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New parent?

Susie Gower offers some advice on looking after yourself too

'Put cold cabbage leaves on them'.

'Pardon?' This was Alice's response when, too dog tired to read the professional advice, she turned to her mum for help. Alice was suffering from engorged breasts and her current challenge was how to stop her chest feeling like someone had doused it in acid. Actually the cabbage leaf trick is a great one, but while no one expects parenthood to be easy, few new mums are really prepared for the challenges a new baby brings.

Alice has just endured 24, perhaps 48, heaven forbid 72 hours of labour (and yes, it's called that for good reason) and since then has had minimal sleep (even if baby wasn't insisting on being awake all night she probably wouldn't sleep a wink anyway), is probably feeling the effects of a different diet (cook what? – I can't get to the shop), is likely to be suffering anxiety (is baby taking enough milk? Is she warm enough? Is she latching on? Is she breathing?) and is almost certainly going to be wrestling with a whole new set of hormones.

Sound familiar? Being a new mum is really very hard, and it's easy to think, especially when you're sleep-deprived, 'I'm not cut out for this'.

Let's rewind. Nine months of growing and nurturing this miracle of life – and she is finally here! She is the most beautiful thing in the world. But these feelings of elation are often quickly replaced by fear as the realisation hits that this helpless little person is entirely dependent on you. The feelings of responsibility can be completely overwhelming.

As a mum it is easy to dismiss your own needs in favour of those of your newborn child. But looking after yourself could be the best thing you do for your baby. Some advice is common sense - eat well, rest often and never say no to well-intentioned help from family and friends. (Remember that you're not Superwoman, even if in a previous life you used to obliterate your targets every month and now your main goal is brushing your teeth before the health visitor arrives.) However the physiological changes that have occurred in your body since giving birth are not within your control and any negative states of mind experienced are likely to be due to hormones racing around your body. To calm these you could benefit from some help.

Reflexology is a gentle, non-invasive, therapy that makes a great gift for a new mum, but isn't simply an indulgence. After your pregnancy comes to an end, it is important to rebalance the hormone levels in your body. By having some reflexology treatments a new mum may be able to avoid conditions like post-natal depression. Also, during the first six to eight weeks of your baby's life, the reproductive organs in your body are gradually returning to their non-pregnant condition, which is understandably a time of significant emotional, physical and hormonal change. Reflexology's balancing, harmonising and restorative qualities can be very helpful in supporting the body while it returns to its natural state.

The production of breast milk is also controlled by hormones and working the endocrine system within a treatment may help with maintaining or increasing milk supply and can also be beneficial in helping to return your menstrual cycle to normal.

New mothers seek reflexology for a variety of other reasons too. As well as reducing anxiety and stress and coping with disturbed sleep, treatments can also help to boost immunity, reduce breast engorgement, increase energy, assist with weight loss, reduce any back and joint pain and help with constipation whilst restoring emotional well being.

Susie Gower, a reflexologist and Reiki Master Teacher specialising in therapy for preconception, pregnancy, babies and children, has been helping clients for many years with symptoms like these, and holds regular clinics at Ginger Natural Health in St Albans. With her years of experience as a maternity reflexologist, Susie is a local expert on alternative and natural health for all the family. Susie was heavily involved in the creation of baby reflex, a new and innovative style of reflexology workshops which teach parents how to soothe, calm and relax their baby naturally. Susie runs these workshops from the clinic along with specialised programmes for conception and pregnancy. She offers Mum and Baby appointments, and 'Dad and Me Time', an original approach to reflexology which offers specially adapted reflexology techniques to fathers with the aim of helping boost their confidence when it comes to comforting and calming their new baby.

By bringing about a deep state of relaxation, reflexology is a highly effective therapy which has been known to bring about many incredible results. By allowing yourself some essential pampering what you will really be giving yourself as a new mum is some well-deserved time out. After having a baby 'me time' will be at an absolute premium for many years to come; a regular reflexology treatment in your life is the best gift you can give yourself – and your new family.

For more information, contact Susie Gower at Well Being Therapies on 07857 352169 or visit www.well-being-therapies.co.uk.

This is the third in a series of articles by Susie Gower. Read the others: Starting a family and Advice on having another baby

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