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 scientific evidence is lackingTrusted Source. Again, it’s best to talk to your pediatrician as a precaution before beginning any at-home remedy like reflexology.
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.
Baby Massage For Colic Reflux And Wind
Always warm your hands before starting to massage your baby.
Try any of these different strokes:
- The gentle but firm pressure of one warm hand on your baby’s abdomen.
- Alternate hands stroking down on the abdomen.
- Bend your baby’s knees gently up towards their tummy.
- Rotate their knees gently clockwise around over their tummy.
- Lie them over your thighs on their tummy. Roll them gently from side to side.
One of the really nice things that you can do for a baby with colic is to use some massage techniques that support and massage the abdomen, which is often really hard and uncomfortable. Our online courses include a full demonstration of a baby massage to help alleviate colic, and been endorsed by a paediatric physiotherapist so you know that what you’re doing is safe.
It’s better to see a proper demonstration of these techniques or take your baby along to a baby massage class so that you become confident and know how to massage your baby safely.
Warm hands on abdomen
As your baby is lying down on his back, put your nice warm hand gently and firmly on his tummy – he’ll find it really quite soothing. Alternatively, you can roll up a warm, wet flannel and just press it gently over your baby’s tummy. Again, that’s quite reassuring and relaxing for a baby with a hard, sore colicky tummy. Another nice thing you can do for your baby is to massage his abdomen in the direction in which his digestive tract flows, which is basically just a simple clockwise movement. Start from his right hip, move up and along and round and round, slowly and gently, always clockwise as you’re looking down on your baby. That will really help a baby who’s feeling bloated and in pain, and help to move any gas that’s trapped in his belly.
Alternate hands on abdomen
Alternatively, gently stroke your baby’s tummy, starting from underneath his ribs to the top of his hips, first with your right hand and then with your left.
Gently hold your baby’s ankles, and bring his knees right into his abdomen. After holding them there for a few seconds you can start to rotate your baby’s knees, round in a clockwise manner, round over the abdomen, and that can really help to ease them if their tummy’s hurting. If they’ve got wind you might get even hear it coming out in this position!
Lying over your thighs on their tummy
A different position you can put your baby in is by using gravity to help ease your baby’s tummy and colic, and that’s when you just sit down on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and lay your baby over your thighs. Just the pressure of your thighs against your baby’s abdomen may ease their sore tummy. Gently with your hand on their back, just gently roll them side to side with a gentle movement.
Baby Massage For Colic And Gas
The symptoms that may indicate your baby is suffering from gas are as follows 1:
What Massages Will Help Relieve Gas In Babies?
Massaging your baby’s tummy will help move the gas towards the bowel and relieve them of gas, colic, and constipation. You may use massage oil for proper movements and less resistance. Some daily massage techniques that may help release gas from your baby are as follows (2):
1. Tummy massages
- Hands of a clock: Perform this massage in a circular motion. Make the bottom half of a semi-circle from your left to right with your right hand. Then make a full circle in clockwise motion with your left hand. Always perform this massage in clockwise direction with the left hand following the right.
- Fulling: Place your thumbs flat on your baby’s stomach and move them in a push-pull motion to the sides. Do two strokes above the naval, one stroke on either side moving out from the naval, and two strokes below the naval.
- Paddling: With the sides of your palms, make downward strokes on your baby’s stomach from the rib cage to the pelvis. Each hand should follow the other in a continuous motion.
- Moonwalking: Use your fingertips to walk across your baby’s abdomen from left to right. Do this above the naval area in a push-pull motion without poking.
- I Love You: With your palms, form an ‘I’ on the left side of the baby’s tummy. In the same way, draw an upside-down ‘L’ and ‘U,’ starting from your left to the right.
- Knees up: While holding your baby’s calves and knees gently, push both the legs together towards their tummy and hold it there for around five seconds. Repeat the process three to five times.
- Circular massage: Using baby oil, massage around the navel in a clockwise circular motion with your right hand. Continue this motion while slowly making bigger circles around the stomach but under the ribs. Then, with your left hand, glide across and back on the baby’s belly (3).
2. Foot massages
Reflexology is a therapy that effectively improves relaxation and wellbeing (4). Furthermore, certain studies on the effects of reflexology on babies suggest that they positively impact their health and wellbeing (5). Even so, more research is required for homogeneous results.
Nonetheless, after discussing with your healthcare provider or pediatrician, you could massage the correct pressure points in your baby’s feet with moderate pressure to help relieve gas and colic.
