Baby massage

Babies can enjoy a massage, just like us! A relaxing massage can be beneficial to infants—and what’s better than a calm and content baby! Massage can also strengthen the bond between you and your baby. Read on to learn more about baby massage and the benefits for your little one.

What Is Baby Massage and What Are the Benefits?

Baby massage is a soothing therapy that involves gently touching and stroking your infant in a way that communicates your love and care. The benefits of massaging your baby may include:

  • Fostering a stronger bond through skin-to-skin interaction with your baby

  • Helping your baby calm down, relax, and sleep better

  • Having a positive effect on your baby’s stress levels

  • Reducing crying

  • Helping your premature baby grow and develop.

How Do You Massage Your Baby?

With just a little bit of prep and some basic massage techniques, you are all set to start massaging your little one. Follow these five easy steps:

  1. Pick your location. Find a warm, calming environment, like a quiet room or a shady spot outdoors on a nice day. The massage can take place on the floor or the ground, on a bed, or on the changing table. But be sure not to leave your baby unattended on a high surface, as they could roll and fall. Always keep a hand on them during the massage.

  2. Get your baby ready. You might consider massaging your baby after a bath as being bathed may help calm them in advance. Gather your baby massage oil if you're planning on using it. Once you’re ready to begin, place your baby on a blanket or towel. Remove their clothes except for their diaper, and softly tell them it’s time for a massage.

  3. Pay attention to your touch. Start by massaging your baby with gentle strokes on each part of their body, including their head, neck, upper back, shoulders, hands, waist, thighs, and feet. As they get older and more accustomed to the routine, you can gradually increase the pressure or firmness of your touch. Avoid tickling or irritating your baby but do whatever makes them happy. You could try some of the following massage variations:

    1. Stroke your baby with open palms

    2. Stroke them with your fingers or thumbs

    3. Rake them with your fingertips

    4. Tap them lightly with your fingertips

    5. Use a wringing motion to massage their arms and legs.

  4. Move from top to toe. Begin by placing your little one on their stomach and gently rubbing them from their head down to their hands and feet. If you’re using massage oil, don’t overdo it as your baby can get very slippery. Once you’ve turned them onto their back, extend and flex each of their arms and legs separately and then simultaneously. Then, you can repeat the massage again from top to bottom. Avoid your baby’s abdomen if they have recently eaten. Otherwise, you can try the “I love you” abdomen massage, by stroking the letters I, L, and U across their abdomen.

  5. Be calm and communicative. Throughout your baby’s massage, you’ll want to stay connected to your baby by quietly talking to them, narrating the massage, or by singing a lullaby or telling a story. The way they respond will clue you in to whether they are enjoying the massage or not. If your little one flaps their arms and seems happy, then you’re onto something. If they turn away from you, fidget, and seem unhappy, then it’s time to stop. You can always try again another time.

If you still feel hesitant about starting infant massage, look for a book on the subject at your local library, watch some videos online, or reach out to your child’s healthcare provider for guidance. There may even be classes on infant massage at your local medical centre or a massage specialist you could consult for more information. If your baby has any special medical issues, be sure to check with his healthcare provider before beginning massage.

When and How Often Should You Massage Your Baby?

You can start massaging your baby as early as you like. Just be sure to be extra gentle with newborns. Here are some tips on choosing the right times to massage your baby:

  • Wait 45 minutes or longer after a feeding. Starting too soon after they’ve eaten could cause your baby to vomit.

  • Pay attention to your baby’s moods. If your little one seems calm and looks at you with a steady gaze, they’re probably good to go. If they seem fussy, turn their head away from you, or stiffen up when you pick them up, it might be best to skip the massage for now.

  • Choose a time that’s good for both of you. It’s really up to you and your baby when and how often you do this activity together. You may decide to massage your baby in the evening, for example, as part of their bedtime routine. It could serve as a soothing ritual to calm them before sleep.

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What Can You Use for Baby Massage?

This is a personal preference. You may benefit from using an oil (that you may already have on hand for your baby’s skin care) during your baby’s massage to help reduce any friction created between your hands and your baby’s delicate skin. Some experts recommend vegetable oil, which won't be absorbed as quickly as a standard baby oil. Or, you may decide using an oil is just too messy. If you do decide to use a massage oil, choose one that is free of harsh chemicals and fragrances, and one that's edible, in case it gets into your little one’s mouth. Before using the oil for the first time, you’ll want to test it to gauge the reaction on your baby’s skin. Do this by applying a tiny bit to an area of their skin and wait to see if there’s a reaction. If there is, stop using the oil and consider trying another type of baby oil, or skipping it altogether.

FAQS AT A GLANCE

You can massage your baby any time, but ensure you are gentle with newborns. You can also:

  • wait at least 45 minutes after eating
  • ensure your baby is in the right mood.

Baby massage has many benefits, such as

  • creating a bond through skin-to-skin contact
  • helping your baby relax, calm down, and sleep better
  • decreasing crying
  • a positive effect on stress levels
  • helping premature babies grow and develop.

Here are 5 easy steps to massaging your baby:

  • Pick a warm, calm environment
  • Get your baby ready (blanket, massage oil, etc.)
  • Use gentle strokes on each part of their body. Be especially gentle with newborns
  • Move from top to toe
  • Be calm and communicative with your baby.

The main benefits of baby massage are:

  1. It can create a stronger bond between baby and parent through skin-to-skin contact
  2. Helps your baby relax and sleep better
  3. Can help premature babies grow and develop
  4. Can have a positive effect on stress levels.

The Bottom Line

Massaging your baby is a great way to soothe and bond with them. You might find that you enjoy this time together just as much as they do! Choose a time when they’re in a good mood, and, who knows, it could turn into a routine that your little one comes to love and expect. In between your baby’s massage sessions, you’ll probably be changing lots of diapers. Why not make it a bit more rewarding? Download the Pampers Club app, scan all your diapers and wipes purchases, and earn rewards points. Then simply redeem the points for cool rewards like gift cards.

How we wrote this article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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  • Mayo Clinic: Infant massage: Understand this soothing therapy
  • Kids Health: A Guide for First-Time Parents
  • Kids Health: Bonding With Your Baby
  • Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn: The Complete Guide. Penny Simkin, P.T., Janet Whalley, R.N., B.S.N., Ann Keppler, R.N., M.N. Meadowbrook Press, 2001.