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Does Infant Massage Relieve Colic?

Who doesn’t like a good massage? Nothing takes away life’s stress like someone rubbing you and getting the kinks out. Why would babies feel any different? Infant massage has been gaining more and more popularity over the years, and now it seems as if massage can help colic too.

No one knows exactly what causes colic. The University of Michigan Health System‘s website states, “No one is really sure, but there are a few suspected causes, such as intestinal gas, food sensitivity or allergy, or an immature nervous system. This last idea speculates that Baby’s immature nervous system can’t handle the stimuli of everyday life, and that crying is their only way of communicating this “overload.” An opposite hypothesis is that Baby needs more stimulation, and gets it through crying. Colic is mysterious, but not harmful to your baby.” What does seem certain is that many times there is trapped air and gas, and baby’s tummy is rigid and tense, so it would make sense that you’d want to try and work that gas out, and ease your baby’s pain by skin to skin touch. This is where massage enters.

One woman from the La Leche League website wrote that her babies abdomens were always too tight to do massage during a feeding, so she would do it at every diaper change. This seemed to do a world of good and she would notice that if she missed a massage during the day, they would cry at night. (By the way–can you imagine having multiples with colic? My goodness, I thought I had it rough with one!) The three moves she did are described below:

Part One is called the paddlewheel. Place your palm under the baby’s chin, with your fingers pointing toward his shoulder. (It doesn’t matter which hand you begin with since you will use both.) Draw your hand down his chest, and into the diaper area. Your stroke should be smooth and firm enough that you feel the “dip” when your hand leaves his ribcage. As your hand is around the belly button, place the opposite hand under the chin and stroke downward, so your hands are making circles over the baby, with one hand always stroking. Do this until your hands/arms begin to tire.

Part Two: Baby is still flat on his back. Place the baby’s heel up next to his bottom by bending his knee sharply. Move the leg, still sharply bent, until the top of the thigh rests against the tummy. Get both legs in this position. The baby may be a tad confused at first, but later he will actually assist you-babies love this so! Grab the baby’s ankles and gently shake his legs in an up-and-down motion, unbending the knees gradually, until his heels rest on the blanket and his legs are straight. Repeat many times. You may also help the baby “ride a bicycle” by holding his feet and pumping his legs. This is not part of the “official” massage, but my babies loved doing it.

Part Three: Using as much of your fingers/palm as possible, circle the belly button in a clockwise motion. This gets any remaining gas moving in the proper direction for the baby to easily pass it. Another way to do this is to rub clockwise “parentheses” around the belly button, i.e., if the belly button is the center of a clock, one hand moves from ten to one o’clock and the other from four to seven.

If you’d like to learn more, Amazon has a great selection of books (click here to see) on infant massage. You can also check out a infant massage class which you can do with your baby. And watch the video that is posted above–it’s the first in a series which demonstrates varied massage techniques to help colic.

Although we don’t know what’s causing our baby’s pain, we could focus on relieving it. If massage seems to do that, then it’s an easy, bonding experience which mother’s of colicky babies swear by.

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