It’s a big day for me. I’ve been informed I’m off to Life Baby Spa for a hydrotherapy session and a massage. I’ve been told I’m going to love it – because I love bath time – and that it’s very good for me. Big people talk a lot.
And while they keep saying I’m going to Baby Spa, it’s not like a spa at all. Unlike the big people’s spa which is all about the relaxing and destressing, Life Baby works closely with paediatricians, chiropractors and reflexologists and focuses on things like sensory stimulation, muscle tone development, water safety and separation anxiety. It’s a special place only for little humans from as little as 5 days old to 6 months (like me) all the way to 30 months. It was started in 2013 by Victoria Massia and her mom who are passionate about child development and how water therapy can be used to enhance independence in babies and give them a platform for stronger growth and development.
I go with my parents, who insist on going everywhere with me. The Life Baby we’re visiting is in Fourways in a big building that’s home to Life Day Spa (for big humans) and Life Day Kids Spa (for medium humans). There’s oohing and aahing, the rents think it’s stunning.
My mom and I are taken into a small room with comfortable chairs and a changing table. Owner and head aquatics coach, Victoria Massia who will be guiding me through my very first Life baby hydrotherapy session comes in to tell us what we can expect. I’m too busy squirming to catch it all, but my ears perk up when she informs my mom she must feed me before we go into the next room to start the hydrotherapy. A well-fed baby is a happy baby. After a small feeding and a quick change, we head into the room next door where all the action happens!
To make sure us little humans are comfortable, the room is heated to 22 degrees in the summer, and 24 degrees in the winter. This means we don’t get too hot or cold before and after being in the water.
My mom changes me into a swimming nappy provided by Life Baby and I’m put on a scale to get weighed. Victoria explains that each baby is weighed before going into the water to determine how long the baby should be in the water for and the size of the floaty.
As our sessions are meant to calm and relax, we do not want to over expose or over stimulate the babies.
I don’t appreciate this public weighing and I let everyone know with small protests. Once I’m weighed, Victoria gets out this blue ring – it’s called a floaty and it’s what will let me float all by myself in the water – and secures it around my neck. I’m going to be honest, it was a bit alarming and there may have been some tears.
Fully suited up I’m carried to this big pool of water with see-through walls and colourful balls and toys. I want them all. The water is set at 35 degrees all year round which helps relax any stiffness and tension in our little bodies – growing is hard work!
Because it’s my first time, my session will be just a few minutes to let me get used to the water and floating. Each time I come back, my session will be a little longer, I’ll get to swim without a floaty and I’ll be able to play with toys, grabbing them and feeling all the sensory objects.
All of this will enhance my motor skills and balance out the rapid brain and body growth my first few months. I’m told there will also be singing, and story time and parents can get involved. I’m just hoping my mom doesn’t start singing!
Getting in is a bit scary and overwhelming. I’m suddenly in the middle of this pool of water floating. Alone. With no one holding me. I cry. Victoria takes a little watering can and pours the water on my hands and feet. It’s very calming, the tears dry up and a few minutes later I’m bobbing up and down like a zen master, I even give a few smiles. The sensation of being in the water mimics being in the womb and my sensory organs are enhanced and muscle tone is strengthened. It feels nice.
Just before the hydrotherapy session ends, Victoria removes the floater and holds me, so I can start interacting with all the toys. It’s getting too much for me and I need out. Now.
Later, I saw a girl just a few months older than me chasing some balls and blowing bubbles. I’m going to do that too one day.
After the pool, I change out of the swim nappy and get an urgent feeding – being in the water makes us hungry and thirsty. It’s like exercise for us, and I think it’s as exhausting as those unnaturally long races my aunts are always doing.
Once I’m fed, it’s off to the next room for a massage with infant massage therapist Catty Mbetse. Infant massage can help with tummy troubles, constipation, colic, restlessness and muscle stiffness. It also helps to reduce fussiness, soothes babies, and promotes better sleep.
Touch is the most powerful form of communication and moderate pressure massage, like the type at Life Baby stimulates the natural central nervous system and can even increases weight gain in pre-term babies.
And just like when the adults get a massage, infant massage helps to produce serotonin, the feel-good chemical, and reduces the production of cortisol, the hormone your body releases in response to stress.
The massage tables here are special for us little humans. They look like changing tables and have these fun mobiles hanging from the roof. The one above me has a giraffe, lion and dog. It’s mesmerising.
Catty uses a special oil for my massage – it’s all natural and made especially for babies. When she turns me over on my tummy I start moving– us little humans don’t like being still for so long! At the end of the massage, Catty does some light stretching with me – I stretch my arms and legs – my aunts say it’s important to stretch after exercise. I feel fabulous but exhausted, I’m ready for a nap.
Victoria recommends that I come once a week as consistency and continuity allows for muscle tone and reflexes to develop much quicker, meaning milestones are reached at a faster pace. If too long a period is left between sessions babies forget the natural reflexes and the benefits are seen at a much slower rate. We actually have the ability to swim before we can crawl or walk. Life Baby helps to expose and keep movements comfortable and consistent, helping us progress at a faster rate in the future.
After my next sessions are booked, Victoria gives me some sessions at Life Baby and Life Kids to giveaway, because I think more little people should experience this. Want to win? Click here
written by Zissy Lewin as experienced by Sholom Katz.
Photography by MK-visuals for Nutreats®
Pictures may not be used or redistributed without express permission from Nutreats®