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Massage for Colic

Karen Zeretzke
Baton Rouge LA USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 15 No. 1, January - February 1998, p. 13

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

One morning, when the first of my high-need babies was a few days old, I got a cryptic call from a friend. She said "Turn on Donahue!" and hung up. Intrigued, I complied and tuned my television to the talk show. There I saw a demonstration of infant colic massage. It has literally saved my sanity with two of our children-who had colic-when elimination diets gave us no respite.

I found the colic massage did not work during the actual crying episodes, as the baby's abdomen was too rigid to be massaged. So I used the massage every time we changed a diaper. We did this for many months and if I skipped the massage during the day, I paid for it at night. The babies and I enjoyed the time spent massaging. It didn't take long for my husband and the older siblings to learn the massage. They, too, liked the skin-to-skin contact with the baby-along with the chuckles and chortles.

Here's a description of infant massage: The colic massage I was taught consists of three parts. Before you begin, drizzle some oil on your hands and rub them together enough so your hands glide on your baby's skin but don't leave his skin looking shiny. Some people prefer to use a special massage oil, however any oil will do, even vegetable oil from the kitchen. Undress baby, but leave the diaper on loosely. Sometimes babies pass more than gas! Place the baby on his back on a washable blanket, in case the oil stains it. Always keep a hand on the baby!

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.

There are books on infant massage that offer more detailed information about how to do massage and why it is helpful. One that I found helpful was Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents, by Vimala Schneider McClure.

The entire massage can take as long as you and the baby are having fun. I found that about five minutes minimum per diaper change was what it took for a bearable evening!

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