Friday, March 27th, 2009
Baby Neck Floats: Awesome Fun or Sign we are Doomed as a Species?
Updated edit: Neck floats have found a following among parents who have infants with developmental delays. Great! What follows is my years-old blog post with regard to the phenomenon of neck floats being used not for therapeutic purposes, but so parents can teach their babies to swim and/or watch them float around in water without being held (particularly in Pacific Rim countries). Even in America it isn’t difficult to find vendors still pitching neck floats with claims such as ‘Your baby can swim!’ (see Amazon.com). I’ve removed Youtube videos from this post, but you can easily find them if you’re interested. This blog post was not, and is not, intended to deride families who have found an alternate, better purpose for the devices.. If someone takes it as such, I apologize… Heck, as recently as 2012, the Canadian Family magazine asked, Neck Floats: Cute or Scary?
I don’t know where to begin with this one.
The above image is from the October 2009 issue of Motherhood Magazine.
Apparently in Pacific Rim countries some parents’ idea of a fun swimming experience for their baby is to buy a “neck float.”
Step 1. Inflate the neck float.
Step 2. Secure the inflated ring around baby’s neck.
Step 3. Insert baby in water and watch the baby’s head float.
Often the float is sold as a kit with a water tub that is about 30 inches tall and wide. It provides room for the baby to float alone while his parents look on fully clothed and smiling at their precious plaything.
If it were me, I’d want to be in the water with my kid, holding and bonding with him as he kicks and splashes and learns to trust me and the water. Swim diapers. No other gear needed. You could splurge on a wet suit or a chest carrier designed for water. If you’re paranoid, maybe a life vest.
So, what exactly are these parents thinking? Listen…
I hate to be the harbinger of bad news, but a baby held by the neck and suspended vertically in the water is not swimming. Any kicking it does is no different from when a parent holds or cradles a baby in water. If the water is shallow, maybe the baby kicks the bottom of the pool, and the added value of that is… what?
Worse, if the baby is unhappy, he can’t self-soothe because he can’t reach his face nor be immediately cuddled by a parent. And what’s fun about having your head jerked up and surrounded by inflated PVC? Not to mention the whole solitary confinement tub some parents use.
There are a bunch of neck-float videos on Youtube, and the one thing they have in common is… nonplussed babies. Sometimes they smile, but mostly they just stare blankly. They pale in comparison to the excited, elated enthusiasm I’ve seen a baby exhibit being held in a pool or even while sitting in a bathing tub.
Oh, but surely there are neck defenders who will tell me I’m wrong. I took my lumps last year for essentially calling out Bumbo-style seats as a perversion of nature.
Perhaps parents of babies who have a disability requiring swim therapy can mount a case. I’ll buy that defense if a medical expert says a neck float is better than holding your baby.
Or you could say I’ve closed my mind to how other cultures do things, but in my defense, I suck snot, and that’s a particularly un-American activity for parents.
Maybe this phenomenon just needs a marketing makeover to become popular in America.
Call it bucket swimming…. It’s a compact athletic activity for apartment dwelling families. Why, I fondly remember Tuesday mornings from my own childhood. When we heard the garbage truck rumbling down the street we knew it meant hours of fun swimming in the freshly emptied trash can. Ahh, good times.
Okay, I’m done. This whole thing makes me want to throw ping pong balls at my son’s head in a vane attempt to win a carnival goldfish.
Thanks to Flickr user McBeth for the wonderful photo.