You may have seen my article on the Fourth Trimester Treatment in the AOR magazine Reflexions. If you haven’t, here is the article in full and I hope you enjoy it.
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 postnatal clients. Their focus has shifted to their new baby (for all the reasons above!) meaning that their 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 to help you better support your postnatal clients.
The first point to make is that the Fourth Trimester Treatment isn’t just a reflexology treatment. It is how you make your client think, feel and be in the moment. So unravel all you think you know about how to treat your client and think about it from their point of view.
- If you have any pregnancy clients make sure you talk about the importance of postpartum selfcare, including reflexology. Offer a treatment in that first month and book it in before the baby is born.
- Always treat at their house, on their terms. Bring your Lafuma but be prepared to leave it at the door if the client would prefer to be treated in bed, on the sofa, anywhere else!
- Let them hold and feed their 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.
- Allow the treatment to stop and start if needed. The client may need to answer the door, comfort a crying baby, go to the loo… and all of that is OK.
- Use unscented creams or balms. Babies are acutely aware of their parents smell and you do not want to affect this.
- Your treatment should be primarily focussed on relieving anxiety and promoting relaxation. 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, do not talk to the client about sensitivities or imbalances. This will be obvious given what they are going through. Use the treatment to silently heal.
Your main purpose should be to give the parent something they need but don’t think they deserve; to nourish them in a time of fundamental physical and emotional turmoil. I personally do not recommend offering any sort of baby reflexology unless you are fully trained; focus on the parent as they deserve the treatment so much more!
Most importantly, remember that you are doing something amazing to help and heal a new parent, giving them the strength to care for others. So enjoy the treatment and make sure the client knows that by looking after themselves they are in turn improving their ability to look after their baby.
Meg is running Fourth Trimester Treatment CPD courses in 2020. Get in touch if you are interested.
Meg is also conducting research into how reflexology can reduce stress in postnatal mums in the Fourth Trimester. She is looking for reflexologists to take part in the study. If you are interested please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org