massage for infantile colic

For babies in this research study, massage therapy was significantly more effective than rocking in reducing colic symptoms.

Massage therapy applied twice daily for one week resulted in a significant decrease in duration and frequency of crying among colicky babies, as well as a significant increase in duration of sleep, according to recent research.

The study, “The effectiveness of massage therapy in the treatment of infantile colic symptoms: a randomized controlled trial,” involved 100 colicky infants younger than 12 weeks old. The researchers defined a colicky baby as one who cries for at least three hours a day, three days a week, for three weeks in a row.

For the study, these colicky babies were randomly assigned to the massage group or the rocking control group. Mothers whose babies were assigned to the massage group were trained to perform massage on their infants by an infant massage expert.

For the intervention, babies in the massage group received massage from their mothers for 15 to 20 minutes during the day and also at night before sleeping. In the control group, the babies were gently rocked by their mothers for five to 25 minutes when colic symptoms occurred. Both the massage and the rocking took place for one week.


Effects on Infantile Colic

The main outcome measures in this study were the symptoms of infantile colic and the severity of those symptoms. The researchers focused on the duration and frequency of crying among the babies, as well as sleep duration. Parents were instructed to record the details of their babies’ colic symptoms in a diary each day.

Results of the research revealed massage therapy was significantly more effective than rocking in the reduction of infantile colic symptoms. The mean number of daily cries decreased significantly in the massage group as compared to the rocking group, and the mean severity score for overall colic symptoms was significantly lower in the massage group as well.

In addition, the mean duration of crying among babies in the massage group was significantly shorter, and the mean duration of sleep among the babies who received massage was significantly longer.

“Massaging significantly improved colic symptoms during a one-week intervention for all outcomes,” concluded the study’s authors. “In addition, significant differences were found between the intervention and control groups in favor of massaging.”


About the Study

Authors: Ali Sheidaei, Alireza Abadi, Farid Zayeri, Fatemeh Nahidi, Nafiseh Gazerani and Anita Mansouri.

Sources: Department of Biostatistics, Department of Community Health and Department of Midwifery and Reproductive Health, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Shahid Behesheti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran. Originally published in April 2016 in the Medical Journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 30, 351.