Skin is our largest organ and touch is the most sensitive of our senses. Infant massage is not only a great way to bond with your baby, but is also a way of relieving common discomforts. If your baby is fussy and gassy, or if your baby is constipated, abdominal massage may help.
Infant massage can help to regulate the function of the digestive tract by stimulating the vagus nerve, and can improve elimination of waste and gas (sometimes by simply moving air bubbles through the digestive tract). Other benefits of infant massage include improved sleep and less stress – for baby and parent – which are helpful when dealing with a gassy baby.
Before you begin, make sure you and baby are both comfortable. Have some lotion or oil nearby to make your strokes smoother over baby’s skin. You may want to massage with only a diaper on baby. But, keep baby warm – have a blanket over the parts you’re not massaging.
Once you’re all set, try one or more of these tummy massages:
Tiny circles: using your first two fingers, start to one side of baby’s belly button and press gently while making a small circular motion. Move your fingers to the next area and repeat, working your way around the belly button.
Clock Hands: make hand over hand movements in large circles around baby’s belly. Always work in a clockwise motion (which follows the gastrointestinal tract) and apply light pressure.
‘I love you’: Begin on baby’s left side just under the rib cage, and stroke downward (making the letter I). Move to baby’s right side just under the rib cage and stroke across then downward to the hip (making an upside down L). Finally, start at the right hip, and stroke up – across – down (making an upside down U). I-L-U … I Love You, baby.
Paddlewheel: Place one hand horizontally across baby’s abdomen and stroke downwards with a little bit of pressure from the flat outer edge of your hand. Before you lift the first hand from baby’s body near the groin, start the same downward motion with the opposite hand – from rib cage to groin.
Finger walking: Using your first two fingers, start at baby’s right side and walk your fingers across his abdomen in an arch, applying light pressure. Do this in a few rows, always starting on baby’s right and working across to the left.
Knee press: Once you’ve massaged baby’s abdomen a bit and moved those air bubble around, baby may need some help to pass the gas. You can try simply bicycling baby’s legs, or you can gently bend baby’s knees and hips, pressing them toward the abdomen. Don’t be surprised if he fills his diaper!
Singing to baby or saying nursery rhymes while you’re massaging can be a fun way to bond with your baby and to distract him from his gassiness.
If your baby is fussy along with gassy, but is still having regular bowel movements, his behavior is probably normal. Changes in the color, consistency or frequency of baby’s stools, though, could signal a problem. If your baby’s tummy feels hard and looks distended, or if his stools are hard and pellet-like, you may want to have him seen by a doctor who will let you know the best treatment. If your baby is breastfed and has green, frothy, foul-smelling bowel movements, work with a lactation consultant and your baby’s doctor to determine the cause and to find a solution. And in the meantime, infant massage may make baby more comfortable and you less stressed!
Written by Michelle, Former infant massage instructor, childbirth educator, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.