Transcript: How Bodywork Can Help With Tummy Time Challenges and Infant Troubles

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called How Bodywork Can Help With Tummy Time Challenges and Infant Troubles and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Helen Thompson: This is Helen Thompson, thank you for being here today. If you’ve already subscribed to the show, thank you so much, mums. You always are amazing and if you’re here for the first time, make sure you subscribe to the show. You will find First Time Mum’s Chat on all the main platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon as well as now on YouTube.

Today, I’m bringing you the first of two episodes with an amazing woman. Austin Rees has been supporting families for more than 20 years and has a wide repertoire as a craniosacral therapy practitioner, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, a Licensed Massage Therapist, Baby Wearing Educator, as well as a tummy time method professional. Combining her expertise in lactation baby wearing and craniosacral therapy, Austin is able to offer comprehensive care and support to families.

During this episode you’ll hear Austin share tips from her vast experience, specifically around how she helps families faced with infant tummy troubles and tummy time challenges. Now let’s meet Austin and get on to the interview.

Hi Austin and welcome to First Time Mums Chat. I’m delighted to have you here today and I’m looking forward to chatting with you about how you assist families. Can you please start by telling us about yourself and your background?

Austin Rees: Thank you, Helen, for inviting me. I’m excited to talk about this topic because it’s something that’s common that comes up with a lot of parents on having difficulty with tummy issues and colic or troubles in tummy time. My background is I am a mother of four and I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and I’m a Licensed Massage Therapist and I practice craniosacral therapy specializing in infants. So I work with a lot of parents.

So, a lot of families come into my office sharing that they’re having challenges with baby being uncomfortable, a lot of spit up and having a lot of gas, uncomfortable, unable to put down and just really babies who are just not comfortable in their bodies. They’re not sleeping as much and then parents too are not sleeping as much or may have other children that they’re tending to as well, but these babies who are having tummy issues are just making it a challenge for the whole family.

As a craniosacral therapist, I see this sign of these spit up or tummy, a gas or a distended abdomen with that big poofy belly are signs to me that there are restrictions in the body. So as a craniosacral therapist, my fingers are trained to feel where there is tightness or tension in the body, in the tissues and I use really light touch and use gentle movement, like micro movements to kind of push and pull through the tissues to get relief. The most pressure I use when I work with infants is about five grams, which is the equivalent of balancing a nickel on your finger.

Helen Thompson: Wow, I know with baby massage, I work on the tummy and I go in a clockwise direction and it helps to release all the bubbles and all the tension in the tummy. Do you as a craniosacral therapist, work in different areas to relieve colic or is it just the tummy? You mentioned reflux as well because I know that’s a big problem for mums.

Austin Rees: Yeah, so when I work with a baby, I kind of see what areas are kind of calling for attention and I love to place a hand gently on the belly and just see, you know, if that gas is starting to come through, just kind of feeling and that exit chute, which is on the left side of the baby and it’s the right side for me when I’m facing the baby and just kind of feeling if there’s any motility or movement or gas bubbles.

Some of the techniques I use will start to get those gas bubbles and movement through. I also go up to the sphincters, those little valves that keep the milk in the stomach or if they open, it’ll bring a little bit of that acid or milk up and just kind of see if there’s any tightness or any pull that’s making that uncomfortable for babies and I get that nice and relieved and open so that there’s nothing pulling on that area and so that it can also become a little stronger and stay closed and not open. But kind of checking through the whole body, even up to the throat just to see if there’s any restrictions there and then asking parents too, if baby has eaten in the last half hour. If not, I will utilize some massage techniques as well.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I know from a baby massage point of view massaging tummy just after feeding is not a good idea because it brings up all the gas and it’s uncomfortable for them anyway but if you do it after a feed it’s even more uncomfortable because their little tummies are still trying to digest all that milk.

Austin Rees: Yeah and I do recommend all of my families to do infant massage because learning those gas colic routines and not just one tummy massage to help them be able to utilize this during their days and when they are home.

Helen Thompson: Babies when they have colic, it mainly comes out at night when the mothers and the babies and the family want to sleep. So is that what you call the sort of witching hour? If somebody comes to see you, when’s a good time for them to come and see you to get relief?

