How To Use Infant Massage to Relieve Reflux

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Massage on any part of the body causes increased activity or stimulation to a nerve in the brain called the vagus nerve. This nerve branches out to control various regions of the respiratory and digestive systems, including the esophagus and the stomach. To use massage successfully for an infant with reflux, follow the steps below:

  1. Position your baby on the floor with a blanket or towel underneath. Ensure the area is nice and warm and that there will be no bright lights in your baby’s eyes.
  2. Place a cushion or a few pillows under her back and head to place her in a comfortable 45-degree angle for massage time.
  3. Use a pure, cold-pressed, organic oil that is fruit-, nut-, seed-, or plant-based and is free from any essential oils or perfumes. It is also recommended that you make sure the oil is edible for when hands or feet are placed in the mouth during massage time.
  4. Find a time that is right for you and your baby, but try to avoid massage at bath time if your baby is under 5 months of age. Many small infants can find this combination overstimulating instead of relaxing. The best time to massage is when your baby is happy and quiet, just after waking from a nap.
  5. Let your baby know that massage is going to begin by talking, making eye contact, smiling, and rubbing your hands together to warm the oil.
  6. Use long, firm, confident strokes. Babies prefer this to a light, feathery massage.
  7. Begin by stroking the legs first, and progress to other areas of the body, concentrating on the areas that your baby seems to enjoy most. If you think that the abdomen is a tender area for your baby, or if you think that massage here might result in posseting, then leave this area out.
  8. For back massage, consider positions that will keep your baby upright. You could try a cuddle position, supporting your baby on your chest and shoulder while leaning back slightly onto a sofa for support, or a side-lying position, while she is still raised at an angle on her pillows.

Further information and advice on how to use massage successfully with your baby can be found through the Infant Massage Information Service. Visit for details.



Heidi McLoughlin

President & Head Trainer

Infant Massage Information Service


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