Massages to Relieve Infant Colic: Step-by-Step

If your baby suffers from infant colic, we'll tell you how to relieve their discomfort with a massage. Read the step-by-step instructions and enjoy the results.
Massages to Relieve Infant Colic: Step-by-Step
Maria Elisa Lisotti Luppi

Reviewed and approved by the physiotherapist Maria Elisa Lisotti Luppi.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Massage techniques for infant colic are simple and can be done at home by any parent. The relief comes through the hands helping the baby to relax. Do you want to know how to perform them? Then we invite you to read the following article.

What is infant colic?

Before starting, it’s important to know how to differentiate if your child is suffering from infant colic or has any other type of discomfort. For example, some unmet need such as hunger, sleep, or if their diaper needs to be changed.

Infant colic is defined as crying spells lasting more than 3 hours a day, lasting at least 3 days, and persisting for more than 3 weeks.

Here are some characteristics that distinguish infant colic from other types of crying :

  • The episodes are triggered abruptly and without apparent cause.
  • Your baby’s so irritable that it’s difficult to comfort them.
  • The tone of their cry is higher and more intense than usual.
  • The baby contracts its muscles with more intensity. For example, they clench their fists or their arms toward the abdomen.
  • After a few minutes or hours, the problem resolves itself spontaneously.

These episodes occur most frequently between the first two weeks of life and 4 months of age and the reasons haven’t been scientifically clarified.

A mother massaging her crying baby's belly.

How to help a baby with colic?

If your child suffers from infant colic, you can try some strategies to help them at home.

It’s important that you know that during the most acute moment of the crisis, you should try to remain calm. Little ones perceive their parents’ emotions very clearly and, if you feel calm, it’s easier to transmit tranquility to your baby.

While crying, your child needs your restraint, your serenity, and your accompaniment.

Once the crying spell subsides and the baby’s more receptive, you can apply some massages to their abdomen, hips, and legs. By doing so, you help them eliminate gas that may have entered their gut during the crisis.

Step-by-step massage instructions

Massages to relieve infant colic can be applied by the mother or father, starting one hour after feeding. Next, we’ll detail the step-by-step instructions you need to carry them out:

Prepare the space

Find a comfortable place to sit and lay your baby on your lap or on a padded surface. The temperature of the space should be warm, with a dim light. If you find it helpful, you can put some relaxing music in the background and some aromatic diffuser.

Arrange the necessary elements

First of all, wash your hands, since they’re the main element you’ll use for the massage. Your nails should be short enough not to hurt the baby.

Look for a gliding medium, such as almond oil or a baby-safe lotion. We also recommend you place a towel or some waterproof cloth under the child, as the massage may cause their sphincters to relax.

Prepare your baby

Talk to them, explain what you’re going to do and why. Even if they’re not yet expressing themself in words, your child will be better prepared for the experience if you tell them what’s going to happen. You can also ask them for permission to remove their clothes and diaper in order to start instilling respect for their body.

Once your baby’s ready, place them on your lap or the surface you’re prepared for this.

Start with colic massages

A massage session is an optimal time to enjoy connection and closeness with your child. It’s a way of accessing non-verbal communication through physical contact.

To get started, try these simple techniques to help relieve colic:

  1. Begin with a light rub: The first contact should be slow, superficial, similar to a caress. It’s the way to notify the baby’s body that they’re going to receive a massage. With the palm of your hand or fingers (if the baby is very small), go over your child’s abdomen. Take the opportunity to distribute the oil or cream and generate more heat in the area you’ll be massaging.
  2. Then, try some linear massages: Works on the surface located between the baby’s ribs and the pubis. With 2 or 3 fingers, you can slide down, alternating between one hand and the other.
  3. Proceed with circular massages around the navel: In a clockwise direction, apply gentle pressure while massaging.
  4. Simulates an emptying of the abdomen: With the palm of one hand, apply gentle pressure from the ribs towards the pubis. Alternate the same movement with the other hand.
  5. Mobilize the legs, simulating the movement of a bicycle: Bring one knee of the baby to their chest and then the other.
  6. Finish with a warm bath: After the massage, complete the relaxation with a bath. The simple act of floating in the warm water gives your little one an enormous sense of calm.
A mother massaging her baby.

Some suggestions

Finally, we suggest you check your breastfeeding technique to avoid the accumulation of gases that can make your baby uncomfortable. Also, offer physical contact to your baby whenever they need it.

One way is through safe and ergonomic baby carrying. Also, prioritize more vertical or oblique positions so that your baby can keep their legs and hips slightly flexed on their abdomen.

Implement family routines, both for eating, bathing, and resting. This helps your little one become familiar with the rhythm of your home and decrease their alertness. Likewise, it improves their rest.

Massages are very useful, but they must be practiced in the correct way: With delicate movements that involve gentle pressure and are proportionate to the size of the baby. If you don’t feel safe doing it, you can go to a massage specialist, such as a child physical therapist.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Hernández Hernández A. ¿Qué hacemos con el cólico del lactante? Pediatría Integral 2017, 21(17):20-21. Disponible en:
  • Castillo Ramírez, Marisol, and Katy Vargas Durán. Efectividad del masaje en el área abdominal para la reducción de los cólicos del lactante. Enfermería Actual de Costa Rica 32 (2017): 79-89. Disponible en:
  • Fustero Albero, Marta, and Ana Carmen Josefina Coarasa Liron De Robles. Masaje abdominal en los cólicos del lactante: Estudio de resultados.
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  • Manteiga Urbón, Jose Luis. Eficacia de las técnicas craneales de fisioterapia manual en el cólico del lactante: un proyecto de investigación. 2019.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.