Massage Techniques to Alleviate Gas and Abdominal Pain in infants

Massaging your infant is a great way to bond and connect with your little one.  It has also been proven that massaging your baby may also stimulate development of the brain and elevate the myelination of his nervous system and brain.

Young children and infants who tend to suffer from upset stomachs , much the same as adults for that matter, can definitely benefit from frequent stomach massages.

Massaging the stomach of young children and infants assists their digestive system, lessens gastric upset and soothes the muscles and nerves in the area being massaged. This can also bring some comfort to the organs directly connected to the gastrointestinal tract and stomach.

The digestive system can become interrupted as a result of dietary issues or allergies, food intolerance or significant emotional stress and tension. Typical reactions to expect when one’s experiencing a sudden increase in stress, is gas, abdominal aches and having a general sense of feeling bloated.

Massage Techniques to Alleviate Gas and Abdominal Pain in infants

Massage may also help with your baby’s colic.  It is not clear if massaging is really helpful to babies suffering from colic, but they do tend to cry less and be less unhappy while they are being massaged.

It is important to keep in mind that the more a baby cries and fusses, the more air they take in.  This eventually causes more gas.  It’s a terrible thing for babies already having a tough time.

Massage can also make you as parent feel more empowered at a time when you may be feeling helpless and overwhelmed. Colic or inconsolable crying is one problem that can be very difficult to find a solution to and could leave a parent wanting to cry along with the infant.

You may have already tried many other methods of soothing your baby without much success.  If this is indeed the case, you need not feel alone.  Life with a colic baby can be extremely stressful for even the most relaxed parent.

Baby massage is a free and enjoyable method of comforting your baby compared to other possible treatments for colic and is definitely worth giving it a try. There is an increased number of parents who favor this non-invasive method of massaging for gas relief over the use of medications.

You can get the right massage training from either a doula or nursery nurse who have been trained in the right massage technique or you could attend a baby massage class.

Before getting started, take note of the things you will need to make for the best time for both you and your baby. It is always advisable to put your baby on a comfortable flat surface, covered by a soft blanket. Have enough baby oil at hand.

You could substitute baby oil for olive oil should you feel like it, but your baby will likely need a bath afterwards. A roll of toilet paper that can be used to wipe off excess oil is always something handy to have. Play some soft music and maybe have your baby’s favorite toy or pacifier close by to calm them.

Learning to massage your infant involves a series of massage strokes, resting hand techniques and touch relaxation to stimulate the digestive system.

Babies have an impressive sixth sense. They feel tension in your body while you hold them and therefore can become even more stresses, anxious and upset. Still touch or rather resting hands, is a good way to show your baby that you are about to massage their stomach. Try and free up your schedule so that you would be in no rush during this time as the baby will definitely sense it.

While you need to be very careful of the tone of your voice, it is advisable that you talk to your infant in a soft and relaxed voice, relaxing your shoulders and being calm. Put your hands with your palms together on the tummy area.

You could also put your palms on their legs. This is a less intrusive way to begin the massage on their legs. Cup both your hands around your infant’s leg and gently bounce or sway their leg up and down whilst softly telling your baby to relax.

Touch relaxation technique is essential for babies to learn because we as adults know how to consciously relax our legs and arms, but babies don’t know or have control over their muscles due to their brains still being immature.

The more you repeat this technique, the more it will help your baby build a stronger connection with their brain, helping them relax the muscles.

At times you will find it difficult for your infant to relax their legs especially as the colic massage requires you to bring their legs and knees up toward their stomach.   If this becomes a problem, try the touch relaxation method first.

There are many methods of massage for your baby. 

Water Wheel:  Support your baby by placing a hand under the chest with the palm facing their feet.  Softly move your hand downwards, stopping just above his pelvis.  Then, using the other hand, repeat this movement and continue to alternate hands fluidly.

Knees Upward:  Bend your infant’s legs by the knees and bring them together toward his tummy.  Provide support by using you index finger to lift their knees.  Softly and gently push  their knees into the stomach.

Sun and Moon:  Move your one hand around their tummy in a clockwise circle and use your other hand to follow, making a partial clockwise circle.

I love you:  Holding your middle and index finger together, softly push the pads of your two fingers down the left hand side of your infant’s tummy, from just under the ribs to the leg crease in an “I” motion.

Then on the left hand side of your infant’s tummy, pull your middle and index finger across to the right hand side and then downward, like an inverted “L”.

Then, start at your baby’s right leg crease and pull your fingers making an upside down “U” shape over the bellybutton all the way around to the left leg’s crease.

Thumbs to Sides:  Holding your infant by the waist with both your thumbs in the middle of his tummy, pull both your thumbs outward simultaneously into the sides of his abdomen.

You should always check with and ask your baby permission before starting to massage him.  If he seems open and accepting of a massage at that time, put a few drops of fragrance free massage oil into the palms of your hands, rubbing them together near your infant’s head.

He will learn as a non-verbal clue, that he will now be getting a massage. Before you start, take several breaths to relax yourself while resting your open hands on his tummy.

In severe cases, it is recommended that you follow this procedure twice a day for at least two weeks.  Each routine should be repeated six times per session.  Starting with Water Wheel, then Knees Up, followed by Sun and Moon and then Knees Up again.

Facial and Head Massage

facial and head massage in infants

Another massage which can also be used to great success for calming your baby is a facial and head massage.  Holding your baby’s head in both hands, massage it like you would when you are busy shampooing their hair. Massaging their ears are also great technique for calming them.

Take you thumb and index finger and lightly caress the ears in between your fingers. You could also trace a heart shape over their faces softly, starting at the forehands and bringing it together at the chin.

This massage is normally very enjoyable. A great technique which also helps to ease breathing is to start at the bridge of the nose going over the cheeks to the outside.

A great area to massage is also the chest. You can massage this area by placing both hands on your baby’s chest stroking from their sternum outwards to the shoulders. You can also stroke from the hip to the shoulder in a crisscross pattern.

While you are busy you could also massage their arms. Holding their one arm at the wrist, tap it lightly on the upper arm to relax the muscles. Still holding their wrist, take the other hand and stroke their arm firmly but gently from the wrist downwards.

Massages their hands is also a great way to relax. This can be achieved by rubbing the baby’s palm either between your hands or with a thumb and index finger.

Your baby would definitely give you signals about when to stop. Be attentive to these as you will likely only upset them if you continue. For best enjoyment it is advisable to use soft firm strokes that are not aimed at tickling.

Try to always keep eye contact with the baby as this can enable you to immediately see their response. Keeping eye contact is also a great way to bond with your child while you are massaging them.

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