Baby Massage is extremely popular for relieving babies common digestive issues. The audible benefits of learning these simple strokes are often met with cries of surprise in my classes! I have witnessed countless successes with babies who have been constipated for days/weeks on end and the joy for parent and baby alike to be met with such sweet relief from painful trapped gas and wind.
How does Baby Massage help?
♡ When babies cry or feed they can take in a lot of air. This air can become congested and stuck within the bowel. Once you have a few air bubbles in there they can form one large pocket of air that gives babies that uncomfortable hard tummy and tummy ache, characterised often by babies drawing their legs up towards their tummy to try and expel and move that air around. Our hands are trying to do the job of peristalsis, or the movement of food through babies bowel. So, mechanically we are moving air out of babies body with the massage strokes such as ‘I love you’ as demonstrated in the video.
♡ All babies have different development of the muscle in their gut wall that helps with the process of peristalsis. This may explain why some babies tend to suffer more from wind than others. When we massage we’re helping to bring all the blood to that muscle inside the gut wall, helping to bring nutrients and oxygen which it needs to strengthen and develop and therefore make the process of peristalsis more efficient.
♡ Massage helps to stimulate a main nerve called the ‘Vagus’ nerve which helps to control the rate of digestion. This nerve is not yet fully developed so with the massage we’re helping to encourage really good communication between the brain and the gut, so hopefully again, the process of peristalsis will be much smoother and much more efficient and therefore baby will get much less issues relating to wind becoming trapped within the tummy.
Before you start
♡ Imagine where the stomach and the intestines are on your babies tummy. Prepare to always be working in a clockwise direction. The main principles of tummy massage are to:
1. Move everything down.
2. Move everything towards the babies left hand side towards the end of the bowel.
♡ Please make sure you have waited around 45 minutes after your babies last feed to massage your babies tummy.
♡ Find a comfortable space on the floor, turn off the TV, your phone and feel free from any distractions.
♡ Feel confident that your baby is happy, well enough and ready to participate.
Practicing the strokes
♡ Make sure that you also feel happy and not stressed! Take a few deep breaths before you start. Shake out your arms and hands. Ask your baby if they would like a massage to soothe and relax them.
♡ Bring baby close to you so they can see you and feel safe.
♡ Use a sing-song voice with lots of encouragement and praise.
♡ Start slowly and gently on the tummy, see how babies tummy feels, it is hard or soft? If you feel you can, sink your fingers gradually in a little deeper. Always watch for babies signals to see if you need to stop.
When to practice and how often
♡ As a preventative to make sure those air bubbles aren’t having the opportunity to stick together and form those hard pockets of air - twice a day is very good if you can! This might be once in the morning (remember to leave 45 mins between feeds) and once in the afternoon. This will really help to get those air bubbles moving through the bowel as much as they possibly can throughout the day.
Essential oil use
If you feel you would like to and feel confident using Essential Oils, they can be very relieving for digestive issues and wonderfully supportive emotionally as well as physically. Essential oils must be used with caution, sparingly and never ingested.. Safe oils for babies are Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, Roman Chamomile Anthemis nobilis and Mandarin Citrus reticulata. Lavender in particular is amazing for calming and relaxing.. Roman Chamomile for relieving stomach cramps and pain and Mandarin for ‘fractious babies’. Oils must always be very high quality and organic if possible. Here in the UK, I recommend Neals Yard to ensure safety and quality. Electric steam diffusers are also a fantastic way to diffuse the oils into a room safely. If you would like advice on essential oil use please consult a qualified aromatherapist.
Research from the Touch Institute Miami into Lavender Oil for Babies:
Lavender bath oil reduces stress and crying and enhances sleep in very young infants.
Very young infants were given a bath with or without lavender-scented bath oil. The mothers in the lavender bath oil group were more relaxed, smiled and touched their infants more during the bath. Their infants looked at them a greater percentage of the bath time and cried less and spent more time in deep sleep after the bath. The cortisol levels of this group of mothers and infants significantly decreased, confirming the behavioral data showing increased relaxation of the mothers and their infants. These findings support a body of research showing the relaxing and sleep-inducing properties of lavender aroma*
Field, T., Cullen, C., Largie, S., Diego, M., Schanberg, S. & Kuhn, C. (2008). Early Human Development, 84, 399-401.
*I have included this research out of interest but please be aware that Lavender Essential Oil in the bath could be ingested by your baby and must be monitored with caution. If you would like to try a bath with lavender oil - One or two drops maximum of Lavender EO must be mixed into a tablespoon of milk before adding into the bath. The fat in the milk disperses the oil so that the Lavender oil doesn’t ‘sit’ on the top of the bath water.
Try this short but effective massage routine in the video and let me know how you get on ♡ :