Reflexology is an ancient alternative and complimentary touch therapy originally practised by the Chinese and is based on the idea that the reflexes in the feet are directly connected to every other part of the body. Reflexology can provide some relief from the symptoms of acute medical conditions and also help with postnatal depression and anxiety disorders.
As well as being very beneficial to expectant mothers, babies also respond very well to reflexology. It can help with symptoms and problems such as: colic, restlessness, trapped wind, reflux, teething pain and constipation. Research carried out by physiotherapist and reflexologist, Jenny Lee with the British National Health Service has found there are significant benefits for babies suffering from asthma and hay fever. Even babies who aren’t experiencing any of the above can benefit from the enhanced level of physical touch, experience greater wellbeing and develop a stronger bond with their parent.
When my son was a few months old he went through a very difficult phase, experiencing many of the symptoms of colic in the evenings. We attended reflexology sessions and quickly saw improvements. The reflexologist taught me a few simple techniques to use at home, which I used on a regular basis from then on with my son and my daughter. My children were lucky to attend a Montessori where their teacher was also a reflexologist and would treat them when they seemed off form or unsettled. They’re 5 years of age now and still ask me to rub their feet!
The chances are that you probably rub your baby’s feet anyway, so why not take it one step further and try out a few simple techniques at home? Reflexology charts which show which parts of the foot correspond to the various parts of the body are easy to interpret, so reflexology can be learned and practised by everyone.
There are some very simple techniques which can be used at home to help soothe your baby if they are restless or to help with minor ailments. Reflexology can be practised every day. The best time to practise is during feeding, when they are in your arms, or after bath-time and before they go to sleep to help them really relax and settle for a peaceful night’s sleep.
You can make up your own techniques for rubbing your child’s feet as long as they are incredibly gentle stroking movements, using no pressure and only the gentlest touch. Take your baby’s lead – if they pull their foot away, apply even less pressure than before. If they still pull away, stop and try again at another time. Avoid working the toes and fingers in very young babies as their bones joints are too delicate at this stage. Instead, concentrate on gently stroking the sole of the foot. Before you begin to rub your baby’s feet, make sure your hands are warm and apply a small amount of foot cream or hypoallergenic baby oil. Stroke the feet gently all over to relax the baby and then introduce some of the techniques below.
Thumb-walking. In this technique, gently roll the pad of your thumb, back and forth across the sole of your child’s foot, to create alternating pressure on the surface of the foot. Thumb-walking can be used all over the foot to stimulate the different corresponding areas of the body.
Pelvic Hold. In this technique, take a foot in each hand and cup each foot at the heels.
Pincher action. Open your index finger and the next finger like a pair of scissors and gently open and close your fingers across the entire foot. This technique is excellent for soothing and relaxing a child who is very distressed and overtired.
Solar Plexus Hold. The Solar Plexus, or the adrenal point is located just below the ball of the foot, in the very centre. This is the best place to treat for relaxation and will help soothe a very agitated baby. Very gently, take a foot in each hand, and place a thumb at this point and hold for 10-15 seconds.
Bowel Sweep. As the name suggests, this technique can help babies with constipation and trapped wind. With your index finger, gently sweep horizontally across the centre of the foot from the instep, coming to the edge of the foot, before sweeping back across the foot. Repeat a few times on each foot.
Published in Mums and Tots, Summer 2015.
Image courtesy of Taoty @ freedigitalphotos.net