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All of the potential challenges of conception, pregnancy and delivery are supposed to dissipate with the arrival of a new bundle of joy. However, for the parents of an estimated 20 percent of newborns, infant colic can easily hamper that joy. Although a bodyworker may not see babies in their practice, they can indirectly improve a colicky situation. By sharing massage therapy’s colic-easing techniques with a frazzled mom or dad, therapists can help relieve both the baby’s and parent’s discomfort.
While all babies cry, some do so far more than others. Despite being healthy, well fed and well cared for, some babies cry inconsolably. Clinically defined as crying more than three hours a day, three days a week for more than three weeks in an otherwise well fed, healthy baby, infant colic usually starts a few weeks after birth. Incredibly frustrating and largely unexplained, colic often improves by the time a baby reaches being three months old.
A baby with colic typically exhibits:
- A very loud, inconsolable cry
- A red face
- A tense, hard abdomen
- Drawn-up legs
- Clenched fists
Since all of colic’s signs definitely indicate a distressed baby, a physician must be consulted to rule out a serious problem. A parent should call his or her baby’s doctor or go to an emergency room, if:
- The baby has not previously been evaluated by a doctor for constant crying for more than three hours or the cries are unusually shrill or intense
- The baby seems to be in pain or acts sick
- The baby’s temperature is over 100.5 º F
- The baby is vomiting or has diarrhea
- The parents are afraid of hurting their baby or feel as if they cannot care for their baby
No one is really sure what causes colic, but many experts suspect the following to be contributors:
- Intestinal gas
- Food sensitivity
- Immature nervous system
Luckily, colic is not considered to be harmful to the baby.
Whether it is massage’s release of mood-elevating endorphins, the relaxed state clients enter or its reduction in stress hormones, many people suffering with depression are known to benefit from massage therapy. Thus, new mothers tormented by postpartum depression often find some degree of relief from a nurturing massage session.
While it is no surprise that a colicky infant is especially upsetting for the parents, a Brown Medical School study proved a connection between colicky babies and postpartum depression. Presented in May 2006 at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ Annual Meeting in San Francisco, researchers estimated that approximately 45 percent of mothers of colicky babies reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms. In addition to directly helping women affected by this kind of depression, massage therapists can also help the root of the problem indirectly. By teaching infant massage techniques for reducing colic, therapists can pass on a treasured skill for keeping a newborn’s home peaceful.
Massage for Colic
Primarily based on the premises that infant colic is due to trapped gas, an underdeveloped digestive system and a highly sensitive nervous system, massage therapy can work wonders on an inconsolable infant. Using techniques to stimulate the digestive process and calm the nervous system, parents may have more power to help their baby then they previously realized.
Teaching your clients how to massage their babies can be explained verbally or demonstrated on yourself. Several moves are described below:
- Direct Digestive Energy Down – Using a little massage oil or lotion on your hands, place your palm under the infant’s chin, with fingers pointing towards the child’s shoulder. Draw your hand downward along the chest, towards his or her diaper. Repeat with slow, gentle motions.
- Breakup Abdominal Gas – Place the infant’s heel next to his or her bottom by bending the knee. With the leg still bent, move the thigh towards his or her stomach until it rests on the abdomen. Move the other leg to this position as well. Slowly and carefully move the legs in a bicycle pattern.
- Move Food and Gas Stagnation – Using as much of your palm and fingers as possible, circle the baby’s belly button in a clockwise motion.
- Induce Relaxation – Using only the thumbs, massage the sole of the baby’s feet before bedtime at least 100 times. Remember to keep an even and smooth rhythm to the massage to help the infant relax.
Because an infant’s body is much more responsive to touch than an adult’s, only five minutes of massage several times a day is sufficient to strengthen digestion and generate relaxation.
Massage therapists have two ways to help a family with a colicky infant. A relaxing massage session for the parent can improve postpartum depression or the stress of a colicky new family member. Perhaps even more valuable, therapists can also give their clients a tactile skill for bringing peace into their home. By teaching clients with newborns how to massage away their baby’s colic, therapists can effectively help them reduce their baby’s discomfort. And anyone who has ever had an infant with colic knows – that is the most precious gift possible.
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