I have had the privilege and pleasure of being involved in two ways in the aquatherapy developed by Laura Sevenus; firstly as a mother who has seen my two daughters benefit greatly from the brilliant use of water as a medium for exercise, strengthening and development, and secondly as a medical practitioner facilitating sessions for babies, from newly born to six months of age.

Laura’s form of flotation allows babies to explore body movements in multiple planes. Such exploration is not possible for young babies without the weightlessness they experience in water, since they simply aren’t strong enough to move against gravity. The resistance their muscles experience while moving the body through water also provides excellent exercise.

The flotation and movement sessions anecdotally appear to greatly improve the strength and co-ordination of the babies. It also, according to all parents of babies partaking, really seems to improve sleep and decrease abdominal discomfort and colicky type symptoms.

In conjunction with a paediatrician and a physiotherapist I have also been involved in the treatment of babies suffering intrauterine and birth trauma. The babies treated with water-based therapy, again anecdotally, according to all involved, improved faster and to a greater degree than expected.

I am very excited about the effects of this method on my own children and the other babies I observed. I hope as many parents, teachers and medical people as possible will discover this wonderful method for treatment and development. I have no reservation endorsing the methods developed and used by Laura Sevenus and her team.

Dr Alexia van der VeldeMBChB (UCT)

Nico visited the Baby spa for the first time at exactly 9 weeks old. That night, he slept through from 6.30pm till 8am and we have never looked back! I have no doubt this deep, contented sleeping pattern was induced by the pure joy, relaxation and also invigoration he experienced at the Baby spa.

Nico is my second child. I wish I had known of the Baby spa when I had my first child….this opportunity to witness such young babies demonstrate intense happiness at their physical surroundings is unique.

The spotlessly clean, white and peaceful ambience of the Baby spa combined with Laura’s gentle wisdom and experience will instill calm confidence in even the most exhausted and anxious new mother. If I am lucky enough to have a third child, I believe in the amazing benefits of the Baby spa enough that I will bring him or her in her first week of life.

Dr Emma SalisburyBSc, MBChB, MRCP(UK)

As a mother of three young children and a professional in the medical field I had the amazing opportunity to watch and experience the Baby Spa Floating Treatment for my two younger sons. Theodor, now 4 years old, was just about nine days old when he started with the treatment twice a week until he graduated to baby swimming classes around 5 months of age, Matthias, now 2 years old was 14 days old.

For most mothers the first few weeks and months are an exciting but also often difficult and tiring time, getting to know a new baby, establishing a secure attachment, finding managing their needs. Babies might present with prolonged jaundice, might be colicky, might be difficult feeders, might struggle with sleeping. It takes some time for both mother and baby to adjust and getting used to each other and one can find it not so easy to read the babies mind and response to certain ways of handling in the early weeks.

The most amazing experience for me during the Spa treatment was for me to watch the intense pleasure, contentment and curiosity the babies of a few days or weeks old showed as soon as they were floating in the warm water. Within a couple of sessions they figured out they could deliberately choose in which direction to float by moving their legs and arms in a certain way.

They could experience an intense pleasure known from floating in their mother’s tummy and yet new. They often stopped crying immediately watched and felt intensely what was happening. From my own experience the floating had also great physical benefits, lessening of jaundice through movement and influence on metabolism, easing of colic, regulating sleeping habits.

The brain develops with the experience of sensory information. Most young babies spend a great deal of their time wrapped in blankets or in car seats. Floating offers a unique and beautiful way of moving at a very early stage, which must have a positive influence on their brain development, if not more for handicapped babies.

Laura with all her knowledge and care truly created a very special atmosphere of calmness, of curiosity, balancing the needs of the babies and the mothers. Seeing her massaging the babies after the floating was another wonderful experience in seeing how a bond developed, how deep the experience was for the babies and how reassuring for the mothers.

As a child and adolescent psychiatrist and play therapist I clearly see the benefits of such a structured and yet natural sensory experience facilitating for the baby a gentler transgression from the womb into the outer world, gaining a wonderful new quality for bonding and attachment and negotiating the fulfillment of needs.

To create a safe room and a space to watch and wonder, to think and to contemplate a wonderful sensory experience for the baby which is done almost independently at a very young age is truly remarkable. I am convinced it might even be beneficial for mothers with postpartum depression when the quality of bonding with the baby is difficult and painful.

Dr Fiona Scheder-BieschinFC Psych (SA)

Hydrotherapy is increasingly gaining popularity for stoke and burns survivors worldwide. Applications in the field of Neonatology have yet to be defined and studied.

Hydrotherapy as an adjunct to conventional therapy holds great potential on the premise that it stimulates additional senses such as temperature, proprioception and touch in a developing brain (brain plasticity).

Based on a limited number of anecdotal cases, patients receiving hydrotherapy at the Sevenus institute have exceeded predicted function based on neuroimaging on discharge from the neonatal ICU.

Dr Ricky DippenaarNeonatologist

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.

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.

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

Laura has run a swimming school in Cape Town for more than three decades. This is widely acknowledged as being one of the best swimming schools in South Africa. She has embraced scientific advances to reconcile psychological confidence and physical independence in children in water. That this can be achieved in infants is testimony to her vision and has been a source of great reassurance to many parents.

Having established a confidence in water, Laura has a holistic approach to the mental and physical benefits that can be provided with a variety of “water therapies”. This today, embodies the principle that throughout life, a healthy mind flourishes in a healthy body.

I believe this aspect of her work will become increasingly important in a hectic world driven by exploding technology where it is difficult to find serenity and equanimity. In the face of escalating healthcare costs, she emphasises that prevention is better than cure and responsibility for your own wellbeing is a lifelong commitment.

Ian D LearmonthMB ChB, FRCS, FRCS (Ed), FRCS (SA) Orth