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Parents

Baby spa takes the stress out of being an infant with floating, massage

When napping, nursing and being cute becomes too exhausting, babies have the option of being pampered at a baby spa.

Float Baby, a Houston, Texas, establishment that caters to customers as young as a few weeks old, lets infants unwind in the water and enjoy the benefits of massage.

Owner Kristi Ison got the idea after reading about a similar concept in the U.K, which has since spawned locations in Australia, South Africa and Spain.

Ison, who pitched her concept on the reality TV series "Shark Tank," believes her business was the first baby spa of its kind in the U.S. Since opening its doors in 2014, about 1,800 first-time clients have enjoyed the spa's services, Ison said. Many babies float weekly because they find it very soothing and relaxing, she added.

Courtesy Float Baby
A young client relaxes at Float Baby in Houston.

"Babies love it because it's a familiar environment. They enjoy the freedom of movement and the warm water," Ison, 46, told TODAY Parents.

"Parents tell us they enjoy the social outing and getting to talk with other parents going through the same challenges they are facing."

A visit consists of two components: hydrotherapy, with the babies floating in individual tubs for about 20 minutes while wearing special doughnut-shaped floatation devices around their necks to keep their heads above water; and neonatal massage, performed by their parents while being coached by a certified instructor.

A visit costs $68, with discounts offered to parents who book multiple sessions.The younger the babies are, the better they react to the water since they recently spent nine months floating in amniotic fluid in the womb, Ison said.

"The newborns especially like it, we see them float and then have a little cat nap while they're floating," she noted. "The older babies, they really like to kick around and splash and socialize."

The floatation devices — developed by Float Baby — have an inner ring that supports a baby's chin and base of the head, while allowing the arms and legs below the water to move freely, Ison said. She's invented a similar device for home use.

The water is purified and its temperature is kept at 95-98 degrees Fahrenheit. The babies wear swim diapers and the tubs are washed out daily, she added. Parents gather around the tubs and watch the little ones during the session.

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Courtesy Float Baby
Float Baby owner Kristi Ison guides a baby into a tub.

Ison is a big fan of floating for babies, with her business touting benefits such as increased strength. Experts said any type of exercise will improve strength and cardiovascular health.

"I don't think there is anything special about being in the water. Crawling is easier on the floor," said Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

"I don't think this is necessary, and I think that babies can get the same health benefits from active play at home with their parents — with the additional bonding benefits, and for free."

Still, a visit to the spa should be safe as long as the babies are carefully supervised in the pool and the water is kept clean, McCarthy said. The floatation devices don't pose a concern as long as they are well-inflated and removed if there seems to be discomfort, and as long as the child is constantly watched, she added.

Courtesy Float Baby
A young client enjoys a swim at Float Baby.

And though Float Baby's youngest clients are 2 weeks old, McCarthy said it would be better for babies to have some trunk and head control, which starts at around 4 months. By then, the risk of infections they might catch from other babies would be reduced as well, she added.

And if parents would like their baby to play in the water and get the exercise benefits, McCarthy said she would recommend a parent-child swim class over the spa offerings. And of course, there's always the bathtub!

Editor's note: This story was first published on Sept. 9, 2014, and updated on April 19, 2017.

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