by Ken Howard and Jyothi Larson

Find out how certain types of touch can calm even the most colicky infants

No new parent needs to be told to cuddle and touch her baby. But did you know that specific kinds of touch can facilitate weight gain in preemies or help settle down baby colic? Research has shown that infant massage calms baby colic, improves sleeping patterns, and helps premature or ill infants who have trouble nursing to latch on and breastfeed successfully.

Even when your newborn is full-term, an easygoing infant massage has great benefits. “Any loving touch is good touch,” says Susie Plechner, a certified infant massage instructor and spokeswoman for the International Association of Infant Massage, “but massage is one of the best ways to bond with your baby.”

Here are four basic steps to infant massage that soothe your baby’s colic at home:

1. To get started, lay your baby on her back, either on a blanket on the floor next to you or on your lap, with her head near your knees. Talk to her in a soothing voice to help her relax. If you wish, put a dab of unscented massage oil in the palms of your hands. (Avoid oils that are made from nuts, since they may cause an allergic reaction.)

2. Begin by massaging your baby’s legs. Hold one foot in one hand and use the other hand to “milk” the leg, moving from ankle to thigh. Then, hold the thigh with both hands as if you were holding a baseball bat. Use a very gentle twisting and squeezing motion as you move your hands from thigh to foot. Now, roll the leg between your hands from knee to ankle. To finish, lightly stroke the legs from thigh to feet.

3. To massage your colicky baby’s abdomen, slide your palm and fingers in a hand-over-hand circular motion, moving gently from the rib cage downward. Now slide both hands around the abdomen in clockwise, circular movements.

4. If your baby has gas, add the “I Love U” stroke — a time-tested tummy relaxer. Start with a downward stroke for the “I” on baby’s left side. Then stroke along an imaginary upside-down “L” in the center of baby’s belly and finish by stroking along an upside-down “U” on baby’s right.

To get more information about baby colic and infant massage and to find a catalog of massage books, videos and oils, visit the International Association of Infant Massage website.

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