When Layla and Brooklyn go for a spa day, there’s a chance there might be kicking, screaming and babbling.

That’s because the girls are just 6 months and 7 weeks old. Their “baby spa” isn’t about towel wrapped heads, cucumber eye patches or charcoal face masks. It caters to infants less than a year old and mostly involves floating.

Oakville’s Baby Float Spa, like other health clubs for tots, isn’t unlike their adult counterparts. It has Instagram-friendly interiors, a no-shoes policy, candles for purchase and Registered Massage Therapists who lead parents in a baby massage. But the showpiece in this these infant Zen centres is the hydrotherapy water tub, part home bath, part Jacuzzi, where anywhere from one to eight kids, each buoyed by a doughnut-shaped neck ring — a water-wing floaty for the head — can kick, float and get some exercise.

From Oakville to Markham, spas for babies are a small but thriving business in the GTA with varying prices from $40 for a single float session to more than $600 for 10 float-and-RMT-massage combos (which means much of the cost can be claimed through insurance).

While there is scant research to suggest floating is beneficial to a babies development, anecdotal observations from spa owners and the parents who visit them are positive.

“The non-scientific benefit is the epic nap that happens afterwards,” said Alex Fell, owner of Oakville’s Baby Float Spa. “There’s no new parent that’s not going to benefit from that.”

Jasmin and Amit Sood are optimistic related health effects will be apparent for their daughter, Layla, who was diagnosed with dwarfism. At 6 months she isn’t able to sit up on her own yet. Her parents are hopeful all the floating and kicking will tone and strengthen her muscles so she can. Layla uses a specially designed flotation device so she can float more comfortably on her stomach.

Amanda Yee, has been bringing her daughter Brooklyn (whose spa nickname is “Squish” for the way her cheeks scrunch up in the neck ring) to the spa weekly since she was two weeks old. She believes she has already seen some benefits.

“My doctor can’t say that it’s specifically because of this, but she has abnormally strong neck muscles for seven weeks old,” says Lee."Rather than bobbling, she'll really lift her entire middle up and glance around for two or three minutes. It can’t be anything but beneficial.”

Dr. Clay Travis Jones, a Boston-area pediatrician, says there is little scientific evidence to support purported benefits of hydrotherapy for infants. The research on neonatal swimming is often not credible, lacking in sample size and quality of methodology, says Jones, a frequent contributor to ScienceBasedMedicine.org, where he writes about pseudo-science.

The oft-touted claims of accelerated growth, improved cognitive development and increased immune system function hold no water, says Jones. “It doesn’t mean it’s not an enjoyable activity,” he says. “But you certainly do not need to pay money to go to a baby spa.”

Nonetheless, the growth of the baby spas industry reveals parents are all for pampering their babies.

And it’s not only about waters and a rub. Some baby spas offer in-house chiropractic care. These adjustments aren’t like the neck-twisting treatments received by adults but are like applying no more pressure than when checking the ripeness of an avocado or tomato, an analogy chiropractors often invoke.

Jones, whose writing focuses on chiropractic care for babies, says there is no reason to manipulate babies and doesn’t buy the notion that the prodding has any effect.

“If just holding a little light pressure with your finger is all it takes to put a spinal segment into alignment, well then kids must be always riddled with spinal misalignment,” he says. “They’re always bumping into things and falling over and being picked up.

“There is no problem that exists that they (baby chiropractors) are fixing,” he says.

The Canadian pediatric Society cautions that more controlled clinical trials are needed to support chiropractic treatment for children.

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Though the focus is on the kids, baby spas offer services to parents, too. These are one part baby hot tub party, one part mommy-blogger retreat (though dads visit too).

At the Oakville spa, there’s a “HIIT” — high-intensity interval training — stroller workout, “Baby Bump Pilates” and prenatal yoga classes in partnership with fitness influencers, including Nikki Bergen who created The Belle Method fitness philosophy.

Like grown-up spas, infant spas may not be a need, however, they do offer a specific way of life — and too charming Instagram sustains.

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