Austin Rees: well, that is a great question. It’s usually when there’s an opening in the schedule, but I recently read a report sharing that colic or reflux or tummy challenges are typically between 12am and 6am or 6 PM and 12 PM. So, ideally, I find when babies come into my office in the morning, it’s a little easier the way that my schedule works out.

I work later on Wednesdays. So, if I get babies, it would be in the afternoon but I haven’t seen a challenge in that, and it’s not really in that typical witching hour that I work with families, but I do ask them, what do they do to find relief during those witching hours, and then I can give some more recommendations or answer any questions that they have, but also see what they have found that helps them during that time.

Helen Thompson: And what do you think about tummy time in helping colic? If your baby’s lying on her tummy, or on a ball, or anything like that, do you, as a CST and a massage therapist, would you say that that helps with colic? Is there anything you can do for tummy time that helps a baby to relieve colic?

Austin Rees: So, yes, and a lot of parents whose babies, are having challenges with spitting up after feeding or tummy hurts after they eat, they tend not to put their babies on their belly or even trying to find a good time during the day to do tummy time when they’re not feeding or sleeping or uncomfortable.

What I recommend is babies tend to be somewhat alert and comfortable after a feeding and parents instinctually with babies who have reflux or colic or irritated tummies, will keep them upright on their body for about 20 – 30 minutes after feeding and I share that research has shown that babies who’ve been diagnosed with reflux, that being upright, like they instinctually are holding them, or on their belly or on their left side, are the most comfortable positions for them after feeding. So, if they’re in a good mood, then let’s do tummy time right after a feeding, so that you can engage, and baby’s in a good mood. Some parents will share that there may be a little bit of spit up right afterwards.

We just put a blanket on the floor, just clean them up and just move over a little bit when they’re on their belly and that pressure, that gravity up against their belly helps with moving gas and it also helps with strengthening the valve that goes over the stomach to keep that milk in the belly.

Helen Thompson: Some parents say to me that the baby doesn’t like tummy time, and they don’t like doing tummy time, but I always say to them as a baby massage instructor, just do it slowly. Take it one step at a time. Maybe just do two minutes, and then lift them up and play with them, give them a cuddle and do what you need to do.

Then lie them down again, but just do it gradually and not push it too much. Even lying them on you, is still a form of tummy time, because you’re getting that skin to skin as well. That’s comforting for a baby if they’ve got colic or they’ve got congestion or digestive issues. It can actually comfort them because they can also hear your heartbeat and that’s what they felt in the womb as well.

Austin Rees: I do give some tips and tricks on how to do it on the floor but the first two weeks of life, that gold standard tummy time is on the body. You brought up skin to skin and that is something that parents can do to alleviate pain, to increase digestion, to increase immunity, independence, intelligence and it reduces pain by just bringing them skin to skin, which is nothing on from belly button up on the caregiver and the baby, up against the body with their head to the side, arms flexed and the knees bent kind of like in a little frog position up against the body. Research has shown that babies who have had reflux or diagnosed with colic, that by just simply doing skin to skin, decreased crying from three and a half hours a day to 1.7. So having a little research to put behind something that we’ve been doing for comfort.

Helen Thompson: Wow, that’s a big, big difference. I know how important skin to skin is, but I didn’t realise that, that’s amazing. You can still give your baby skin to skin time if they’re lying on their tummy on the floor, because you can play with them and you can talk to them and you can have eye contact with them and hold their little hands and help them to move to the side.

Austin Rees: So even if baby having naked tummy time is, extra credit to a lot of parents will do it like after bath time on the floor with a parent. As soon as it’s a little too much for them, I encourage parents just to roll them back onto their back and pick them up and calm. And it’s just dosing little bits throughout the day. As far as skin to skin, skin to skin is any skin contact from caregiver to baby on any surface of the body. However, it’s that kangaroo care, that sternum to sternum, that chest to chest, bare chest to bare chest is where we’re going to get those big changes that reduce in crying, pain relief. It also reduces the stress hormone in both the caregiver and the baby by just bringing them next to each other on their chest for that skin to skin kangaroo care too.

Helen Thompson: It also releases oxytocin as well, which is the love hormone. Which I actually love to call the cuddle hormone because to me, that’s exactly what it is. You’re giving that cuddle, and you’re giving them that support and it’s releasing all that love while you’re doing that and it can also release pain at the same time.

Austin Rees: It can, yes.

