How Infant Massage Can Help With Reflux

Massage therapy has been used for centuries to help with pain, injury and illness, and infant massage in particular has been found to benefit not only physical health, but also the emotional and psychological health of babies.

With regular massage, infants experience improved function of the respiratory and digestive systems, reduced levels of stress hormones, enhanced cognitive ability, reduced crying and better, more regular sleep. Not only that, but infant massage has also been found to help with infant reflux as well. Read on to find out more about how infant massage can help your baby get relief from reflux.

What is reflux?

Gastro-oesophageal reflux (or simply ‘reflux’) is when contents from the stomach — including stomach acid — are spontaneously passed into the oesophagus, causing a lot of discomfort. You can tell if your baby is suffering from reflux through symptoms such as regurgitation, possetting and projectile vomiting, but unfortunately, a child can suffer from reflux without any of these symptoms presenting as well.

While it’s common for people to think that reflux is something their baby will eventually grow out of, in some cases it doesn’t just go away; instead, it ends up causing far worse complications.

How does infant massage help?

Reflux is a direct result of the incomplete development of the muscle between the stomach and the oesophagus, and, unlike regular muscles, it can’t be helped directly with massage therapy. Instead, it is the skin stimulation from the massage that affects the nervous system, which in turn helps the muscle develop in two major ways:

Massage on any part of the body stimulates the vagus nerve, which is a nerve in the brain that controls various regions of the respiratory and digestive systems. This includes the oesophagus and the stomach.

Massage helps the nerves in the body to develop more quickly, which means they can begin to operate more effectively sooner. Since nerves control the muscle between the stomach and oesophagus, massage should help to improve its ability to function.

Starting the infant massage

To prepare your baby for massage to ease reflux, begin by placing them on the floor with a blanket or baby cushion underneath so that they are at a comfortable 45-degree angle. Choose pure, cold-pressed, edible, and organic massage oil that is free of any essential oils or perfumes, and begin rubbing it between your hands to warm it up. While you are doing this, start talking, making eye contact and smiling at your baby so that they know you are about to massage them.

When you begin the massage, start by stroking the legs with long, firm, confident strokes. After the legs, begin progressing to other areas of the body that your baby enjoys, being careful to avoid the abdomen if you think it might result in possetting. If you want to switch to massaging your baby’s back, using a side-lying position on a massage cushion or a cuddle position where you support your baby on your chest while leaning back is best for infants with reflux.

How long should you massage for?

You generally only need to massage your baby for short periods of time to get the full benefit, and you definitely don’t want to overdo it. Continue massaging the parts of the body your baby seems to enjoy and stop right away if they show signs of dislike. Massage your baby in this manner twice a day to ensure you are being effective in helping with the reflux.