Reflexology is a beautiful therapy to enhance nurturing relationships with your little one, developing a sense of security and attachment. You can introduce reflexology to your child at any stage and enjoy the immediate benefits. Reflexology is a safe and effective therapy to use with babies and children, encouraging health and wellbeing, promoting bonding and comforting, soothing digestive complaints, and boosting the immune system. It can be used anywhere and at any time of the day or become part of the bedtime routine encouraging a restful sleep.
So what is Reflexology?
Reflexology is the application of touch and massage to areas of the feet or hands that correspond to specific areas of the body, which are mapped out on the hands and feet. There are many forms of reflexology with varying styles and pressure, but the pressure applied on babies and children should always be very gentle. Gentle touch Reflexology developed by Sue Ricks of ‘Sue Ricks Clinic & School of Complementary Therapies UK’, is a gentle reflexology therapy suitable for babies and children…
A brief history of Reflexology
Reflexology has been around for thousands of years. It dates back to ancient cultures and had been practised by American-Indians, Chinese and other Asian countries and by African tribes. Dr. William Fitzgerald, an American Ear, Nose and Throat (?) (ENT) surgeon who developed the theory of the link between reflex zones in the feet and hands with corresponding areas and organs of the body, introduced reflexology to the West in the early 20th century. Dr Fitzgerald’s fellow American – Eunice Ingham, a physiotherapist, went on to refine and develop zone therapy.
In 1938, she published her first book: “Stories the Feet Can Tell“, which very quickly spread the word about the benefits of Reflexology. Eunice travelled the world attending health seminars where she spoke with medical practitioners about her therapy.
Reflexology finally arrived in Europe, including mainland Britain, in the 1960s and in Ireland in the 1980s. It is rapidly growing in popularity in Ireland and is becoming firmly established as an effective and gentle complementary therapy, which can be practised on persons of all age groups, even newborn babies!
There is much research out there supporting how ‘positive touch’ and ‘tactile stimulation’ promote your baby’s brain development, and the strong nurturing bond between parent and baby. In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. Dr. Dacher Keltner from the UC Berkeley Department of Psychology, USA, notes that the research is suggesting that “touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health. The benefits start from the moment we’re born”.
A review of research, conducted by Dr. Tiffany Field, a leader in the field of touch, found that preterm newborns who received just three 15-minute sessions of touch therapy each day, for 5-10 days, gained 47% more weight than premature infants who had received standard medical treatment. According to Dr Tiffany Field, Director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, School of Medicine, “a massage before bedtime is more effective than rocking at helping your baby fall asleep and stay asleep.” The beauty and joy of reflexology is that it is one way to introduce positive and appropriate touch to children to enjoy as they grow up.
Sue Ricks (2009) explains how some children are deprived of touch and this can be attributed to the fact that many adults are too busy or too stressed to relax, or they may find it difficult to offer cuddles, hugs and mini-massages as they were not used to it themselves. Reflexology is a way to introduce positive touch and is a simple therapy for parents and caregivers to learn, which they can then give to their own loved ones.
Reflexology for babies and children
The beauty of reflexology is that it ‘grows’ with your child. You can start reflexology from birth and your child can enjoy it for years to come. In fact often a child as young as one or two will present their feet and ask you to ‘do my feet’. When your child gets older, they simply adore this undisturbed one to one time with you. While doing feet or hands, you are in a great position to chat about the day with your child if you wish, or they can simple close their eyes and RELAX!
Reflexology can improve bonding between parents and babies, aids restful sleep and boosts the immune system. In particular, reflexology provides a drug free approach to ease complaints such as:
- Nasal congestion;
- Eye and ear complaints;
- Restlessness and sleep issues.
Children (including teenagers!)
Reflexology promotes communication and relationships between a parent and their child. It promotes rest and relaxation, improves concentration, self-confidence and self-esteem and combats complaints such as:
- ‘Tummy’ aches, constipation;
- Eye, ear and throat congestion;
- Sleep disturbances ;
- Behavioural problems.
Babies and children can be taken to a reflexologist for a treatment, or a series of treatments and/or parents/caregivers can learn this beautiful therapy in simple terms to give to their own loved ones.
What Parents say!
“I have been practicing reflexology everyday lately, since my baby developed a bunged up nose and cough at the weekend. I found it a great way to connect with him and give him some relief, it was calming and enjoyable for us both as it allowed me time to concentrate on a stress-free method of providing him with care in an acute situation. He loves it! Thanks Marie for sharing all your knowledge on reflexology” – Jacki
“I brought my son to baby reflexology classes. I really enjoyed this experience as I got to bond with him while learning how to help him with wind and digestion, etc. I love to practice now whenever I can! It was lovely meeting other mothers too” – Noreen
“I would definitely recommend using baby reflexology with your little one. I think it’s a relaxing and soothing experience for both baby and mother” – Sarah
On a personal level, I give all my 4 children reflexology. They ask for it regularly and simply love the ‘feel’ of it and the one-to-one time with Mum. I would always use reflexology to help conditions such as teething, constipation, stuffy noses and so on, and find it definitely works. My toddler has loved reflexology since she was a baby, although, when she got to one, I often had to give it in little short treatments lasting only a couple of minutes as she would not stay still!! Now she is almost three and presents her feet asking ‘will you do my feet?’ I have found it also a useful way to stay nice and calm during tantrum or crying episodes. Gently holding the solar plexus point in the hands or feet is extremely calming for both giver and receiver. I would highly recommend any parent to learn this beautiful therapy.
Marie, a mother of 4, Public Health Nurse and Reflexologist, delivers reflexology and baby reflexology classes in her own home outside Bruff, County Limerick. As part of her current role as Community Wraparound Coordinator with ABC Start Right, Marie introduced baby reflexology classes to parents and babies in Limerick City. After seeing the resounding interest in baby reflexology and the positive impact it had on parents and babies, the wider roll out of baby reflexology was inevitable. After months of preparation, Marie and the ABC Start Right team had the pleasure of working closely with Sue Ricks. Together ABC Start Right and Sue Ricks have made history, bringing the first Baby and Child Reflexology Instructor training to Ireland. Baby and Child Reflexology classes will be available in Limerick in September of this year. More information will be posted on our Facebook page ABC Start Right and on loveparenting.ie event calendar so make sure to check back for upcoming classes and workshops.
Field, Tiffany (2010) Preterm infant massage therapy research: A review In Infant Behaviour and Development Vol 33 issue 2 Pages 115–124
Keltner, D (2010) Hands-On Research: The Science of Touch In Greater Good; the science of a meaningful life
Ricks, Sue (2009) The Gentle Touch of Reflexology for Babies and Children