Neck floats for newborns are increasingly being used by parents in pools and baby spas.
Neck floats are the white inflatable swans of the infant world, if you will. Newborn babies can be found relaxing in them all over Instagram and TikTok.
At first, it appeared that they were only used in locations like infant spas but the cuteness factor means they're becoming more and more prevalent during bath time and on vacation.
You might be wondering what a neck float is. It's a flotation device in the form of a doughnut that fits securely over a baby's head while the baby's body moves around freely in bathtubs and swimming pools.
Little ones can float about together in baby spas. Infants find comfort in the water because it makes them feel like they're back in the womb. Before infants can even sit up, they pump their legs and ‘’swim’’ with their arms.
Are these neck floats reliable, though?
Some experts believe that it might not be true in the long run. According to “Today New”, the Swimming Teachers' Association issued a statement cautioning against the ‘’routine use’’ of floating neck rings, raising concerns about the potential impact on infants' developing spines and, by extension, neurological and cognitive systems.
It raises concerns regarding compression of the delicate and sensitive vertebrae in their necks and strain on ligaments and muscles when infants, especially those under five months old, hang vertically in water with their heads supported by a semi-rigid foam structure.
According to WebMB's research, infant development is cephalo-caudal (moving down from the head up), and head control is the first significant skill that babies achieve in their early months, followed by rolling.
Neck rings limit the primary body movements that aid infants in reaching these early developmental milestones. Even with buoyancy, active kicking (at first involuntarily and then voluntarily) may place too much strain on the neck since the neck ring makes it difficult, if not impossible, to integrate upper and lower body movements.
Additionally, this affects the best possible development of the spinal curves. Neck rings artificially produce a spinal extension that could weaken rather than strengthen infants’ lower backs over the medium to long term by keeping a locked position of the upper back and pectoral muscles involved in early head motions, according to the issued warning.
Additionally, the float could deflate. It's not advisable to put something around your baby's neck that prevents them from moving around because they could deflate, causing your child to fall underwater.
The Rush University Medical Centre's associate professor of paediatrics, Kyran Quinlan, told the NBC affiliate WDSU that these devices “scare me to death“
Shawn Tomlinson, a STA baby swimming instructor and co-author of the paper titled ‘’Hidden Risks Of Floating Neck Rings For Babies’,’ reportedly told “Time Magazine”: “A neck ring creates a vacuum where the baby is incapacitated and cannot connect with anyone or anything.”
In the report, The Swimming Teachers Association writes that: “When babies hang vertically in water with their heads supported by a semi-rigid foam structure – particularly those under five months - concern arises about compression of the soft and subtle vertebrae in their necks, and strain in ligaments and muscles.
Infant development proceeds from the head down, and head control is the first huge task babies master in their early months, followed by rolling. The main body movements that help babies to achieve these first milestones are restricted by neck rings.”
In conclusion, although there hasn't been any extensive research on the security of these neck floats, if you do decide to attempt using one, proceed with caution.