As most new mothers will tell you, babies tend to follow a pattern of eating, sleeping and pooping. In many cases, this cycle repeats without issue. However, if your client’s newborn is experiencing excessive gastrointestinal distress, you might want to recommend infant massage to the belly to ease this problem.
According to the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, most newborns experience relatively little difficulty eating and digesting food. But in some cases, a number of clues might indicate a problem in the gastrointestinal tract. Continuous spitting up and projectile vomiting could be signs the digestive process is not proceeding as it should. Additionally, colic, which is prolonged or excessive crying with no obvious medical reason, could relate to temperament and adjustment to the world but might also be a symptom of excess gas that is produced as food is digested. This condition usually begins around three weeks of age and subsides by three months. The good news is, gas-induced colic can respond to massage.
The La Leche League International encourages stomach massage for infants to reduce gas, colic and constipation. Whether you perform the massage or instruct the new mom, there are several techniques that are effective and easy to learn. Before you begin, it’s important the baby is calm and alert; you should not perform massage on a baby that is fretting or crying. Also, be sure not to feed the baby immediately prior to tummy massage.
To start, undress the baby, leaving only the diaper on, and place the infant on a blanket face up. Using your fingertips, begin at the base of the rib cage and make circular, clockwise motions on the baby’s skin. It’s important to massage in a clockwise direction to help with the elimination process. Start with large circles and gradually make them smaller and smaller as you move inward toward the navel.
Another effective method is the “paddle wheel.” Place your palm under the baby’s chin with your fingers pointed toward her shoulder, and slowly move your hand down her chest and to the diaper area. Once your hand reaches the navel, place your opposite hand under the baby’s chin and repeat the same downward motion with this hand. Continue switching hands, maintaining gentle pressure.
You can also hold the baby’s knees and feet together, gently pressing the knees toward the abdomen. Rotate the baby’s hips a few times to one side and then to the other side, in a gentle motion. Another effective gas-relief technique is to place your hand horizontally on the infant’s stomach and lightly rock your hand from side to side.
Tummy massage on infants can be done with or without oil or cream. If you choose a product, make sure it is edible or organic; avoid nut oils and test the oil or cream in a small area for any allergic reaction before using it during massage. Always wait until the baby’s umbilical cord has healed completely before giving massage.
Gastrointestinal discomfort affects not only the baby, but may also impact the entire household. Performing abdominal massage can ease gas pain for the infant and put mom’s mind at rest as well.