Have you ever known a baby who just won’t stop crying, even with a full belly, clean diaper, and lots of snuggles?
There’s really nothing that can fully describe the gut-wrenching feeling of your child repeatedly crying for no clear reason. In the moment, nothing seems to exist except their crying, and your instinctual need to fix it.
Colic is a challenging condition with an unknown cause and is the source of serious anguish for parents who would love nothing more than a peaceful baby. Rather than being blissed out on sleepy snuggles, all your thoughts feel scrambled and with all the frantic crying, you end up putting the shampoo in the refrigerator or your coffee in the bathtub by mistake.
Perhaps you’re frantically rocking, swaying, and bouncing that inconsolable baby right now. Or maybe you’re an expecting parent who’s heard about colic and wants to plan ahead with tools to avoid it altogether.
The age-old practice of infant massage is gaining fresh popularity recently as a remedy for colic.
One gentle massage technique, in particular, could totally change your relationship with your baby in as little as 15 minutes a day.
Colic Is A Common Problem For Infants
If your baby cries for at least three hours a day, for three or more days a week, for three months, they fit the definition of a “colicky” baby. Colic is a problem for up to 1 out of every 5 babies. While the main cause of infant colic isn’t known, there are many theories. Some think it’s the result of digestive struggles, while other doctors believe that the gassiness is actually caused by all the crying. New research even shows pediatric migraine may be a possible cause.
Although it’s not dangerous for the baby, colic can take a serious toll on the mental health and relationships within the household. Every new parent will stop at nothing to solve their child’s discomfort, but when that seems unachievable it can leave them feeling inadequate or doubting themselves as a parent.
It’s important to mention that you should see your pediatrician for your baby’s fussiness to rule out any other possible cause, especially if you’re unable to console them even with the noises, movements, or other soothing techniques that typically help.
Colic often disappears as mysteriously as it began, commonly resolving on its own by 3 or 4 months of age. But in the lingering frantic hours until then, parents of a colicky baby will try just about anything to find some relief.
How Does Baby Massage Work?
Infant massage is a wellness tool used by parents for thousands of years around the world. This gentle yet powerful approach to infant health can help relieve extremely fussy babies.
Massage is a safe and effective treatment for colic in infants. Compared to other potential colic treatments, the risk of side effects is extremely low and the treatment itself is enjoyable for the parent and child.
Massage has been shown to lead to less crying and more sleep in one study of babies with colic. The 15-20 minute massage from this study – performed once during the day and again just before bedtime – worked even better than rocking for the babies who participated.
Both parents and massage therapists can perform infant massage techniques. The main role of the massage therapist in an infant massage is as a teacher, as they demonstrate how the parent can use infant massage to soothe their child.
You may want the massage therapist to complete the first massage for your infant themselves while you watch. Or, you may just want to take the tips in this article and give it a try for yourself. There’s no wrong way to go about it. Try things out and find what works for your baby!
The Many Added Benefits Of Baby Massage
There are many benefits to infant massage beyond its ability to relieve colic. Baby massage has been proven to strengthen the mother-baby connection, a welcome aid for moms who want to ensure their baby feels safe and loved. And good news for dads: baby massage can strengthen paternal-infant bonds as well.
One study of massage performed on infants born prematurely showed that the moderate pressure and manipulation of their limbs led to greater weight gain and increased bone density. Because the babies receiving massage gained weight more quickly, it reduced the length of their hospital stay, which meant getting home for snuggles sooner.
Trying Baby Massage At Home
If you’re ready to try baby massage, your first step is to set the stage. Be sure you’re in a warm, calm environment free of bright lights, loud noises, or other distractions for your baby.
Placing the baby on their stomach, begin at the head and use the flat part of the fingers to stroke down the neck, shoulder to buttocks. Complete this motion 12 times with the strokes lasting for five seconds each. Using a moderate to firm stroke is more helpful than light strokes.
Next roll the baby gently onto their back, and perform 12 more strokes of 5 seconds each beginning on the face, moving down the cheeks, chest, belly, and down the arms and legs to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
For the third and final phase of the massage the baby will remain on their back and you’ll do passive range of motion exercises, flexing and extending the baby’s ankle, knee, elbow, and shoulder joints.
Of course, you can begin with just one of these three phases and gradually add more movements each time you return to the practice with your baby. Using a gentle lubricant such as olive oil, coconut oil, or sunflower seed oil can reduce the feeling of friction on your baby’s skin and enhance the effect of the massage. You can sing a song each time you run through the sequence so your baby gets used to the pattern and your auditory cues let them know what to expect next.
According to Dr. Anjali Kulkarni and his fellow authors of a study on infant massage, “The massage can be interrupted for a few minutes when the baby passes stool/urine or cries excessively…[and] massage with oil makes the baby more alert, and shows fewer stress behaviors as compared to those massaged without oil.”
How Frequently Should You Do Baby Massage?
Try to go through this massage routine at least once per day before bedtime, or two to three times per day for the best results. Make sure not to massage your baby’s stomach within the hour after feeding to avoid pressure that may upset their full stomach.