When Seval Oz Ozveren and her husband decided they needed some long-overdue pampering a year ago December, they checked into Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a resort and spa in Los Cabos, Mexico, and spent the week indulging in hot-stone massages and a desert purification treatment -- all with their 6-month-old in tow.
"We wanted to take the child to a place where we could have spa treatments and five-star meals and not feel guilty about having our baby," said Oz Ozveren, 42, a technology financier who lives in California, and Manhattan.
It used to be that spas shunned children, believing that relaxation and the sound of a squalling infant in the cabana next door were pretty much mutually exclusive. But these days, a handful of spas are going to great lengths to become baby and new-mother-friendly, adding amenities like expensive strollers and organic baby shampoos, as well as services ranging from postnatal massages to child care.
"What's new is that there are any baby programs at all," said Susie Ellis, president of Spa Finder Inc, a New York-based spa travel and marketing company, "because we did not see any of that five years ago."
Ellis said her company has noticed that the number of spas that welcome babies has increased in the last three years. In response to repeated requests, Spa Finder recently added a new Mommy and Baby category to its online spa guide, which allows visitors to search for a spa based on personal interests like Pilates or mineral springs.
Of course, there are reasons that infants and new mothers aren't as ubiquitous as, say, steamed fish, at most spas.
From food that is too low-calorie for a breast-feeding mother to trying to squeeze treatments around a baby's demands, spas are not really intended for youngsters. And the task of trying to juggle the wants of both the baby brigade and those who have come to escape their own children isn't always easy.
Becoming Mom, a spa in Mason, Ohio, specializes in new mothers, but they are discouraged from bringing infants along. "It would change the spa environment," said Dawn Bierschwal, the owner. "A new mom needs time to herself, too."
Still, more parents are showing up at spas with baby in arms. Stacey Hine, 35, recently took her baby, then 18 months old, to Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, an Arizona spa. In her room there, she found baby-care products and what she described as "the kind of crib you would want to buy for your home."
Hine, who does public relations for the food industry and lives in Beverly Hills, California, said that she and her husband took turns getting massages and dined at an early hour, "not at 8 o'clock when all the chic honeymooners are out."
Most spa managers think the trend has something to do with the rising ages of new parents. The National Center for Health Statistics, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the number of births to women in their early 40s nearly doubled between 1990 and 2002, jumping from 48,607 to 95,788.
Older parents tend to be further along in their careers, which means they have more money to spend on luxury retreats, and tend to look at vacations as a time to bond with their infants. Indeed, many seem to have trouble leaving their children home while they go out to dinner, let alone on a spa trip.
"There just seem to be a lot of mature adults who are having and bringing babies to high-end properties," said Kathy Massarand, director for sales and marketing of Sanctuary.