When T man was very tiny & newborn, he would have these thrashing fits of arms and legs, so I would swaddle him and he would quickly and easily calm down. >> Fast forward several months.
I realized one night, that it appeared T man was having (what I could only assume was) restless leg syndrome. He would begin kicking and pumping his legs, rather violently, after bedtime nursing, when I placed him in his crib to fall asleep. This of course would keep him awake so that he was unable to fall asleep. It first seemed like he was having a fit, but he wasn't. Then I thought maybe he was just learning different techniques to keep himself awake, but that wasn't it either. I finally realized that when this would happen, T man was neither angry (having a fit) or content (playfully keeping himself awake) He was distraught and agitated. This seemed to be something that was happening too him, seemingly against his will.
Just like those early times, he needed help to calm his body, as he was obviously NOT in control of his own limbs. So ... What do you do with a thrashing baby who won't be swaddled?
I know, I know. Massage? On a baby?!? Yeah ... okay crazy lady.
Hey, I've said it before. Being a baby is hard work! Seriously! Not only do they have to learn how to do everything but they are also growing at a crazy fast rate.
Growing pains are a very real condition that many children suffer through painfully. I can't even begin to imagine (or remember) what it would feel like to have your bones growing, your muscles growing, your ligaments growing, everything is growing! My nephew is 9 years old and for years now he will tell us, very specifically, "my knees hurt". My little brother would tell my mom "I hurt". Nothing exact, he just ached. I feel so bad for these poor sweet children!
Now imagine what your infant is going through. He's growing too, same as the bigger kids, but he can't tell you about it. He can't specify what body part aches, he can only whimper and cry. At a certain age, he'll begin learning how to roll, crawl, sit up, pull up, stand up, walk, etc. Add this intense cardio workout on top of the natural occurring growing pains and you've got yourself one sore, achy baby.
When I finally understood what was happening to T man during those bedtime thrashings, I began giving him a gentle leg massage while he laid in his crib. The look of relief on his face told me everything he was unable to say with words. Since that night, T man & I have had several personal massage session at bedtime, much to his relief.
I can tell very quickly at bedtime if T man is in need of a massage, just by the way he twitches his legs and squirms his back. Usually it's after a long hard day of crawling and playing, when he's over tired or during his stormy phase of a wonder week.
How do you massage a baby? Well, it's definitely not a deep tissue massage! A baby massage is less about pressure and more about circulation. I like to massage T man over his jammies to reduce skin to skin friction, but you could also massage during your after bath moisture routine.
Start with the legs. Lay baby on his back. Cup his foot or leg in your hand while using your thumb to lightly massage in a slow circular motion. Move up from the ankle to baby's hip then back down again to the ankle. If baby is crawling, give a little extra attention to his knees and shins. (did you know, that humans don't grow actual knee caps until 2 years old.) Next, roll baby onto his tummy. Massage his calves and thighs in long, easy, up and down strokes, from ankle to butt, with the palm of your hand.
While on his tummy, move up to his back. Using your thumbs again, make slow gentle circles from waist to shoulders, making sure to not press to hard. You can go ahead and give his arms a quick little squeeze while he laying on his tummy. I found that massaging T mans arms is more difficult though as he usually wants to reach & grab for things or hold my hands while massaging, so I just follow his cues on a night by night basis.
I finish T mans massage by flipping him onto his back again and giving his legs one more rub down. This usually leaves him in a limp, dreamy, relaxed state perfect for drifting off to a sweet nights sleep. We have had much easier nights and T man is very appreciative of all my efforts.
** I recommend avoiding the tummy and chest area. Massaging on a baby's immature digestive system (especially the intestinal area) can be very irritating for baby, not to mention the pressure on his full tummy. Do you want someone to massage your belly after you eat a full meal? Yeah, me neither.