Could Your Baby Benefit from Weekly Spa Visits?

Since 2009, ABC’s “Shark Tank” has introduced Americans to business ideas while entrepreneurs petitioned for financial investors. Recently Kristi Ison, a Texas wife and mother of two, received her fifteen minutes of fame on the hit show. Ison is a certified instructor of infant massage who, like many moms, struggled through years of a baby who would not sleep. Through research, Kristi decided to combine floating and infant massage in hopes that other moms would not have to go through the three years of interrupted sleep that she endured. She claims Float Baby can benefit infants by making them “happier… stronger, smarter babies.”

During a session, parents bring their infants (as young as 2 weeks and as old as 6 months) to the Float Baby facility, where they are given swim diapers and a Float Baby ring in their size, based on their weight. Babies then spend 20-25 minutes playing in the water, after which parents are led in infant massage from a certified instructor after drying off with a warm towel. Infant massage lasts another 20-25 minutes and then parents are encouraged to stay and feed their babies, who often grow hungry after a good swim and rubdown. One hour sessions cost $65 and parents are encouraged to bring their children in for weekly appointments for maximum benefits.

Float Babies’ website boasts that their sessions improve “muscular and skeletal strength, lung capacity, cardiovascular system, blood flow, cognitive development” and more. They also list numerous studies they say prove the benefits of floating and infant massage. Many of the studies cited deal solely with infant massage, a practice well accepted in the medical community, with one claiming “that aquatic physical therapy can be a simple and effective method for reducing pain and improving sleep quality among pre-term infants.”

One study, which Ison referred to during her time on Shark Tank, was performed at Griffith University in Australia. It was funded by the swim school industry, and consisted of parents reporting on their children’s progress. This study involved children who took swim lessons, not those who went to Float Baby sessions, and there was no infant massage component involved in this study. A 50% faster milestone-marking is an exciting promise, but this study does not support exactly what Float Baby offers. No research is listed for combining infant floating and massage.

With such a high price tag, one has to wonder if they could achieve the same results with a weekly trip to the YMCA for swimming along with a YouTube video on Infant Massage. Otteroo offers a baby floatie for the one-time cost of just $35. Swimava offers a similar product at a comparable price. Baby Float founder Kristi Ison made it clear on “Shark Tank” that she is not interested in selling her flotation device, but parents who are convinced this baby spa treatment is important for their kiddos can still achieve the same results for a fraction of the cost.

Many pediatricians agree the high price tag can be avoided by creating your own Baby Float experience at home. Dr. Claire McCarthy, pediatrician and medical communications editor at Boston Children’s Hospital told “Today,” “I don’t think [Float Baby] is necessary, and I think babies can get the same health benefits from active play at home with the parents.” She recommends a parent-child swim class in lieu of a baby spa session. Hilary McClafferty, a fellow with the America Academy of Pediatrics, recently told USA Today “It has potential to be a relaxing and enjoyable experience… a baby could get a similar effect in a tub in another setting with a caretaker or a parent.”

While current research indicates time in the water and massage are both beneficial for babies, parents can find more budget-friendly ways to accomplish these benefits.

My family will stick to enjoying the low-cost, natural bonding of bath- and playtime at home.