Gas: For older children it may seem funny. For adults, there are medical products for to help resolve it. But for a baby, gas may mean discomfort and pain.
If your little one is having gas problems that keep them in distress, it can mean long nights with little sleep, lots of crying, and a baby who just can’t settle. You may be willing to try just about anything to make your baby feel better.
Baby massage is often a recommended solution for gas. But if you’re new to this, you might be wondering: What type of massage works? Are there special techniques you should use? How do you do it? We’ve got you covered.
First and foremost, it’s always a good idea to talk to your pediatrician about any at-home remedies you want to try. Your doctor might share important considerations for safety or effectiveness, or offer solutions you hadn’t thought of!
If you get the go-ahead to try giving your baby a massage for gas, start by assessing your child’s mood. Ideally, for a massage to be successful, they are calm, alert, and content when you begin. If at any time, your baby seems uncomfortable or fussy, stop the massage.
It may be easiest to massage your baby at the beginning of the day or before they go to bed, as part of their bedtime routine. You can massage them every day or only occasionally. Follow your baby’s cues on the best time of day for a massage and how frequently to try it.
Begin with asking your baby for permission — an important step, according to the International Association of Infant Massage. Maintain eye contact throughout the massage, and start with a very gentle touch. You can always increase the pressure as the massage progresses, if your baby seems content and happy.
If your baby is stiffening their arms or looking away, it may not be a good time for a massage. The Mayo Clinic suggests waiting at least 45 minutes after a feed to reduce the risk of baby vomiting.
Massage your baby in a warm, quiet place. Place them on their back on a soft towel and explain what you’re doing.
You may want to use an oil or lotion to make it more comfortable, but be mindful of the ingredients. It’s best to use a product specifically for babies so it is less likely irritate their sensitive skin.
Stomach strokes that massage the belly are designed to encourage trapped air to move. The goal is to move gas and other matter in the intestines towards the bowels.
Many of the stomach strokes suggested for gas begin at the lower right of your baby’s belly (where the large intestine begins) and end at the lower left of your baby’s belly (where the colon begins). When looking at your baby, this means moving from your left to right.
Some of the infant stomach massage techniques listed in the book “Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents” by Vimala McClure include:
- Hands of a Clock. Envision the face on a clock on your baby’s tummy. Start at 7 or 8 o’clock and move from left to right in a half moon shape, gently pressing and sliding your hands in a clockwise motion. One hand follows the other.
- Paddling. Using the long, broad, pinky-side of your hands horizontally across your baby’s belly, gently press in near the rib cage and slide down the length of baby’s tummy. One hand follows the other.
- Fulling. Lay your two thumbs flat across your baby’s belly, above the belly button. Gently pressing in, slide the thumbs away from each other.
- I Love You. Starting on the right side of your baby’s belly button, trace the letter I. Follow it by tracing the letter L, sideways, starting at the top left corner of baby’s belly, moving across and down the right side. Finish with an inverted U shape, starting at the bottom left corner of baby’s belly and tracing up, then across the torso above the belly button, and back down the right side. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to tell your baby how much you love them during this, too!
- Moonwalking. Starting just above the belly button on the left side, gently walk and slide your pointer and middle fingers across baby’s torso to the right side.
Proponents of foot reflexology say the practice can improve conditions like gas and indigestion, but
If your doctor says it’s okay to give it a go, consider the pressure point for the stomach and intestines that’s located around the upper middle of the foot, just below the pad. Gently stroking this area of your baby’s foot may bring some gas relief.
There is no single known cause of colic. While gas has been suggested as one of the possible causes, treatments aimed at reducing gas do not always lessen colic symptoms.
The Mayo Clinic suggests massage as a possible soothing method for colicky babies, but notes that no soothing method is guaranteed to help all babies or work every time.
Parents of a colicky baby should be prepared to rely on a wide range of soothing measures, and this may include baby massage if you so choose.
If you notice that your little one’s burps include excessive spit-up or projectile vomit, or if your baby seems to be in pain during or following feeds, consult their doctor.
Your pediatrician can rule out other possible causes for the discomfort including gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and suggest other treatments as necessary.
If massage doesn’t seem to be working for your little one or you’re looking for some additional comfort measures, there are plenty of things you can try to help manage and prevent gas:
- Bicycle your child’s legs in the air while they lie on their back. This may help move gas through the system and encourage a poop if your little one is constipated.
- Gently twist baby’s legs and hips from side to side, which may help move things along the digestive track.
- Spend some extra time burping your baby during feeds to help air escape early in the digestive process.
- If you’re bottle-feeding, check the nipple flow. If the flow is too fast, your child may be gulping air when they drink.
- Change bottle brands. Though no one brand is perfect for eliminating gas, there may be one that works better at reducing gas for your baby.
- Switch to a ready-made version of your baby’s powdered formula. Though if you don’t note any change, you can go back to the (less expensive) powdered version.
Some caregivers report that over-the-counter medications like gripe water or gas drops help their babies with gas. Make sure to check with your child’s doctor before going this route.
Gas can be unpleasant for babies and their parents. There is nothing harder than seeing your little one in distress, but don’t give up hope!
Massage may help them move gas through their digestive system, and there’s nothing like a parent’s touch to comfort a child.