3. Massages for colic
Colic is a condition where an otherwise healthy baby cries and fusses for unknown reasons for more than three hours (6). To date, the exact cause of colic in babies is unknown, but gas formation or food intolerance are sometimes considered as underlying reasons.
The massaging techniques used to relieve gas can help provide relief from colic as well.
What Are Some Other Tips For Managing Gas In Babies?
Other than massages, the following ways also help to manage gas in babies (7):
- Ensure less air is swallowed by your baby while feeding by slowing down the milk flow. Try different types of bottles or nipples to ensure this.
- Burp your baby during and after their feeding session to remove excess air from their system.
- Lay them flat on their back, hold their legs in your hands, and move them in a bicycling motion. Also, try giving them some tummy time to pressurize the excess gas out of the body.
- If certain foods in your diet may be causing gassiness in your breastfed baby, refrain from consuming them. However, consult your doctor before doing so to avoid discontinuing beneficial foods.
- If your baby is formula-fed, hold off on powdered formula and use ready-to-feed formula instead.
Watch this video to better understand how to get started with the massages mentioned above.
Available On: YouTube
It is not uncommon for babies to develop gas at a younger age. Gas can cause a lot of discomfort to babies and, therefore, the parents. Learning massage tricks may come in handy while trying to console your crying baby in the middle of the night. Massages may also help calm your colicky baby and help them fall asleep easily. However, you may seek help from your doctor or nurses at the hospital if you have any doubts about your newborn baby’s massage strokes. Be sure always to use a gentle touch when you massage your baby.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do I get my gassy baby to sleep?
Massages and other techniques, such as a gentle pat on the baby’s back or tummy massage, can help to relieve gas discomfort and thus help your baby sleep (1).
2. What are the pressure points to relieve gas in babies?
Large Intestine 4 (He Gu), Spleen 6 (San Yin Jiao), and Stomach 36 (Zu San Li) are some pressure points that may help relieve gas in babies (8).
3. Why is gas worse at night for babies?
According to a study, infantile colic caused by factors such as flatulence (gas) that is prevalent during the early night hours may be related to gut immaturity of the baby or breastfeeding (9).
4. Can my baby sleep through gas pains?
Babies can often sleep through gas pains, but if they are restless, they will cry constantly and will be unable to sleep.
It is not uncommon for babies to develop gas at a younger age. Gas can cause a lot of discomfort to babies and, therefore, the parents. Learning massage tricks may come in handy while you are desperately trying to console your crying baby in the middle of the night. Massages may also help calm your colicky baby and help in putting them to sleep with ease. However, you may seek help from your doctor or nurses at the hospital if you have any doubts about your newborn baby’s massage strokes.
- Bloating, crying as if in pain, irritability, and fussiness are a few symptoms that suggest gas in infants.
- Tummy massages such as paddling, ’I Love You,’ and other massages for colic are a few effective techniques to help relieve gas in babies.
- Burping them before and after feeding, laying them on their back, and avoiding certain gas-inducing foods can help manage gas pain in babies.
Belly Massage Pillow For Colic Baby
While parents need to experiment with comforting measures, most of them come down to motion, untensing tiny tummies, and administering the right touch at the right time. Some strategies for colic relief to try are:
1. Slower, More Frequent Feedings for Colic Relief
Feeding too much, too fast, can increase intestinal gas from the breakdown of excessive lactose, either in mother’s milk or in formula. As a rule of thumb, feed your baby twice as often and half as much. A baby’s tummy is around the size of her fist. To appreciate the discrepancy between usual feeding volume and tummy size, place your baby’s fist next to a bottle filled with four to six ounces of formula or breastmilk. It’s no wonder tiny tummies get tense.
2. Colic Carries
Here are some carrying positions that work particularly well for fathers who call them favorite fuss-busters: Football hold. Place your baby stomach-down along your forearm, with his head near the crook of your elbow and his legs straddling your hand. Press your forearm into baby’s tense abdomen. Or, try reversing this position so that his cheek lies in the palm of your hand, his abdomen along your forearm, and his crotch snuggled into the crook of your elbow.
The neck nestle. Snuggle baby’s head into the groove between your chin and chest. While swaying back and forth, croon a low, slow, repetitive tune, such as “Old Man River.” A father in our practice scheduled his daily exercise routine during baby’s evening fussy times. While holding baby in the neck nestle position, he took his daily walk. This took the tension out of baby and pounds off daddy.
