The Link Between Baby Massage and Healthy Tummies

Updated 
May 28, 2024
 | 
10
 minutes read
Written by
Elina Furman
Founder Kahlmi

When it comes to deciphering what's going on with your baby’s tummy, most parents, and even doctors, are often stumped. From constipation to gas to colic, figuring out how to boost your baby’s digestion and conquer constipation can be like entering a labyrinth of uncertainty and frustration with no clear end in sight.

The truth is so much of the first few months are spent trying to help our babies eliminate gas and stool. The reason for all this confusion is that a baby’s digestive system is not fully mature at birth.  

There are many ways to try and help relieve symptoms of constipation in your baby. One approach to relieving constipation in your baby is baby massage.  Read on for more about the importance of massage to help with baby poop problems and how to massage to help your baby poop safely and effectively.  

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The Importance of Massage to Relieve Constipation

Infant digestive systems typically take about 3–4 months to mature. During this period, it's very common for babies to experience frequent bouts of gas, spitting up, and intestinal discomfort – as well as irregular bowel movements and constipation.  

It can take months for your baby’s digestion to become more regular. In the meantime, crying spells, sleepless nights, and unpredictable bowel movements can leave a baby uncomfortable and unhappy, and parents feeling helpless and exhausted.  

Constipation, or difficult or infrequent bowel movements, is a common digestive issue in adolescence. Constipation typically happens when the colon absorbs excess water, resulting in firmer stool that can be challenging to pass.  

Studies show that as many as 30 percent of children experience constipation in their early years, and the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that as many as 1 in 20 child doctor’s visits children are because of constipation.  

Providing gentle assistance such as belly and foot massages can help relieve some of the issues of constipation or discomfort by helping the movement of milk or formula, reducing blockages, and easing gas pains.  

Although many digestive issues in babies such as constipation often improve with age, managing them with daily baby massage can help significantly.

Signs your baby may be constipated and to consider massage:

If you notice any of these symptoms of constipation, you should also consult with your pediatrician to find out the best course of action:

  • straining and grunting during bowel movements
  • a bloated belly
  • poop that appears hard and pebble-like.  

Preparing Baby for a Massage to Help Them Poop

Successfully preparing your baby for the massage to help them poop will require a few steps. These steps can create a comfortable and soothing environment for both you and your baby.

  1. Time It Right: You’ll want to make sure your baby has had had ample time to digest after the feeding. If you do the massage too early right after feeding, your baby may spit up and feel discomfort. A good rule of thumb is to wait 30 minutes after the feed to give your baby ample time to digest. It’s also a good rule of thumb to massage your baby’s belly with organic massage oil after they’ve had a bath since they are more likely to be relaxed and able to eliminate stool.
  1. Set the Scene: Preparation is key. Collect all the necessary supplies beforehand to avoid interruptions during the massage, including organic massage oil, an extra diaper, and a towel or blanket to keep them warm during the massage. Create a comfortable nook for your baby using blankets and pillows to keep them warm. You can also use a bolster or cushion for your back for additional support. Have a pack of wipes on hand as well for cleanup afterward or if spits up.
  1. Connect with Your Baby: Before you begin the massage, make sure your baby is ready for the massage. Rub your hands together at baby’s eye level and say, “Are you ready for a massage?” If your baby avoids eye contact and seems restless, they may be overtired and not in the mood for a massage. If they seem alert, making eye contact and relaxed, continue onward with the massage for poop.  

The best time to do a poop massage  

Constipation and gas pains have a way of worsening in the evening, which can lead to more fussiness right before bed and a hard time falling asleep.  

Performing a belly massage before feeding your baby or after their bath can also lead to a better night's sleep for your baby.

Types of Massage to Help Your Baby Poop

There are different ways to massage your baby to help aid in bowel movement.

