Colic is such a challenge for babies and parents. Fortunately, there are several natural remedies available to help ease your little one’s discomfort. One such remedy is abdominal massage, which also provides constipation relief in toddlers and kids. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to perform abdominal massage and how it can help sooth your baby, reduce crying time, and provide occasional constipation relief.
To learn more about colic and how to treat it naturally, see: Natural Treatment Of Infant Colic – Dr. Green Mom.
Infant Abdominal Massage For Colic Relief
Infant abdominal massage is beneficial in that it’s relaxing to the nervous system and supportive to the baby’s developing digestive system. It has also been shown to reduce total crying time in colicky babies (1).
Additionally, research shows that when a parent performs infant massage, it regulates both the baby and the parent’s nervous systems (2). In fact, parents who perform infant massage report experiencing less stress, anxiety, and depression. Infant massage is beneficial for parents and babies.
How To Massage Baby For Colic Relief & Comfort
Begin by preparing your space. Make sure the room is pleasantly warm and have a diaper, clothes, and some oil nearby so you don’t need to walk away. I recommend coconut oil. Undress your baby and place them face up either on a soft blanket on your bed or over your knees while you are seated in a comfortable chair. Then, warm your hands by rubbing them together with a small amount of oil before beginning the abdominal massage. While there are many colic massage techniques for babies, my personal favorite is the ‘I Love U’ massage.
‘I Love U’ Baby Colic Massage Steps
- Using your finger tips, trace the letter ‘I’ down your baby’s left side (your right), from rib to hips. Repeat this 3-5 times.
- Still using your finger tips, start at the base of the baby’s ribs on their right side (your left). Gently rub an upside down ‘L’ across the top of their abdomen and down their left side to their hips. Repeat this 3-5 times.
- Next, starting low on the baby’s right side, by the top of their hip bone, draw an upside-down ‘U’ (up to the top of their abdomen and down on the opposite side), finishing above their left hip bone. Repeat this 3-5 times.
- Repeat these three strokes for as long you and your baby would like. With each stroke, I say to my little one, “I. Love. You.”
Other Massage Techniques
Another helpful technique is to gently lift your baby’s legs and move them in a bicycling motion. This can help release trapped gas and relieve discomfort. It’s important to go slowly and listen to your baby’s cues during the massage. If your baby seems uncomfortable or agitated, stop the massage and try again later.
Incorporating infant abdominal massage into your daily routine can be a great way to help soothe colic symptoms and bond with your baby. You can try doing the massage after bath time or before bed to help your baby relax and promote better sleep.
Use Caution with Abdominal Massage in Preterm Infants
Though rare, there have been some recorded cases of preterm babies presenting with volvulus (intestinal obstruction) after receiving abdominal massage (5). Causation has not been proven, but caution is still warranted. If your baby is considered preterm, please be sure to consult with a doctor before trying abdominal massage.
Abdominal Massage For Constipation Relief In Toddlers & Kids
The benefits of abdominal massage don’t magically end when babies become toddlers! This is a technique with benefits for all ages. Especially if your child struggles with constipation, belly massage can be a wonderful way to get things moving. In fact, abdominal massage for constipation has been studied in both kids and adults and shown to be effective (3,4). In my practice, this is often one of the first tools I recommend for families struggling with constipation, along with castor oil packs and herbal support.
Tricks & Tips For Massaging Toddlers
You may be wondering how to wrangle a toddler and convince them to lay still for a massage. If this doesn’t work for your toddler right now, that’s okay! I do have some tips that may help, though.
- Try massaging after a relaxing bath. I have found after bathtime to be the best time to massage my toddler as he is already undressed and warm and associates after bathtime with winding down.
- Incorporate a story. Does your toddler like trucks? Try telling a story about a truck driving all over belly-ville as you use your hands to act it out on their belly.
- Ask your toddler to massage you first.
- Follow their cues. This should be a fun and relaxing experience for you both. If it’s not, it’s okay to stop.
Infant abdominal massage for colic is a gentle and often effective way to help ease your baby’s discomfort. Consider doing the massage after bath time or before bed to help your baby relax and promote better sleep. The beauty of this gentle colic treatment is that it benefits both mom and baby by regulating both nervous systems at once. For many, this is an enjoyable way to bond and a favorite part of the bedtime routine. Beyond babyhood, abdominal massage is a wonderfully simple way to relieve constipation in toddlers and kids!
- Sheidaei, A., Abadi, A., Zayeri, F., Nahidi, F., Gazerani, N., & Mansouri, A. (2016). The effectiveness of massage therapy in the treatment of infantile colic symptoms: A randomized controlled trial. Medical journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 30, 351.
- Pados, B. F., & McGlothen-Bell, K. (2019). Benefits of Infant Massage for Infants and Parents in the NICU. Nursing for women’s health, 23(3), 265–271. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nwh.2019.03.004
- Bromley D. (2014). Abdominal massage in the management of chronic constipation for children with disability. Community practitioner : the journal of the Community Practitioners’ & Health Visitors’ Association, 87(12), 25–29.
- Doğan, İ. G., Gürşen, C., Akbayrak, T., Balaban, Y. H., Vahabov, C., Üzelpasacı, E., & Özgül, S. (2022). Abdominal Massage in Functional Chronic Constipation: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. Physical therapy, 102(7), pzac058. https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/pzac058
- Karkhaneh, M., Zorzela, L., Jou, H., Funabashi, M., Dryden, T., & Vohra, S. (2020). Adverse events associated with paediatric massage therapy: a systematic review. BMJ paediatrics open, 4(1), e000584. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjpo-2019-000584