The day I walked into Margaret Wallis Duffy's wellness practice in Brampton, Ont., I was a hot mess. Fresh off an emergency C-section, my baby, Tyler, was suffering from severe gas. Indeed, most people call it colic, but I have yet to find a doctor who can clearly define that term. This whole notion of extreme fussiness in what appears to be a perfectly healthy baby never sat well with me. If my gassy baby is so perfectly healthy, why does he seem to be in so much pain?
I knew it was gas. So, I called on Tyler's now fairy godmother, the masseuse. Within five minutes of walking into the clinic, I found myself bawling. A combination of lack of sleep, a constantly cranky baby and feeling utterly useless when it came to understanding his needs, had me plummeting into a downward spiral faster than I could scream, "help me!" Thankfully, help arrived.
Here's what the massage therapist taught me about baby massage for gas:
1. Gas is very common in babies, but some have a tougher time with it than others. While some babies may appear perfectly happy at all times, only fussing when passing gas, others will strain and grunt and turn red in the face. (That was the case with my little one.)
2. The more they cry, the more air they take in. This eventually translates into more gas. It's a vicious cycle for babies having a tough time.
3. You don’t have to watch helplessly. As a caregiver, you can learn some useful massage moves and practise them daily. Check out this free online tutorial by my baby's massage therapist. It helped having it on my computer, especially in the early weeks when I was wondering if I was doing it right.
4. Consistency is key. For the massage to make a difference for your gassy baby, you have to do it often. This means performing the exercises at least three times a day. Wallis Duffy recommends doing several strokes with each diaper change.
5. Timing is key. Wait for at least 30 minutes after a feeding before giving a massage.
6. Listen for sound effects. When giving your baby a massage, keep your ears open for a baring-down sound—as if she or he is trying to have a bowel movement. In my little one, it sounded like a grunt, which meant things were moving along.
7. Allow body language to be your cue. Listen and respond to your baby's body language. If he's frantically crying, it's counterproductive to apply more pressure to the tummy; rather, it's best to calm them down first.
8. Remember: Gas too shall pass. I didn’t believe it while we were going through these painful episodes, but one day they just stopped.
Tyler appeared to be responding well to his treatments. While he spent most of the first visits frantically crying (he did calm down by the end of it and had the best afternoon nap since he was born), I found with each visit there were more smiles and less tears. It took about 10 weeks to see some permanent results in him—which is in part due to his system maturing. But, I truly believe infant massage gave my little man temporary relief and now he’s the happiest six-month-old around.
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