A professional opinion by

Dr Joan Westaway
MB. CHB, F.C.P. (Paediatrics), F.F.Psych. M.Med, M.Phil

1. My impression of your Baby Spa is that it breaks new ground in the way in which infants and their parents are offered a positive, warm experience that is likely to be a far-reaching one in terms of a child’s emotional and social development.

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2. In your skilled, experienced hands infants and their parents are able to enjoy the first ‘steps’ towards a child’s physical and emotional independence. Water, being familiar to the infant in utero, seems an extremely suitable medium in which to facilitate these first ‘steps’, since it provides the security of its associations with the womb, yet more freedom of movement than the womb allows.

 

3. The fact that infants are able to initiate and sustain their own movements in the water must surely intensify awareness of their bodies and minds as ‘agents’ of movement, i.e. ’I can go forward by moving my legs this way or that’. It follows that early experiences of this kind may be the forerunners of enduring characteristics such as self- awareness and self- confidence.

 

4. It seems that the water activity may allow infants not only to move more freely, but to feel more ‘’empowered’’ as social beings. In this regard I was interested in a parent’s comment that her ‘silent’ infant had started to make noises for the first time during one of the sessions. It makes sense that in the expansion of an infant’s social world, the thought that “I can do it’’ might be followed by “ I am worthy of respect’’ and ultimately “ I have a voice and something to say”.

 

5. Since the activity offers a new and pleasurable way for infants and their parents to interact, it is potentially a source of strengthening parent-child bonds. It may even serve as a healing experience when there have been negative experiences or trauma associated with the birth process and/or postnatal period.

 

6. Apropos point (5), the associations of the Spa experience with pleasurable activity in a supportive setting are likely to be extremely therapeutic. The pleasures of moving in the water and the enjoyable toning massage are only parts of the whole experience. In addition, there are the cues given to infants by their parents that their responses have received reflective, individual attention and often smiles of approval. These cues are helpful in affirming the ‘’infant’s wholeness’’ as active participants in a social event. Given the usual state of dependency and physical constraints of infancy, the active participation offered in the Spa opens a new vista of pleasurable experiences in which the infants are able to express their individuality and explore their own potential.

 

7. In the session that I observed, it was obvious that parents found the Spa experience supportive and that they were making new discoveries about their infants as a result of their activity and responses. I suspect that these discoveries open up new ways for parents to relate to their infants.

 

8. It was striking that the two fathers who attended the Spa session were very active in relating to their infants and their experiences. Since fathers often find it difficult to have as much involvement with their very young infants as they would like, it is sometimes necessary to provide them with appropriate opportunities. In this regard, the Spa certainly seemed an ideal way of involving fathers in pleasurable interaction with their infants.

 

9. In evaluating the potential benefits of the Baby Spa, I could not ignore the obvious fact that as presently operated, it offers an ongoing developmental experience into group activity/swimming etc., should parents choose to continue the process with their children. I see this process as potentially enormously beneficial, since it provides a long-term secure experience of developmental progress in trusted, skilled and sensitive hands—and, moreover, in familiar surroundings (a real ‘home from home’).

 

10. Lastly, I would like to emphasize my impression that the Baby Spa offers a lot more than its conception as promoting the physical health of infants. In this regard, I feel that the ‘whole’ experience needs to be taken into account, particularly the quality of the experience for parents and their children. In your hands the experience is likely to be extremely socially and emotionally beneficial to a child’s development, particularly if continued as a group experience (swimming) in the long term.

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