BUCKTOWN — When Rachel Curran first thought of opening an infant wellness studio in Chicago, she knew exactly which neighborhood she wanted to open in:
It’s “stroller central,” she said. “Here on Damen, we have such a nice family area. There’s high foot traffic and car traffic. … [We’re] visible. I’m so happy.”
Curran opened Metta Baby at 1921 N. Damen Ave. in October. The studio offers therapeutic “floats” for infants as well as infant-specific massage classes for babies and their parents.
While the concept of a “baby spa” may sound like something out of an Instagram ad, Curran, a registered nurse with a decade of experience, promises her services are chock-full of health benefits.
“It’s not just a cute Instagram concept. Yeah, the pictures are cute, but it’s not a pampering experience for the baby,” she said. “This is an ancient art.”
Every member of the Metta Baby staff is either a nurse or an infant care specialist, she said.
During the studio’s “float” classes, babies are placed inside large stainless steel tubs full of 97-degree bath water. They are kept above water by a soft floatation device, which is wrapped around their necks.
While floating, babies move their feet, legs, stomachs, chest and arms underwater, activating key muscles before ever learning to crawl or take their first steps, Curran said.
The float can last anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes, depending on the baby’s strength and movement level. They’re also very relaxing for babies.
After each float, water is drained before the tub is sterilized and re-filled. Parents feed their babies and change diapers if necessary.
In the background, “Rockabye Baby!,” a Spotify playlist of lullaby versions of modern songs, such as Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Dani California” and Kanye West’s “Heartless,” plays softly through the speakers.
“We make it a very casual environment,” Curran said.
The post-float massage portion of class brings parents and their babies to four soft beds at the back of the studio.
Babies begin on their backs and end the massage on their stomachs, their heads propped on pillows in such a way that they make eye contact with each other.
The release of muscle tension in the baby lowers cortisol, which allows babies to gain weight faster and sleep more soundly, Curran said.
The class is also helpful for parents of newborns, who may be experiencing postpartum feelings of isolation.
Since opening Metta Baby in October, Curran said she already has “weekly floaters” and clients who travel from the suburbs and Northwest Indiana to visit.
Parents have reported happier, calmer babies who sleep for longer periods of time, she said.
“I already knew this or I wouldn’t have opened,” Curran said. “There’s nothing better than for parents to see their baby smiling and relaxed.”
Curran earned her nursing degree from Purdue University in 2010. She worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Northwestern Memorial Hospital before spending five years as a traveling NICU nurse in New York, California and Chicago.
During the latter half of her nursing career, Curran transitioned from hospitals to 24-hour in-home baby care.
During this time, she spent a lot of time in Europe, working as a nanny in Turkey, Spain and Germany. These trips exposed her to the European concept of “baby spas.”
After learning the benefits of infant floating and massage, Curran decided she wanted to bring the idea to Chicago.
To float, babies must be 6 months or younger, though Curran said she may add a class for babies up to 1 in 2020.
The float itself is $55, while a float-massage combination is $85. Ideally, parents will incorporate the massage lessons into their nightly routines, Curran said.
Learn more about scheduling online.
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