Colic is defined as severe, fluctuating pain in the abdomen, caused by gas or an obstruction in the intestines. When a newborn baby suffers from colic, they tend to cry or be fussy, even though they are otherwise healthy. Approximately 20 to 25 of all babies experience clinical colic. Pediatricians now think all babies actually suffer from this affliction, but only 20 to 25 percent cry incessantly due to the discomfort of the condition. Colic tends to peak at about six to eight weeks after birth and generally clears up by nine months of age. Those months can be rough for everybody, though.
There is no definite answer as to why newborns develop or experience colic. One of the suspected causes is dairy in the mother’s diet. Studies have confirmed this is a viable cause for many infants. Colic may also be caused by overfeeding, feeding too quickly, an immature nervous system and even mothers who smoke. Regardless of the cause, a baby that won’t stop crying is never an easy thing to deal with. Everybody feels the stress and exhaustion caused by the lack of sleep.
While there is no proven cure for colic, studies do confirm that holding the baby is the most effective. By adding in abdominal massage while holding the baby, both mom and infant can bond and hopefully reap some healing benefits.
There are a couple of things to remember when giving your infant a massage. The first is that your hands need to be warm. Cold hands can actually stall digestion by slowing down the metabolic processes in the gut. Also, the pressure must not be too heavy. Too much pressure will make the pain in the abdomen worse. Be sure to use some sort of lubricating oil on the skin, so that your hands glide smoothly. Lastly, alternating between both hands will be easier for you and provide more connection with your child.
Just like with adult massage, infant massage can be very beneficial. Regular massage increases the production of feel good hormones like serotonin. This can lead to an improved overall state of mind that can help alleviate pain. Studies have shown when babies feel better mentally, they also feel better physically.
Another way massage helps with colic is by improving sleep. When cortisol levels are too high in the body due to stress, infants may have difficulty sleeping. With insomnia comes less healing of the physical body. Getting a massage is very relaxing for most people, including babies, and this helps to lower the cortisol levels in the body, allowing the little ones to sleep more and improve their pain.
Studies also show that massaging both the belly and the back are beneficial for infants with colic. There tends to be a lot of gas in the intestines of babies with colic. By gently massaging both the front and back, you can help to release those gas bubbles through the gastrointestinal tract, thus relieving pressure and pain.
For babies with colic, giving them a massage multiple times a day can prove to be strong medicine. Your bond with your baby strengthens and your baby will be able to sleep better and possibly expel the gas that is binding up their gut. Help your baby out and give his or her belly a rub. It will be good for both of you.