Guest blog written by Claire Plain, a reflexologist & Tiny Toes instructor and owner of Tiny Toes Hitchin.
“Are they a good sleeper?” is a question most parents dread hearing… especially if the answer is “No”. Yet everyone seems to get a little bit obsessed with sleep as soon as a new baby arrives!
As a #reflexologist I often find myself discussing sleep patterns with my clients and how we can improve sleep quality. In my Tiny Toes #reflexology & baby massage classes sleep is a subject we visit constantly, because it is something at the forefront of parents’ minds.
So let’s explore sleep a little to see why we all need it and more importantly how reflexology could help your baby (and you) sleep better!
Why do we need sleep?
A good night’s sleep can:
Boost energy levels
Balance blood pressure
Increase concentration & productivity
Help the body repair, regenerate & recover
So it’s no wonder we feel like zombies when we have a disrupted night with our little ones!
When babies are born they lack the ability to produce a hormone called #melatonin. This is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in our brains to encourage sleep. In adults the production of melatonin is affected by light – the darker it gets, the more melatonin is produced (this is why looking at bright screens close to bedtime affects our sleep). Typically babies do not start producing melatonin until 3-4 months of age or even later, especially if they were born prematurely. As a result they can be blissfully unaware of night and day and feel it’s perfectly acceptable to stay up from dusk ‘til dawn!
Reflexology is a holistic therapy that dates back to ancient times. There is evidence of its practise in many parts of the world, including India, Africa and China. The earliest evidence of reflexology was found in Saqqara, Egypt on the tomb of Ankhmahor dated 2330 BC. Pictures etched on the walls show drawings of a person holding the foot of another person and applying massage to the sole.
The principle behind reflexology is that specific points on the feet correspond to parts of the body. In fact the whole body is mapped out on the feet, with the left foot relating to the left side of the body and the right foot to the right side. Foot-maps vary but this one from www.auntyflo.com is a lovely artistic example of body mapping across the feet.
A reflexologist uses their knowledge of these maps to apply pressure to specific points on the feet. This sends messages from the feet along the central nervous system and encourages the body to naturally restore balance. Reflexology is suitable for all ages and has many benefits including reducing tension, promoting wellbeing and improving sleep.
Reflexology for babies
Reflexology is a gentle, effective treatment and for this reason it can be used to treat babies from 4 weeks old. The reflexes can be difficult to distinguish because a baby’s feet are so small, but a reflexologist knows where to find them. A treatment for a baby will involve gentle pressure on reflexes and holding and stroking areas of their feet. Specific reflexes can be targeted on the feet to support sleep and conditions which impact sleep such as constipation, reflux, colic and teething. Reflexology can also support a baby emotionally, for example help them adjust following a difficult birth. The hands on nature gives a baby lots of comfort and reassurance, especially when parents learn the techniques too. This in turn supports bonding, which benefits parents as well as the baby.
Baby reflexology & sleep
As I mentioned earlier, babies are not born with body-clocks and it takes them a few months to develop this. Therefore if a baby is struggling with sleep in the early stages, the reflexology will focus on calming and relaxing them. A reflexologist will also consider areas of the body that could hold tension, for example the neck area as a result of their feeding position. By addressing these issues they can ensure a baby is as comfortable and relaxed as possible, which has a positive impact on their sleep.
As babies grow and start to produce melatonin, a reflexology treatment will be adapted to suit this. The pineal gland, responsible for producing melatonin, is a reflex on the foot and this could be included in a reflexology treatment. A reflexologist will work with the pineal gland to ensure this is functioning at its best and as a result the melatonin levels are what they should be. The result is a body-clock working to its best ability and maximising the baby’s potential to sleep well.
As babies grow and develop, reflexology treatments will be adapted to suit their changing bodies and current needs. For this reason reflexology can support your little one with sleep from babyhood and beyond!
Reflexology for your baby
If you would like to learn reflexology for your baby, classes are available. Tiny Toes teaches reflexology and baby massage techniques to support with sleep, colic, reflux, constipation, teething and more. Follow the links at the bottom of the page for further information.
Claire Plain is a reflexologist & Tiny Toes instructor based in Lower Stondon, nr Hitchin on the Hertfordshire/Bedfordshire border. In addition to her Tiny Toes Hitchin classes, she specialises in reflexology for women’s health including fertility, conception, pregnancy, postnatal care & menopause.
Claire is also a mum to two girls, aged 5 years and 9 months. Both regularly enjoy reflexology, as does her husband (although the girls usually beat him to the treatment chair!)
If you enjoyed reading this and would like to know more about Claire’s reflexology and Tiny Toes classes, please visit the links below: