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Some Common Baby Concerns and How Baby Massage Can Help
Please do seek medical advice to rule out any serious conditions and if you are in any way worried about your baby’s health. The following information is my personal opinion and experience and should be taken as such. I am not a medical professional, just speaking from personal experience and from the hundreds of parents and babies I have been in contact with.
Enough to strike fear into any parent, colic isn’t even a ‘real’ condition – in that it is a term used when a baby is crying for a prolonged period of time for no discernible reason, and usually in the evening. There is a rule of threes – three hours of crying more than three times a week, up to three months of age. Apparently there are new rules – starts within three weeks, for three weeks or more but between you and me I think the last two were just to invent new rules of three. Also known as infant colic, infantile colic or baby colic, unlike the horse variety, colic isn’t life threatening – only sanity threatening. Dealing with a screaming baby, often in the evening (also known as the witching hours between 5 and 8 – you know, just when your partner gets home and you want to wind down) day in, day out can test the patience of a saint. Suddenly all the smug/lucky/lying mums with their angels settling at 7pm sharp after a Gina Ford-esque style routine and eyes are cast skywards for a ‘why me’ moment.
Fear not! We have tips to help and downloads available. But first I just want to advise you to look after yourselves – get Dad, granny, auntie or whoever to take up the slack – 5 minutes of peace (yes it is OK to walk out the front door and keep on walking for a while when your baby is in safe hands) is worth a great deal when you have been pacing the floor since tea. A massage, a bath, a still-hot cup of tea – all quite rare yet important so make some time for yourself – please? I would imagine that online support groups within the baby websites will also yield a plethora of similarly dishevelled and desperate for tips parents so at least when the only position that helps is bolt upright against your shoulder, you can surf the ‘net with your free hand. Sympathy may be in short supply from your similarly stressed and exhausted partner so feel free to vent to others instead.
One of the greatest benefits of baby massage is the effect on colicky babies, coupled with the enjoyment of parents spending some non-screaming/pacing time with baby. My advice would be two-fold – a full massage routine carried out at a calm time of the day (usually morning, after the feed has gone down fully (maybe one hour) as a regular feature, plus use the emergency tips featured in No Cry Baby to help ease symptoms of the colic itself. Of course your baby won’t be so amenable during a colic episode but I would hope that symptoms would ease over time with the techniques shown in the full massage routine.
A ‘concern’ very close my heart. Having had two children with reflux I think I have most of it covered; Infant Gaviscon (lifesaver – get it on prescription), raised head of the bed, changes of clothes, tea towels to protect clothing (forget muslins – projectile vomiting laughs in the face of such flimsy material), car mirror to monitor baby in the back rear facing car seats for those been-sick-all-over-my-face-and-in-the-deepest-recesses-of-the-car-seat moments), Infacol (use every day even when symptoms have subsided) and basically waiting for them to sit up more and start weaning which is really when it stops and you move onto something else to be worried about.
There are moves within the Massage for Happy Babies that will help with reflux, and a particular reflexology technique that can help – it is a bit difficult to explain in writing so feel free to email me for tips (and sympathy).
Constipation and difficulty going to the toilet can be really distressing for both babies and parents. As the child becomes more aware, they can begin to hold back which compounds the problem and to see a child becoming increasingly upset because they do not want to go to the toilet is difficult. Of course there are varying degrees of constipation from the newborn baby who hasn’t been for a day or two to the toddler who had developed a real fear and is in visible distress as the time for going to the toilet nears. Of course seek medical advice but be prepared for medical intervention in the more severe cases – use in conjunction with more natural alternatives to help; cooled boiled water, warm baths, water rich and high fibre foods for the weaned baby and, you guessed it, massage! Massaging the abdomen in a clockwise direction is simple and effective. Following the direction of the colon makes perfect sense and massaging quite deep into the area (watch your baby at all times for any signs of distress) can gently and effectively move food and waste products through the digestive system. The ascending, traverse and descending colon can also be traced and stimulated through reflexes on the feet, which are in a ‘goalpost’ shape on the underside of the two feet together, ending in a reflex for the rectum just on the inside edge of the left foot. I have had a 100% success rate with stimulating this point on the smallest babies to the largest grown-ups and having a ‘result’ – usually within hours if not minutes. Often the results of gently stimulating this point were instantaneous during my group baby massage classes!
Trapped Wind/Winding Problems
Anyone who has tried to get back to sleep with a squirming, grunting, plain noisy little angel thrashing around in the Moses basket next to your head will identify with this concern. Often simply due to their immature digestive system, wind and the extracting of it can become a family obsession (note how the male of the species turns it into a competition) with a round of cheers for each burp and the visible relaxing of the mother. Rubbing or patting furiously can sometimes be ineffective so try some simple moves; hanging arms up and over the shoulder, or gently circling him/her round and round whilst supporting under the chin. Gently cycling the legs and then pushing the legs up towards the head can stimulate the stomach and often raising the bottom to be the highest point in the air can result in a fantastic expulsion of wind – perhaps worthy of a standing ovation? Of course massaging the feet, particularly the centre underside, will also help. Some other environmental factors are watching your diet if breastfeeding (cabbage and sprouts often the culprits) and checking your latch or bottle teat to check baby isn’t swallowing too much air when feeding.
Bonding is a mythical beast – to some it comes naturally, to others it grows over time and anyway it is impossible to define. Like love in the movies, parent and child bonding is often romanticised and dramatised and an image of perfection is projected out from magazines and television. Personally I found my small babies fascinating rather than feeling that immediate rush of overwhelming love (I mean, I got a rush of something when they were born, but I could be mistaking it for relief). They were more like small aliens who had landed in my pre-baby life of generally doing my own thing to my own schedule. Babies as a breed can be rather demanding and exhausting and well, a bit boring at times, as well as amazing and incredible and all the good stuff too. The early days can be quite one way – a lot of giving with very little back – until the first smile of course – suddenly it has all been worth it and the relationship becomes much more balanced. Following a simple baby massage routine gives you both exclusive one-on-one time and really gets you in tune with your baby as well as giving you more confidence in handling them. Over time they will come to recognise the signals for the start of the massage and become excited as they associate the good feelings with the rituals of oil, towel, asking their permission to start (verbally or silently is fine) and will be very responsive. The sight of small babies kicking their feet and waving their arms when they see the massage oil coming out is one to behold. Of course massage isn’t the only way to strengthen the bond with your child, it is simply and extension of the natural touching, stroking, comforting moves of everyday life.
Post Natal Depression
PND is a medical condition far from the baby blues that many women experience, and obviously I would advise seeking medical help if you haven’t already done so. It affects 1 in 10 women following the birth of their babies and early diagnosis and treatment will result in faster recovery. A study carried out by the Imperial College of London compared mothers with PND who attended a support group to a group that attended a five week infant massage course. At the end of the test period it found that the massage group had significantly reduced feelings of depression and very significantly better interaction with their babies than the control group (www.imperial.ac.uk). Support from family, peers and even online communities can be very beneficial alongside performing massage on your baby. Even five minutes a day during a nappy change can bring all the benefits to both of you. Getting dad or another family member involved in massage can give you a break too. I would also advise getting a regular massage or reflexology session for yourself. As a professional therapist I have seen firsthand the power of regular, nurturing touch on the wellbeing of my clients.
Dads can be anywhere on the scale from totally hands-on to totally hands-off and most are somewhere in between. Getting involved in a massage routine with their baby can bring benefits such as increased bonding, improved confidence and generally being in tune together. It creates some special time for them (and let’s face it – a guaranteed break for you) which can be especially important if you are feeding, or they work long, stressful hours. It is also practical and tangible and has ‘instructions’ to follow – at the risk of being horribly sexist – it ticks the boxes in the male psyche… something they can learn, practice and be the best at!
For Adopted and Fostered Babies
As we have discussed, massage has been proven to increase closeness as well as all the fantastic benefits for carers and babies. Massage is a great ‘getting to know you’ tool and enforces the power of positive touch. For babies that may not have experienced loving touch, or have experienced pain or suffering, massage can work wonders and the benefits can be seen very quickly. Trust has to be earned and boundaries respected however gentle massage is a perfect non-verbal way to express your love for them.
Premature babies and babies with special needs.
Premature babies are always so close to my heart as my nephew was born at 25 weeks in 1996 when I was 15. He is now a strapping teenager but I remember so vividly seeing his tiny, bird like body covered in tubes and wires and a tiny hat in what seemed like the biggest incubator ever. The nurses and doctors worked miracles and he has no health problems and we are blessed. The benefits of ‘kangaroo care’ (skin to skin contact) on the growth of prem babies are well documented and I see gentle massage as an extension of this. With all the tubes and needles, and the necessary medical intervention a fragile tiny baby has initially faced a great deal of negative touch so gentle stroking, touching, holding and feather light massaging will help to reverse this experience.
Special needs babies are obviously all different and it is beyond the scope of this piece to cover all conditions and how massage can help individual situations. I would advise talking to your consultant and discussing what is and is not suitable in your particular case. Particularly in the case of sensory deprivation the experience of touch brings great benefits as the other senses are heightened.
In summary I cannot imagine any circumstance where gentle touch and massage would not be beneficial.
To download Massage for Happy Babies or No Cry Baby – Tips for Calming, Colic and Wind please visit http://www.newstorktimes.co.uk
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