents can learn the techniques that provide all of the physical benefits of a good rub down, and apply them at home.
Of course, this also provides the little ones with ample opportunity to have a good roll around, check out some other small humans and learn some of the subtle arts of human interaction over a cloth book.
12 Bright And Fun
Baby spas have started popping up around the world, and while some are franchises with a similar setup, layout, and equipment from one branch to another, others are stand-alone facilities on which the owner has made their own, very personal mark.
Take, for instance, the spa in the photograph above. This was taken during the opening day so you'll have to imagine it without the balloons and the table of goodies in the middle. You can, however, still quite clearly see what a bright and welcoming, child-friendly place it is.
Each of the spa tanks in this facility are designed for one baby at a time, and the water filled tubs also contain some brightly-colored balls and bath toys, should your little one decide that they are relaxed enough and want to have a play.
11 A Group Float
Once your child is old enough, usually post immunizations, some spas offer group sessions. The benefits of these are three-fold.
First of all your little one gets all of the benefits of a float/hydro-therapy session. This helps build strong, healthy muscles and bones and works on building lung capacity. If you have a baby who is a screamer, you may not need them to improve their lung capacity, but that is a risk that you will have to take. Secondly, you will be introducing your baby to the joys of socialization and preparing them for swim lessons, if that is on your radar. Finally, you will save money, because group sessions are cheaper than single ones, but then if you can afford $80 a session for the recommended two a week, perhaps this is not that big of a deal for you.
10 Solo Relaxo
Other parents opt for the single baby float session. As a safety precaution, this is the only kind of session allowed for babies who have not had their immunizations, but plenty of parents opt for this type of session even after this stage.
At this spa, the babies are weighed and measured before each float and fitted with the correct size floatation device. They are also placed in a reusable swim diaper chosen according to the baby's weight and leg circumference. As you can see, babies can find this very relaxing indeed. I would just be worried about the end of the session coming up and having to disturb my little bundle of joy and take them out again.
9 Single And Sophisticated
For newborns, many spas provide single float tanks so that their parents can share the experience with their little one, safe in the knowledge they are safe from germs shared by other, bigger babies.
The age-range for hanging in the water varies from spa to spa. For those with the single, newborn tubs, the criteria are usually being older than six days or after the cord stump has dropped off, although some spas report babies as young as two-days-old availing themselves of the facilities.
I am not so sure I would want to take my baby if they were that young, but I would be comfortable taking one after the first month, as long as the spa was one of those with individual float tanks that were sanitized after each session.
8 Relax, I'm A Professional
Many of the baby spas do not offer the group massage session for parents to learn how to do things themselves. Some even allow you to take photographs of your float session but do not let cameras into the massage session, just in case you decide to go home and try to work out the neonatal massage for yourself.
These facilities provide massages given by a neonatal massage therapist who has been specially trained and certified. There are a number of newborn massage certifications available around the world, so if you want to know precisely how your massage therapist has been trained and how they achieved their certification, ask about the board from which they received their certificate. You can then research about the processes and how much hands-on experience was required before achieving certification.
7 Learn To Take It Home
Other spa facilities take a very different approach. They actively encourage parents and caregivers to learn how to perform infant massages and use the techniques at home between spa sessions.
Some provide classes with up to half a dozen babies, featuring a trainer at the front with the little ones laid out on padded, towel-draped tables, being massaged by the grown-ups. The ambient air temperature in most spas is kept at a comfortable 80 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that none of their vulnerable little customers get an attack of the shivers.
Not only are these sessions beneficial because of the physical impacts the massage has on the baby, but it is also an excellent opportunity for parents to bond with their tiny new person. This can be especially important for the parent who is not the primary caregiver, as it can provide some valuable one-on-one time.
6 Just Can't Relax
A baby spa is supposed to be a calming place for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation, but some babies do not know that. Some little ones, like the cutie-pie in the photo above, are having such a good time that they just can't contain themselves.
How's a baby supposed to relax when there is a mirror on the wall right in front of them, reflecting a gorgeous chubby-cheeked smile and a pair of bright, twinkling, mischievous eyes? Not only that, but you've got mom doing all of that tickly stuff on your back, and there are other babies who look like they might be up for a bit of playfulness. It's just a place packed with so many possibilities for a baby who loves to be up and at 'em.
5 It's A Family Event
It can be challenging to find things to do as a family that focus on your baby. Despite the fact that we all talk about gender equality and acknowledge that dads can do just as good a job as moms when they stay at home with the baby, many things are still geared towards "mother and baby."
Even if playgroups and things like infant yoga are advertised as "parent" sessions instead of mom sessions, the likelihood is that they will be populated predominately by women, which can make some men feel uncomfortable and out of place. Not only that, some women don't take to well to men joining what they consider to be female-friendly groups.
A weekly session at this baby spa involves both parents and can provide a welcome opportunity to bond, without feeling like you have the wrong body parts for the class.
4 No (Life)-Jacket Required
The floatation devices used in various spas around the world vary from location to location. Some are inflatable, and some have a buoyant ridge foam design. Both types of floats come in a variety of sizes and are fitted by the spa-staff.
Concerns have been raised about the use of neck rings. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against using any type of inflatable floatation device for a baby or child who cannot swim. The AAP points out that if they fail and deflate, there is nothing to save the child from going under the surface, and that such a device might give parents a false sense of security.
When used in a baby spa, under direct supervision, this is not an issue, and most of the spas I viewed for this post refused to sell the floatation devices, because a child might be left unattended in one, if used at home.
3 Wake Me Up At Feeding Time
If you are wondering if the babies themselves enjoy floating about in the warm pool, there is no better picture to answer your question than this one. I find it difficult to believe that a little one who was in any kind of distress, who was upset in any way or felt scared or alone would be able to doze off like this.
Parents who have used the services at baby spas on a regular basis over several weeks, claim to have seen an improvement in the sleep patterns and sleep quality of their baby. Whether this is the typical progression of sleep patterns as babies grow older or it is a result of the water sessions, is open to debate. However, there is no doubt that this little aqua-baby is having a mucho relaxo time.
2 Work Out The Day's Stress
Some organisations have raised concerns over baby spas or the independent use of baby neck floats because, as Shawn Tomlinson, STA baby swimming tutor, and co-author of the ‘Hidden Risks Of Floating Neck Rings For Babies’ said: “A neck ring creates a vacuum where the baby is incapacitated and cannot connect with anyone or anything.” I can understand this perspective being concerning if the baby was left to float for an extended period of time or too often.
However, having seen the spas in action and the way parents interact while the baby is floating, I, personally, am not concerned about isolation. In fact, getting all of that hands-on massage time afterward seems to have made this little lady a very happy and content girl indeed. I think she looks pretty connected to her world.
1 This Photograph
They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, I think it is true. There are not enough words, or rather I do not have the words with which to describe this baby's face.
Not only is this little darling looking up towards either mom or dad with complete trust and adoration in the first picture, but he is also tugging at my heartstrings. The expression on his face is just adorable and almost makes me want to have another baby myself. Almost.
The second photograph is the epitome of trust and relaxation. Arms up over his head, hands open and relaxed, head turned gently to one side. This is the body language of someone who is truly and utterly relaxed. I want this.
Sources: gigglypanda.com, research-repository.griffith.edu.au, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, scielo.br, pediatrics.aappublications.org