How foot reflexology can help soothe an unwell or cranky baby

Posted in Care.

If your little one is unwell or she’s generally unsettled, and you’ve tried everything, then you might want to slip off those booties and give her a foot massage. Many parents swear by foot reflexology to help calm newborns so if you haven’t tried it, here’s everything you need to know.

What is reflexology?

Reflexology is a type of massage where pressure points in the feet and hands are worked on to help ease pain or promote wellness in other areas of the body such as various organs, muscles and bones. An ancient form of natural healing therapy, reflexology has been practised for centuries in countries such as China and Egypt and is still a popular technique used by many today.

baby foot massage 2

How it helps babies

Massaging a baby when she’s upset comes naturally for mother, and for a good reason – it really helps. With their sensitive skin, soft bones and developing bodies, babies are particularly responsive to reflexology. By applying gentle pressure to congested areas of the feet you can help release blockages and restore energy flow to your baby’s whole body to help with everything from tummy pains and teething, to constipation, colds and flu.

Reflexology is also very beneficial for babies who have had traumatic births, where instruments such as forceps were used. Unfortunately, it will not cure any major conditions that your baby might have. However, it WILL help soothe them. And the best part? It’s totally free, safe, convenient and a great bonding exercise that both you and your baby will love.

The mother-baby connection

According to Lyn Fava, Principal of The Australian School of Reflexology and Relaxation, the main thing with infant reflexology is about connecting with the mother as well as the baby, because the baby reflects the mother’s emotions.

“Whenever I work on a baby I always work on the mother as well. Often the mother will have tender spots in the same areas that her baby is experiencing issues and if she is anxious the baby will be too,” says Lyn. “Reflexology is like an emotional release for the baby, simply hold them in your arms and then do tiny gentle physical movements over the foot to help calm them, relax and let go.” 

How and where you do it

Obviously, you can see a professional to give your bub (and yourself!) some reflexology therapy. However, you can also do it yourself at home. Lyn says you can start pretty much as soon after birth as long your baby settled. Because it’s hard to pinpoint all the different pressure points when she’s so little, just a general light massage over the whole foot area will work initially.

Then, as she grows, you try and be more specific in where you massage. Here’s a rough guide of where to apply pressure to aid a particular part of her body:

  • Tips of the toes – Great for helping with teething pain, earaches or headaches as it helps generate more blood flow to the skull.
  • Toe undersides – Helps with sinus congestion and pain caused by viruses and colds.
  • Pads – This is the cushion spot right under the toes, give this a massage in a circular motion to help ease chest pain, coughs and congestion.
  • Centre of the foot – This links straight to your baby’s solar plexus (nerves connecting the lungs and stomach) so can help with tummy pain and tightness in the abdomen, plus anxiety.
  • Between middle and pad – The spot between the centre of the foot and the pad is where you’ll help ease constipation, indigestion and heartburn.
  • Between middle and heel – For gas and bloating pain caused by the lower intestine, massage the spot between the heel and middle of the foot.
  •  Heel – This can provide relief from pelvic pain and growth discomfort in the hips, and might also help with tummy upsets and constipation.

baby reflexology

Image credit: The Hearty Soul

Tips and tricks

The key thing to remember says Lyn, is that you need to be very, very gentle.

“You also need to seek permission, energetically, from the baby to touch them and be sure to stop when they’ve had enough,” she says. “Reflexology is all about love, nurturing and care – that’s the mindset. It really can help babies straight away, and it also works as they get older too – particularly with things like anxiety.”

Here are some other simple tips to help you establish a good reflexology routine with your little one:

  • Make sure they’re relaxed – A good time to do it is either when they’re feeding, asleep (such as in a baby carrier), during or right after a bath. This is when they’re most likely to be calm and not stressed.
  • Start with a warm-up – You want to get the blood flow happening first so do a gentle all over massage of the feet with some soft strokes.
  • Use an oil – There are lots of safe and natural baby massage oils on the market which can help you get a better flow and technique happening.
  • Not too hard – Make sure you’re not applying pressure that’s too firm or they won’t enjoy it. Very light and gentle movements only. If your baby is sick, they will be more sensitive too so try being extra gentle.
  • Don’t do it for too long – Around 5-10 minutes is a good guide for how long to make your bub’s reflexology session, but if they pull their foot away before then it probably means they’re not enjoying it so best to stop and try again another time. 

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