3. Colic Dances
The choreography that works best to contain colic is movement in all three plains: up and down, side to side, and forward and backward – essentially, the movement that a baby was used to while in the womb. Favorite dance positions are the neck nestle, the football hold, and the colic curl. Our favorite colic-soothing dance is one we called “the elevator step.” Spring up and down, heel to toe, as you walk, while holding baby securely in the neck nestle position. Bounce at a rate of 60 to 70 beats per minute (count “1-and-a-2-and-a…”). Interestingly, this rhythm corresponds to the pulse of the blood to the uterus that baby was used to in the womb.
Another colic relief strategy that worked for us is one we called the “dinner dance.” Some babies love to breastfeed in a sling or carrier while you dance. Your movement, plus baby’s sucking, is a winning combination for settling even the most upset infant. Babies usually prefer dancing with their mother; she is the dance partner he came to know even before birth. This also explains why some fathers get frustrated when they try to cut in, offering some relief to a worn-out, dancing mom. Yet, many fussy babies like a change in routine and welcome the different holds and steps of a sympathetic sub. (For more dance steps see Dancing with Baby)
4. Baby Bends
When your baby is at the peak of an attack, try these abdominal relaxers for colic relief:
The gas pump. Lay baby face-up on your lap with her legs toward you and her head resting on your knees. Pump her legs up and down in a bicycling motion while making a few attention-getting facial expressions.
The colic curl. Place baby’s head and back against your chest and encircle your arms under his bottom, then curl your arms up. Or, try reversing this position by placing baby’s feet against your chest as you hold him. This way you can maintain eye contact with your baby and entertain him with funny facial expressions.
5. Try Tummy Rolls for Colic Relief
While laying a securing hand on baby’s back, drape him tummy-down over a large beach ball and gently roll in a circular motion. Another use for a large beach ball (you can purchase “physio balls” from infant-product catalogs) is the baby bounce. Hold baby securely in your arms and slowly bounce up and down while sitting on the ball. We still have “the big red ball” rolling around our house as a memento of our bouncing past.
6. Tummy Tucks
Place a rolled-up cloth diaper or a warm (not hot) water bottle enclosed in a cloth diaper under baby’s tummy. To further relax a tense tummy and help with colic relief, lay baby stomach-down on a cushion with her legs dangling over the edge while rubbing her back. Turn her head to the side so her breathing isn’t obstructed.
7. Tummy Touches
For colic relief, sit baby on your lap and place the palm of your hand over baby’s navel, and let your fingers and thumb encircle baby’s abdomen. Let baby lean forward, pressing her tense abdomen against your warm hand. Dad’s bigger hands provide more coverage. Or, with baby lying on her back, picture an upside down “U” over the surface of your baby’s abdomen and using warm massage oil on your hands and kneading baby’s abdomen in a circular motion with your flattened fingers, massage from left to right along the lines of the imaginary “U.” (See )
8. Warm Touches
A warm bath for two often relaxes both you and baby. Or, a famous fuss-preventer I have used with our babies is a technique I call the warm fuzzy: while lying on a bed or the floor, drape baby tummy-to-tummy and skin-to-skin with his ear over dad’s heartbeat. The warmth of your body, plus the rise and fall of your chest, is a proven fussbuster.
9. Magic Mirror
This technique pulled our babies out of many crying jags. Hold a colicky baby in front of a mirror and let him witness his own drama. Place his hand or bare foot against his image on the mirror surface and watch the intrigued baby grow silent.
10. Achieve Colic Relief by Babywearing
Anthropologists who have studied infant care practices throughout the world have noted that carried babies tend to fuss less. We use the term “babywearing” because wearing means more than just picking up a baby and putting her in a carrier when she fusses. It means carrying a baby several hours a day, before baby begins to fuss.
Carrie, a mother in our practice, had a colicky baby who was content as long as she was in a sling. But Carrie had to return to work when her baby was six-weeks-old. I wrote the following “prescription” to give to her daycare provider: “To keep Tiffany content, wear her in a sling at least three hours a day.” One of the theories about colicky behavior is that it’s a symptom of disorganized biorhythms. During pregnancy, the womb automatically regulates baby’s systems. Birth temporarily disrupts this organization. The more quickly a baby gets outside help with organizing these biorhythms, the more easily she adapts to life outside the womb.
By extending the womb experience, the babywearing mother and father provide an external regulating system that helps to organize baby. In comforting colicky babies, it helps to think of the womb experience as lasting eighteen months – nine months inside the mother, and nine months outside.