Some skeptics have to see the benefits associated with infant water therapy in order to believe them, Float Baby owner Kristi Ison says.
But at the same time, the visual of one’s precious infant suspended in a tub, floating by an inflatable ring placed around her fragile little neck, has been one of the toughest obstacles for Ison’s business to get over since she opened up shop in 2014 in Houston’s Memorial neighborhood.
“I would say that was probably the biggest hurdle to get over our first year in business, because when you look at it, it is a little off-putting,” Ison said in a phone interview.
“What most people don’t see is that the ring doesn’t actually touch the baby’s neck at all. Their chin and the base of their head are being supported.”
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Ison is used to her idea being given a little side-eye, but she wasn’t expecting Mark Cuban and the rest of the “sharks” on ABC’s “Shark Tank” to laugh her off during her appearance on the show in 2014.
“You’re serious!” Canadian businessman Kevin O’Leary said incredulously on the show. “Are you serious?”
When reached for comment Thursday on the Float Baby pitch, businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban said in an email that it was “funny,” but that he didn’t have anything else to add.
Now Ison says she’s glad that she didn’t agree to a deal on the show that would have given a third party a piece of her “high-end, boutique-style” baby spa specializing in “float” sessions.
Float Baby has apparently turned a corner. Ison says Float Baby now has enough momentum behind it to expand, and she is eyeing DFW as a possible landing spot for future franchise locations.
Ison says that babies who float “often” hit developmental milestones like sitting up, rolling over and crawling sooner than babies who don’t take part in what she called “infant water therapy.”
In fact, Ison cites a 2012 study from Australia’s Griffith University, that indeed, did find that children who took part in early-years swimming programs hit developmental and cognitive milestones faster than their nonswimming counterparts.
The problem? The core group of children associated with the Griffith University studies were three, four and five years old. They weren’t floating babies.
“There haven’t been any studies that would show a proven benefit from spa therapy in this way,” said Justin Smith, a pediatrician with Cook Children’s Pediatrics in Lewisville. “Certainly, there are babies who really enjoy their bath and some who really don’t.
“But I haven’t seen anything that would suggest that using it as therapy would help with any medical conditions or even that it would be more calming or soothing.”
Smith wrote in a 2015 blog that he would recommend skipping out on having babies “perilously floating in the water” with “an inflatable flotation device that you stick around your baby’s neck.”
Though other pediatricians have been more forgiving of the idea, Smith wrote, “we should evaluate anything we see as a new trend with skeptical eyes and with grounding in common sense.”
The idea of a floating baby spa is new to the U.S., but not necessarily the world. A similar baby spa in Perth, Australia, has gained an immense social media following with its floating baby photos and videos.