June 13, 2014 10:00 AM

Victoria was a fussy, colicky, preemie who never napped. “It was terrible,” says her mom, 30-year-old hat designer Veronica Schiller.

Then a friend told her about Float Baby, a spa for newborns in Houston, Texas. On her first visit, the then 2-month-old happily floated in the baby water spa, then her mom wrapped her in a warm towel and gave her a 20-minute massage.

“She was super relaxed and calm,” says her mother. “Then she was starving. She drank the whole bottle — which is completely unusual. And as soon as she got home, she took a five-hour nap.”

After their successful first session, Schiller started taking her daughter once a week for a month, eventually moving up to twice a week.

Courtesy Float Baby

“My husband loves that she’s calmer and I’m not freaking out. I have time to shower for a change. It’s just great,” says Schiller.

So what exactly is a baby spa? The concept isn’t new according to owner Kristi Ison. “It’s [just] new to the U.S.,” she explains. “They’ve got baby spas in Malaysia, Singapore and the UK. A lot of other countries have embraced this.”

Ison started the business in her home in October — and it was so popular she opened the storefront in February. She’s since worked with almost 300 babies aged 2 weeks to 8 months.

Each spa session, which lasts about an hour and costs $65, starts with putting babies in a swim diaper, then fitting them with a (patent pending) double-circle flotation device to support their head and chin. “No portion of the ring touches the baby’s neck,” Ison says.

The float allows babies move their arms and legs in the water, while parents observe nearby for about 20 to 25 minutes. Afterwards, parents are led through a staff instructed 20-minute baby massage.

“Parents across the board tell me how much stronger their babies are, and how alert they are, and how soundly they’re sleeping and how much better they’re eating,” says Ison, who plans to open 10 more franchises across the U.S. in early 2015. “Parents leave just as happy and relaxed as their babies are.”

Well, that seems to be the case for stay-at-home mom Amanda Blackwell, who takes her 6-month-old daughter, Amelie, three or four times a week. She loves watching her daughter laughing and giggling as she kicks her legs in the water.

So, doesn’t it get expensive to go that often?

“Certainly not everyone could afford it. I’m lucky enough to be able to do it,” admits Blackwell.

“For me, how calm she is has been worth all the money in the world. As an adult, I love to go to the spa. Why don’t we teach our kids to enjoy touch and serene environments more? We stick them in chaotic environments like daycare or music class. Why not teach them to unwind?”

— Wendy Grossman Kantor

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