While adults can medicate newborns for a gassy tummy, the discomfort and pain it can cause will likely keep their little one up at night, resulting in a restless sleep for everyone involved. A massage for a gassy newborn can make all the difference — but for a baby tummy massage to be soothing and effective, parents need to use the correct techniques.
Our online baby massage courses will teach people how to help parents get equipped with the essential skills and techniques needed to give a baby tummy massage with ease. At the Infant Massage Information Service (IMIS), we have put together a handy guide to help people understand why babies are prone to excess gas and how to recognise symptoms. Our detailed guide will teach you how to administer and train parents on giving a baby massage for wind.
Why babies are prone to gassy tummies
It’s common for babies to experience excess gas until they reach the age of 4 to 6 months, and sometimes far longer as their digestive systems develop. Occasionally, it’s due to the make-up of the breast milk — it’s certainly not unusual for newborns to be sensitive to their mother’s diet if she’s breastfeeding. However, since there are many foods that may cause gas, limiting foods is not advised. Instead, it’s best to monitor the child’s behaviour over time and rule out other external factors.
Other leading causes of infant gas include:
- Drinking too much milk, too fast — When milk flows from the bottle too fast, or breast milk is released too quickly, babies tend to gulp down large quantities of milk, which can lead to excess gas.
- Swallowing too much air — Babies tend to swallow excess air when crying or bottle-feeding. Air-swallowing can be reduced by using slow-flow teats and positioning the baby at a 45-degree angle while feeding. A nursing pillow may help reduce arm and back strain for the parent and provide support for the little one.
- Producing too much milk — High levels of the hormone prolactin lead to an oversupply of milk. If a baby is frequently spitting up, has watery stools or is experiencing excessive gas, they may be consuming watery foremilk rather than the fatty hindmilk they require. Limiting feedings to one breast for an extended time can help babies access the optimum milk supply and alleviate symptoms.
- Babies who skip days between stools — After the first 6-8 weeks of breastfeeding, it’s not uncommon for babies to go several days without passing a stool, which can cause excess gas. As long as the baby’s abdomen remains soft, they are alert, and their stool is soft, this should not be cause for concern.
- Baby food or drink besides breast milk — Vitamins, formulas, teas, medications, and juice can all increase the likelihood of excess gas. Similarly, food intolerances often show up as gas and bloating.
Symptoms of a gassy belly and what to look out for
It’s perfectly normal for babies to pass gas now and then. But there are a few telltale signs that a baby might be passing more gas than usual, and they’re worth watching out for. These signs include:
- An extra fussy baby — Does the baby cry or fuss for an hour or more every day? While this symptom can be common, parents should check with a paediatrician if it persists.
- Difficulty sleeping or eating — The discomfort excessive gas causes can make it difficult for babies to maintain a proper sleeping or feeding routine.
- A red face while crying — When a baby’s face turns red while crying, it could indicate they’re experiencing abdominal pain.
- Squirming baby — When a squirming infant brings its legs up to its chest during bouts of fussiness, it’s a sign that the baby is uncomfortable and may indicate the presence of excess gas.
How to massage a baby's belly for gas
A baby tummy massage naturally relieves the discomfort and pain caused by gas, encouraging trapped air to move through the body. Some studies show that baby tummy massage increases insulin levels, improves gastric mobility and promotes better nutrient absorption. Knowing when and how to administer a baby massage for wind is vital.
- Consult your doctor — Check with a doctor to determine whether massaging the newborn’s tummy is likely to be the most effective treatment for their symptoms and rule out any other potential health issues.
- Massage the newborn’s tummy at the time of discomfort — The timing of a massage for a gassy newborn is critical to help alleviate their pain. Always give a baby tummy massage when the infant starts showing signs of discomfort.
- Use an edible baby oil (optional) — As well as treating the pain and discomfort associated with excess gas, massaging the baby’s skin with edible oil is ideal compared to using an oil with a strong fragrance. Patch test with a small drop of oil in the crease of the elbow and behind the knee and monitor the area for 24 hours for potential skin sensitivity and allergies.
When giving a baby massage for gas, you can use a few techniques. Here are the essential things to keep in mind while you massage a gassy newborn who is experiencing colic symptoms:
Step 1: Reassure the baby
- Start by identifying common colic symptoms — The main signs that a baby is experiencing colic or wind pain includes a painful cry that lasts for hours, pulling their legs towards the abdomen, crying at the same time every day (mainly in the morning and the evening), and a swollen abdomen during attacks.
- Colic wind and constipation massage techniques — This works best for babies facing daily colic or constipation pain. Based on the severity of the discomfort, the massage can be performed twice a day for four weeks during morning and evening bouts of colic. Here are the steps for you to follow to perform a baby massage for gas:
— Start by reassuring the newborn in a gentle and soothing tone.
Step 2: Warm the abdomen area
— Lay the baby on its back in front of you. Gently massage the tummy area in a clockwise direction from left to right. Only massage the lower half of the abdomen area.
Step 3: Perform the scooping technique
— Gently place your hand flat across the width of the infant’s tummy. Start scooping downwards from below the diaphragm to the base of the tummy. Alternate which hand you use with each stroke.
Step 4: Bring the knees to the abdomen
— Slowly bring both the baby’s knees towards the abdomen by holding one leg in each hand.
Step 5: Finish with the letter ‘n’ technique
— Hold the baby’s feet and move their legs up and down while following the shape of the letter. Don’t forget to cuddle them afterwards!
Step 5: Finish with the letter ‘n’ technique
— This stroke must be performed in a direction that aligns with the way substances move through the colon. With the baby lying in front of you, start by placing your left hand’s index and middle finger to the inside of the hip bone. Draw a straight line up and stop at the diagram. Repeat the same process with the right hand and once again stop under the diaphragm. After these steps, slowly glide your fingers across the abdomen. Once at the side of the tummy, finish with a downward stroke while keeping your fingers horizontal. This final stroke should finish inside the baby’s left hip bone (which is to your right).
Enrol in a baby tummy massage course online today
If you want to gain new skills to train parents on how to massage a baby’s belly for gas, sign up for one of our professionally recognised face-to-face or online baby massage courses and secure your qualification with us today.
- Certified Infant Massage Instructor — After completing this course, you will be qualified to teach parents infant massage techniques in a classroom setting or in private appointments. No previous experience is required.
- Paediatric Massage Consultant — As a massage consultant, you can share the benefits of paediatric massage with parents and build awareness for health professionals who work with families. To enrol, you must have relevant experience or training, such as a degree in nursing, midwifery, physiotherapy, or early childhood education.
In pursuing this career path, you will help new parents be receptive to their baby’s wants and needs so they can confidently massage their newborn’s tummy and reduce the discomfort caused by gas. Once you enrol in our training course, you will receive a training kit based on your chosen package and gain access to our online massage video tutorials.
We have three packages: a bronze pack with the training necessities, a silver pack with training and promotional essentials, and a gold pack with a full resource set comprising demo dolls, organic oils, posters, and manuals.
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