Reflexology as a treatment for babies with colic - does it work?

Reflexology is a manipulative form of treatment that is classified as a complementary treatment. It is used to treat a wide range of ailments and symptoms in addition to medical treatments. The reflexologist treats the reflex points in the body, which are partly the same as in acupuncture. The treatment aims to activate the body's own healing processes and achieve a balanced state of the body.

Up to 20% of newborns suffer from colic. A definition of colic is as follows: A baby aged 3 weeks to 4 months cries inconsolably for at least 3 hours a day for at least 3 days a week, for at least 3 weeks.

For parents, the inconsolable crying of a baby causes great concern and stress. There is no medical treatment for colic. There is anecdotal evidence that some babies have received help from reflexology.

In Finland, a pilot study about the effects of reflexology was done in cooperation with Helsinki University Hospitals, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, Lohja Hospital, Lohja City Councils, and the Finnish Federation of Natural Medicine. The aim was to map parents' reflexology experiences during infant colic and the effects of reflexology on infant colic symptoms and parental stress. The material was collected in Lohja, Finland, in 2018.

During this study, 37 babies with colic were treated using the baby reflexology method.

Parents agreed on treatments with a reflexologist. Infants in the study were given reflexology treatments three to four times over 8 to 12 days. One treatment session lasted about half an hour, but the families were given an hour for treatment, filling out a symptom diary, sharing experiences, and breastfeeding the baby if necessary. Often the baby soiled her nappy or chattered during treatment, which is a completely normal reaction to the treatment. After the treatment, the feed was necessary, and the baby usually had a good sleep.

In a study in Lohja, the babies' symptoms were relieved after only three to four treatments.

Babies in the study were, on average, 2.8 weeks old when colic symptoms began. Babies cried an average of 3.8 hours a day, with a maximum crying time of up to 8 hours, with a minimum of one to three hours a day. Parents reported that about half (43%) of children had complete resolution of colic during reflexology treatments. In the remaining 57% of infants, colic symptoms persisted, although usually milder.

All parents thought that the treatment affected the baby's colic symptoms. The parents said reflexology relaxed and calmed the baby, reduced body tension, colic crying, restless movement, improved sleep quality, and facilitated the function of the stomach. The parents felt the baby was in safe hands in the care of the therapists.

Although this study was small, it indicated that reflexology could help reduce colic symptoms in small babies.

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