How to Massage Your Baby (Step by Step Guide & Tips)

February 18, 2022

What is baby massage?

Baby massage is soothing, warm and rhythmic stroking and rubbing of your baby’s body with your hands. You can always make use of oils, moisturiser or special gels to help you glide your hands easier and more smoothly over your baby’s skin.

The massage routine includes gently manipulating your baby’s hands, arms, back, belly, legs, feet, wrists and fingers. Massaging your baby will help increase the production of oxytocin (the “feel-good” hormone) in your baby’s body soothing it and giving it a warm feeling.

How and when to massage a baby

When it comes to creating a loving bond between you and your baby, then a massage is one that will benefit both of you. It provides a soothing relaxing sensation for your baby and that can provide them with several benefits.

However, it can be tricky to know how to massage a baby. You might also not be sure when to massage a baby. We will take you through all these questions and everything you need to know to be able to massage an infant.

Benefits of massaging your baby

When it comes to the benefits of infant massage there are several different health and well-being benefits to both you and your baby. How does masse benefit your baby:

  • Intellectual, physical and mental development
  • Colic relief
  • Pain relief
  • Improve weight gain
  • Improve sleep patterns
  • Improve motor skills
  • crying less
  • be less fussy
  • settle easier

There have also been some studies that suggest massaging can assist new-born’s with recovering from Jaundice.

As a parent massaging your baby can help strengthen the bond between parent and child, it can elevate mood, help with post-natal depression symptoms and make you feel more empowered as a parent.

Massage can be even more beneficial for fathers who may feel that they are getting less of a bond with the newborn particularly if the baby is breastfeeding. It can be great to incorporate massage into the bedtime routine, following a bath or wash.

9 Steps to massage your baby

  1. Pick the time: you want to massage your baby at the right time. It shouldn’t be when they are about to sleep or have just woken up, and it should be between feeds so there is no discomfort for them. You want them to be settled but awake and alert so that they can fully benefit from the massage session.
  2. Set the location: you want to make sure that the room you choose is warm (around 24°C / 75°F) and that there are no draughts or other breezes. Lay down a towel or sheet possibly over a changing mat and make sure they are comfortable. Also, make sure you won’t be disturbed this is a time for just you and baby.
  3. Have all the things you need to hand: you will want some oil or cream to rub on your baby, a towel or cloth for accidents and spills, a change of clothes to put the baby into afterward and your usual nappy changing kit. Having everything ready beforehand means that you can be in the moment and not have to rush around afterward or disrupt the massage.
  4. Massage the baby for 15-20 mins: studies have shown that a massage session from 15 to 20 minutes is the ideal duration for your baby
  5. Use oil or cream: squirt a tiny bit of oil or massaging cream in your hands and run them together so that it spreads evenly on your palms.
  6. Start with the legs: the baby is used to having their legs touched whilst they are changed and therefore this won’t be a new sensation for them. Allow them time to get used to the massage feeling before you move on to the calves and thighs.
  7. Continue with the chest: slowly and gently move up towards the chest area and place both hands facing down against the center of its chest. Then calmly spread them to the sides applying very light pressure.
  8. Massage the arms: follow up massaging the chest with massaging the arms, repeat the movements you carried out on the legs and give them time to get used to it; take your time, there’s no rush.
  9. Finish with the back: you want to complete the massage with the back and then allow your baby to rest afterwards. For the back you should follow the exact same technique you used when massaging the chest and legs.

Always make sure to stay alert and read your baby’s cues – this is one of the most important aspects of massaging your baby. If your baby feels discomfort at any moment she will let you know so pay attention to how she reacts to your massaging movement. If your baby shows signs of discomfort try to apply less pressure and change your movements. If it doesn’t work take a break and try again later.

Sandra McNeil, PhD.
Sandra McNeil, PhD.

Sandra has over 13 years of experience as a child psychologist, both as a practitioner and researcher. She has a Bachelor's in child psychology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and then she did her master's in Psychology in Education (focused on Children & Families) at Columbia University, NY. She has been writing for health and child-related publications for over 5 years now.

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