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Colic in babies. What it is, and what to do?

Updated: Sep 1

What is Colic?

Colic can be defined as:

1. Uncontrollable, extended crying in babies who are otherwise healthy and well-fed

2.  Crying for more than three hours a day, three to four days a week

3. This crying can occur at any time of day, but it usually gets worse at night time

4. It’s not believed that colic is caused by pain


A colicky baby may look uncomfortable or may appear to be in pain. They may lift their head, draw their legs up to their abdomen, pass gas and become red-faced. It can be quite distressing for a parent to watch their infant suffering from the symptoms of colic, as their baby can appear to be quite uncomfortable and in pain.


What can we do to help?

Gentle massage can bring relief to some infants experiencing colic. Always consult with your medical practitioner before implementing any treatment, and to ensure an appropriate diagnosis.

Colic in most cases is associated with an immature digestive tract. Gentle massage to your baby’s chest and tummy can assist with stimulating digestion, and reduce the symptoms of colic. In addition, your baby will probably have a lot of trapped gas that is causing additional discomfort. If this is the case, a gentle massage may help the baby pass gas, reducing the discomfort.

Gentle Massage Techniques

Before starting any massage on your baby:

1. Ensure the room is warm enough (especially if removing your child’s clothing)

2. Warm your hands by rubbing them together, or running them under some warm water for a few minutes

3. Create a relaxing environment by performing massage in a comforting room with familiar surroundings such as a favorite toy or music to keep your baby relaxed

4. More importantly, remain relaxed yourself

Put a small drop of baby oil/lotion in your hands and rub together to warm. Show your baby what you are doing, this way they will start to associate the sight and sound with what comes next.

When performing massage strokes, use very gentle pressure. Always observe your baby, making sure they are comfortable with the massage. Feel free to try a lighter pressure or use a different stroke as you become more confident. Cease massage if your baby becomes agitated.

1. Begin your massage with a popular massage technique called the Paddlewheel. Use your fingers to make a paddlewheel-type motion on your baby’s belly, from the bottom of his ribs towards his groin. Think of it as scooping a little hole in the warm sand on the beach. Repeat this two or three times, then rest your hand on the baby’s belly again. At this point, the baby may pass gas or lift his knees up towards your hand. If your baby lifts up his/her knees, use your hand to support their legs and wait a few seconds to see if they pass gas.

2. Once you have completed the Paddlewheel massage, try the following technique to help move any gas or build up in your baby’s digestive tract. This move requires a little finesse, but always gentle pressure. Push your baby’s legs into a sharp angle so their heels are touching their bottom. Then keeping the legs bent gently push the thighs down to their belly. Be gentle when moving your baby’s legs into this position. Then hold your baby by the ankles and begin moving the legs up and down rhythmically and gently so that their knees gradually unbend and end up straight again. Do this five or 10 times.

3. Finally, place your palm and fingers on your baby’s belly and move them in a circular clockwise motion. This helps get the gas moving in the right direction. As soon as your baby passes gas they should feel much better.

We encourage parents to do this gentle massage two to three times a day. The best time is about half an hour after feeding and when the baby is in a quiet, alert state.

Harmony Physiotherapy Can Help!

At Harmony Physiotherapy, we treat pediatric patients using gentle mobilizations of the joints spine, muscle, and other soft tissue massage techniques. The primary objective in these cases is to treat any muscular or joint tightness . Please visit Harmony Physiotherapy for an assessment. We can perform a screening exam of your baby to help identify the correct course of treatment, working in close coordination with your Pediatrician and Physician.

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