Helen Thompson: So you’ve mentioned a lot of tips is there any other tip that you would recommend to a mum who is struggling with tummy time?

Austin Rees: Yeah, so for babies who are not interested, so finding those key times. So I would say, let’s do it after a feeding and see, because a lot of parents don’t do it after feeding and see if that’s a key time, keeping them upright on their body. Babies who have difficulty on their belly gives me a sign that there’s something else that’s making it hard.

So I also act as a detective, as a craniosacral therapist, to find what could be causing this. Making sure, a lot of things on feeding going well. If they’re having some challenges with that, maybe some air is getting in from either the breast or the bottle, which is making the tummy have a little bit more gas. Little bits on the floor, having something that’s we call novelty, something that is extraordinary that the baby wants to see, and that’s usually parents’ face or hearing their face, getting on the floor with them, it could be a rattle, it could be a sibling. It’s great when there’s older siblings running around cause they want to see what they’re doing.

I’ll usually ask them to ask their two year old to show them their favorite toy so that baby can get interested in their environment on their belly. When it’s too much, roll out and pick them back up. You can always do little bits. A tip is to do it at a diaper change. So when parent is trying to find time to add in some tummy time, you already have diaper changes set into your schedule. So clean off the baby, roll them to their belly, hang out, have their favorite toy by their changing area and then roll them back and put a clean diaper on. So that’s a good way to do it as well. Yeah,

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I love mirror play. I think when babies are on their tummy and they’re having mirror play and you’re lying with them, not only are they seeing you and seeing your face but they’re learning about expression and they’re learning about different ways to look at you and if you’re fiddling with your fingers, they’re learning about the fingers. You can encourage them to have tummy time by giving them that mirror play because they’re excited about seeing their face and seeing your face, or seeing their sibling’s face. Mirror play has so many benefits.

Austin Rees: They really do and there’s an age where like faces are just very intriguing and that’s something that can really keep them engaged when they’re on their belly. Also, just rolling them to their side for a little bit before rolling them onto their belly can help as well. Especially having some pressure on all four planes, their belly, their left side, their back, their right side, is really good for them to have that time on their side as well. Knowing babies who have colic or reflux or tummy challenges, rolling over to that left side before rolling onto their belly might be comfortable too.

Helen Thompson: One question on that, why on your left side? Is that because that’s the way the bowel moves?

Austin Rees: The research that I have read showed it was mainly for infants who were premature and in the NICU, they found that laying on the right side had faster gastric motility, so the stomach emptied faster, on the right side, which was good for weight gain for little babies, but it may be uncomfortable for those who are having some tummy challenges, but that the left side, stomach’s over here was a little bit more comfy and it probably has something to do with that’s a little exit area of the GI tract too. It starts over there on that left side.

Helen Thompson: That’s interesting. Well, thank you, I’ve learnt a lot more about tummy time from you and the left and right sides and when to do it, so thank you for all your tips and advice.

Austin Rees: Some things that I’ve asked parents that help them during those witching hours, a lot of them will share using a baby carrier. So using a baby carrier during those times have been very advantageous. I share that those carriers that are a little bit more fabric and can be tied on or a little bit more comfy are great to use skin to skin with the baby carrier during those challenging times. So it’s just an extra tool for families who are doing tummy time, but doing skin to skin or kangaroo care is adding a baby carrier, so you have two free hands as well during those tough times.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, that’s another topic. I love baby wearing, it’s got many benefits as well for that challenging time when they’re having that colic or digestive problems. Thank you, that’s a great tip for moms. So if anybody wanted to get in touch with you and find out more about what you do.

Austin Rees: I have a website that has a lot of information on what is craniosacral therapy, what it helps, results that parents can see, and a lot of frequently asked questions and pictures and it’s by business name. So it’s NourishandAlign.Com and I’m happy to answer any questions. There is a way to get in touch with me through the website or people are welcome to email me as well at I am located in Baltimore, Maryland in the states.

Helen Thompson: Well, thank you Austin for sharing your expertise. It’s been a pleasure talking to you, so thank you very much for being here.

Austin Rees: Thank you. I’ve had a blast.

Helen Thompson: Thanks mums, you’re amazing and I hope you enjoyed this episode. I’ll be chatting with Austin in August about concerns that many parents have about their baby’s head shape. So if you haven’t done so already, make sure you hit the subscribe button now.