We all know baby feet are adorable, but did you know they can also be your secret weapon when it comes to calming babies who are teething, windy or just need a bit of soothing?
The gentle technique of reflexology is believed to tap into certain areas of the body through reflex points on the feet. So knowing exactly where and how to massage baby feet may help get through those tough days and nights when nothing seems to relieve baby’s fussing.
We speak with Dympna Kennedy from Creating Balance about what we need to know about reflexology for babies.
Reflexology for babies
The aim of reflexology is to promote wellness in the body, by massaging key reflex points in the toes and feet. For instance, the toes are said to be linked to the head and teeth – so massaging little digits may help with teething.
Dympna specialises in infant massage and reflexology to calm, settle and soothe babies. She says reflexology can be used to help little loves who are teething, suffering congestion or are finding it difficult to sleep.
“It is important to note that a solid understanding of baby cues and body language is essential so that you respect a baby’s feedback when they need you to change the routine or stop,” Dympna explained to Mum’s Grapevine.
“When parents know the ‘map’ of their baby’s foot and understand their unique cues they can incorporate the pressure points, specialised holds and massage techniques to help soothe and relax their baby. It is a technique that requires no special equipment and is transportable, whether it’s the car seat or the pram your baby is in the optimum position to receive one of the oldest healing modalities.”
How to use reflexology to calm a baby
Dympna says that the most powerful technique is simply holding the palm of your hand against the sole of your baby’s foot and breathing deeply and slowly.
“This has a ‘grounding’ effect which will help your baby gain a sense of calm. Massaging the tips of each toe or using circular movements on the pads of the foot and heel area are equally soothing and calming. Intention is so important. It is more powerful when done with focus and is unhurried.”
Here’s Dympna’s guide to using reflexology to calm a baby:
Setting up for baby reflexology:
Step 1: Ensure that you have ruled out any medical issue that may need to be addressed first and always seek the advice of your GP or pediatrician.
Step 2: The best time to massage a baby is when they are in a ‘quiet alert’ state. You may be asking, ‘But what if they are upset, can’t we give a massage or apply reflexology to calm?’ There are other factors that may cause a baby to be upset and it is always recommended to check that their other needs have been met, sleep, hunger or comfort.
Step 3: Ensure the environment is right in terms of temperature and lighting. Place baby on a secure surface. Check with baby and ask permission – babies will become familiar with the cues prior to receiving a massage and will within a short time indicate their wiliness to participate or not.
Step 4: Commence by holding both feet in your hands, this can be securing for babies. Turn your hands so that the palm of your hands are resting against the sole of your baby’s feet.
Where to massage:
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For whole-body benefit: Take one foot and while it is being supported with one hand the other hand can commence basic massage strokes. Reflexology is based on the theory that parts of the body can be stimulated through concentrating on specific points on the feet. Massaging the whole foot may induce beneficial effects for the whole body.
For congestion: Use small circular movements on the pad of the foot to help with the release of congestion. The reflex area for solar plexus is the foot’s number one point for relaxation. Using your small finger press and hold.
For teething: On the toes (teething) using your index finger and thumb move upwards from the base of the toe to the tip, hold and release. This is a wonderful opportunity to add ‘singing’ to your routine. As you
massage each toe to the tune of “This little piggy went to market …”
For upset tummies: The solar plexus comprises of a network of nerves located in the abdomen. Applying pressure to the area located a little below the ball of the foot, to relieve discomfort caused by an upset tummy.
The amount of pressure is important, too light can tickle, too heavy and you’re baby will withdraw his foot. Watch your baby closely to gauge what he is finding acceptable, babies are very good at communicating their preferences.
For wind pain: The upper and lower abdomen regions on the foot can be sensitive to touch and respond well to gentle circular movements using your thumb to help relieve digestive related pain and wind. Stroking and gliding movements on the feet to commence and the end of each session helps with relaxation. Finish by again holding your palms against the sole of your baby’s foot.
What do I need to know about baby reflexology?
While the gentle, soothing touch of reflexology is easily performed by parents, experts do recommend getting some guidance.
“The healing power of touch is so important and parents do it instinctively, however, it adds additional benefits to know which strokes are better, the pressure to use and how long to engage in the modality. It is recommended to seek quality instruction who will also advise on other signs to be aware of should you need to seek medical advice from your GP or Early Childhood Nurse,” says Dympna.
Read next …
Is your small fry is fussy, teething or just needing calmness? We cover lots of different techniques to try in these next few articles: