Natural Massage for a Gassy Baby

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By Joanie Whitman, The Soft Landing

Shortly after the birth of my second son, he started having issues with gas and cramping. He would writhe and cry out in pain. Many times, there was no consoling him and we’d be up most of the night trying to figure out what to do to help ease the pressure and give him (and me) some peace. So, I wanted to share my tips on how to give a natural massage for a gassy baby.

I found that gas pains can be caused by many things:

  • Immature gut
  • Feeding position
  • Breastfeeding mother’s diet, including supplements
  • Air bubbles taken in during feeding
  • Hyper-lactation syndrome: a very abundant milk supply means a larger amount of foremilk causing a forceful letdown; too much foremilk can make baby’s stomach cramp, creating more fussiness
  • Over-stimulation

I considered the many possibilities and addressed the most likely for our situation. First, I tried nursing him in a more upright position with his head above his stomach. I pulled my leg up to support his body on the same side he was nursing. This seemed to help, but didn’t completely get rid of the gas.

Next, a friend recommended the Happi Tummi waistband. It’s a great product that definitely eased his pain and calmed him enough to sleep. But he continued to struggle periodically with painful gas.

So I continued searching for another solution and found an article in Today’s Parent by Jill Vyse, president of the Canadian chapter of the International Association of Infant Massage, that explains how to massage the baby’s stomach to help release gas.

“First, cradle your baby’s head and make eye contact,” she says. “Let your baby know that you’re here to help. Then gently lay your hand on the soft part of the baby’s belly. You can probably feel the tightness or distension from the gas.”

After a few seconds, Vyse suggests using your fingers to make a paddlewheel-type motion on your baby’s belly, from the bottom of his ribs towards his groin. “Think of it as scooping a little hole in warm sand on the beach,” she says. Repeat this two or three times, then rest your hand on the baby’s belly again. At this point, he may pass gas or lift his knees up towards your hand. If your baby lifts up his knees, use your hand to support his legs and wait a few seconds to see if he passes gas.

Following this, Vyse recommends letting your baby’s legs stretch out again, and using the pads of your fingers to draw a clockwise circle on his belly. “Start at 12 o’clock, in a straight line with the baby’s chin, and draw a circle all the way around. What you are doing is following the shape of the baby’s colon,” Vyse explains.

She suggests doing this two or three times and then pausing, with your hand resting on your baby’s belly. “See if the baby is crying a little less,” she says. “Or if he’s still crying, perhaps he’s moving his body less and is a bit calmer.” At this point, help your baby bring his knees up to his chest again – often he’ll release more gas.

Vyse encourages parents to do this gentle massage three times a day – “two times when the baby is not really upset and once when he’s really gassy. The best time is about half an hour after a feeding and when the baby is in a quiet, alert state.”

This technique has worked wonders for us! I do the massage for my son several times a day, and he will often pass gas immediately, giving him instant relief. Of course it’s not a guarantee that these methods will work every time, but it’s wonderful to have an arsenal of gas fighting tools to calm the baby’s tummy!

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