  1. Belly Wheel: When it comes to baby massage and aiding bowel movement, always massage in a clockwise direction on your baby’s belly. That is because this is the natural direction of the digestive system. Start on baby’s right side and move toward the left using pads of your fingers to apply medium pressure. Always check in on your baby and communicate what you are doing so you can gauge their reaction and work on naming their body parts. Repeat the wheel for 2 minutes or longer if your baby seems content with this massage stroke.
  1. The Paddle: Form two flat paddles with your hands and stroke down from the top of the belly to your baby’s lower belly. Continue this massage stroke using medium pressure and repeat the paddle stroke for 2 minutes. Make sure to watch your baby carefully for signs of discomfort.
  1. I Love You Massage: This massage stroke is a wonderful way to decrease gas and ease your baby’s constipation. Start by tracing an “I” down your babies left side from the top of the tummy. Then, trace an inverted letter “L”, starting on the top right side and moving down the left side of your baby’s belly. Finally, trace an upside down “U,” beginning at the lower part of your baby’s right side over the belly button and down the left side. Do this sequence for 2-3 minutes
  1. Foot Massage: One of the best ways to encourage bowel clearing and baby poop is a good old fashioned foot rub. It’s called foot reflexology and is an ancient practice that includes massaging specific points on the feet connected to different organs, glands and parts of the body. You’ll want to use your index finger to trace a line on the middle of your baby’s feet to energize their upper and lower abdomen, tracing your finger from the outside of the heel to the inside of the foot. Then, make small circles on the energy point called the “solar plexus” located right in the middle of the foot, below the fleshy foot mound.  Repeat this sequence on both feet for about 2-3 minutes total and then complete the session with light stretching.
  1. Gentle Stretching: Stretching your baby after a tummy and foot massage is a great way to provide your baby with some motor development exercises while helping them poop. One stretch that helps is the Froggy. Just bend your baby’s knees gently to their belly and straighten the legs out. Do this slowly and repeat 5-10 times. Your baby will be able to release more gas and /or poop after this exercise. Another technique is the hip sway. Gently place both your hands on baby’s hips and sway their hips from side to side. This can release tension in their hips and allow the milk to flow through their digestive system, dislodging any blockages.

Connecting the Dots: Baby Poop Massage and Sleep

Massage to relieve belly discomfort can have major benefits on baby sleep. Ever tried to sleep on a full stomach when you’re feeling gassy? It’s not a pleasant experience.  

As with adults, constipation and gas can disrupt your baby’s sleep patterns. When your baby is uncomfortable and feels constipated and gassy, it can cause a myriad of sleep disruptions and fussiness leading to broken sleep for both you and your baby.  

By proactively doing a baby poop massage every day, parents will find that their babies are generally more comfortable and able to settle down for a deeper sleep experience with far fewer interruptions.  

If you’re curious about other ways to soothe your baby and support their sleep during naps or at night, download the Smart Sleep Coach by PampersTM app. The app is built to help parents instill healthy sleep habits in their babies, which includes ensuring the right sleep schedule, bedtime routine, and sleep environment. Baby massage, paired with the app’s real-time notifications on when you should begin bedtime routine to align sleep with their circadian rhythm, can be a game-changer for helping your baby fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and sleep more soundly.  

Take this free 3-minute quiz to instantly get a personalized sleep plan to complement baby massage for your little one.  

Final Thoughts

Any discomfort in your baby can be concerning, and constipation or difficulty pooping can be hard on both babies and their loved ones. Baby massage is one way that may alleviate some of the discomfort associated with constipation and tummy troubles and help your baby poop.

It's important to remember that every baby is unique and what constitutes normal bowel movements can vary from one child to another.  

Trust your instincts, remain vigilant for any changes in your baby's poop patterns, talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns, and continue to provide them with the love and care they need for healthy development.

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FAQs:

Starting on the belly and ending with the feet is a great way to help your baby relieve any bowel obstructions. You can also incorporate gentle stretching, pushing their knees up to help them strain and moving their hips to help them pass stool.

There are several pressure points to help your baby poop. The feet have a variety of points to help your baby with constipation. The solar plexus located in the middle of the foot right below the fleshy part of their foot is a good point to massage and induce relaxation which helps with poop and sleep.

Regular belly and foot massage is a great way to keep your baby’s digestion running smoothly. By performing these massage strokes daily you will be providing your baby with a cue that it’s time to release their tension, pass gas, and get ready for sleep.

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How We Wrote this Article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

Sources

American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children.org, “Constipation”

Frontiers in Pediatrics, “First Bites—Why, When, and What Solid Foods to Feed Infants”

Mass.gov, “All About Infant Nutrition”

National Institutes of Health, “Constipation”  

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), “Constipation in children and young people: diagnosis and management”  

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