This article was published in the Association of Reflexologists magazine. I have adapted it exclusively for Bloss members.
Meg Murray Jones specialises in postnatal reflexology with her Fourth Trimester Treatment. Here she shares why postnatal reflexology is so important – and so widely ignored – and what you can do to encourage selfcare in new parents.
We are offered support, love and care throughout pregnancy but as soon as we give birth all that focus is diverted to the baby. Whilst our baby is worthy of all this attention, our society has forgotten how to nurture the postnatal mum; this leaves her exhausted from birth, sleep deprived and sometimes physically or emotionally traumatised.
I personally experienced postpartum burn out after the birth of my first child so I know why and how new parents ignore their own bodies when it needs nurture and nourishment the most. This also inspired me to develop my Fourth Trimester Treatment; treating a client in their first three months postpartum (the Fourth Trimester). We talk a lot about conception and prenatal reflexology but there was not the same emphasis on postnatal. Why?
Firstly, because it is assumed that post birth the hard work is done.
But for a woman labour is one of the biggest traumas our body will go through. Our hormones are spiking. From the time the placenta is birthed to when breast milk comes in, a woman’s estrogen and progesterone levels plummet to the levels of a menopausal woman. The process of hormonal rebalancing goes on for months causing mood shifts and extreme highs and lows. And our brains change. That is right; activity increases in regions that control empathy, social interaction and, crucially, anxiety. It is interesting to know that a man’s brain also changes when he is involved in caregiving so this isn’t just for new mums!
Secondly, because it is hard to get new mums to treat themselves.
Your focus has shifted to their new baby (for all the reasons above!) meaning that your health and wellbeing takes a back seat. At new parent collaborative Takes A Village I have seen baby weaning workshops sell out whilst parent nutrition courses are cancelled due to lack of interest.
However, parents need and deserve care in those first few months. New parents stress response is heightened; they sense danger and want to protect their newborn. This means that the smallest thing can cause stress in the body. Reflexology can help to reduce the effects of stress which in turn stimulates the body’s own self healing process.
Here, I will share the basics of the Fourth Trimester Treatment so you can understand why it is so important.
The first point to make is that the Fourth Trimester Treatment isn’t just a reflexology treatment. It is all about making a new mum feel supported, honoured and nurtured as well as making her feel comfortable breastfeeding, crying or sleeping in front of you.
- I will always explain the importance of postpartum care to you during your treatment so you know the importance of your own self-care during this crucial time. If there is a kink in your hose there will be no water for anyone to drink.
- I always treat at your house, on your terms. I bring my reflexology chair but am prepared to leave it at the door if you would prefer to be treated in bed, on the sofa, anywhere else!
- You are welcome to hold and feed your baby during the session. Parents release oxytocin looking at their baby and a Lafuma also allows a pretty easy feeding position for parents. I have also found (from my clients and my own personal experience) that the relaxing energy you release in a reflexology session calms a baby instantly.
- I always allow the treatment to stop and start if needed. You may need to answer the door, comfort a crying baby, go to the loo… and all of that is OK.
- I use unscented creams or balms. Babies are acutely aware of their parents smell and you do not want to affect this.
- Your treatment will be primarily focussed on relieving anxiety and promoting relaxation. I keep the pressure at a comfortable range; do not overstimulate the head area and work on the endocrine balancing points with care and healing power.
- Finally, I do not talk to you about sensitivities or imbalances. This will be obvious given what your body has gone through in birth. I use the treatment to silently heal.
My main purpose is to give you something you need but don’t think you deserve; to nourish you in a time of fundamental physical and emotional turmoil. I also personally do not recommend offering any sort of baby reflexology unless you are fully trained; I focus on you as you deserve the treatment so much more!
I hope this helps you better understand reflexology and the Fourth Trimester Treatment. Any questions get in touch on the Bloss site and look forward to hearing from you!