Start upper body massage with your hands on baby’s shoulders. Make gentle strokes in towards the chest, then out away from the heart. Massage baby’s arms by stroking from the shoulders to fingertips, making sure to keep the baby’s hands facing palms up. Stroke baby’s back by gently rocking baby and moving your hands from head to bottom, stroking from toes toward shoulders. Massage baby’s legs first on one side and then the other, starting at ankles and working up toward knees and thighs.
Check out the steps to learning how to give a newborn baby massage. It is important that you start with the upper body massages by gently stroking baby’s shoulders and arms. Then move on to give the rest of baby’s body.
Bring your little one’s day to the next level with the Baby Massage for Beginners Kit. Learn how to give your newborn an amazing head-to-toe massage that relieves stress and stimulates brain development.
Babies are little balls of joy, and new parents are hungry for ways to connect. Baby massage is a great way to do that because it helps your baby bond with you and releases the stress from inside their bodies.
When To Start Oil Massage For Newborn Baby
But the advantages don’t stop there: All that stroking and touching make it easier for you to bond with your newborn. What’s more, giving your baby a massage can help you find your own inner Zen, too (and who can argue with that?).
You can start these gentle massages the day you bring your baby home. Or you can encourage your partner to try their hand at infant massage — a good opportunity for bonding.
How to give your baby an infant massage
- Legs and feet. Hold your baby’s heel in one hand; with your other hand, start at the top of the thigh and slowly stroke all the way down to the ankle, gently squeezing the leg as you go, as if you were milking a cow. Reverse the motion and go from ankle to thigh. Then rub the feet with your thumbs, gently uncurling and stroking the toes. Switch legs. You can do these same strokes on the arms and hands.
- Head. Start with your hands on both sides of your baby’s head, then run your hands down both sides of his body, from his head to his toes. Next, draw tiny circles on your baby’s head with your fingertips.
- Face. Fold your hands (as if you were praying) on your baby’s forehead, then gently push outward from the center. Next, use your thumb to draw a smile on your baby’s face by stroking from one cheek, across the upper lip to the other cheek. Repeat on the lower lip.
- Chest. Fold your hands on your baby’s chest, then push out to the sides, as if you were smoothing the pages of an open book.
- Tummy. With your fingertips, draw an oval below your baby’s belly button. (Move clockwise, to follow the natural path of digestion.) Next, “walk” your fingertips from one side of your baby’s belly to the other, on the diagonal, as if you were making an “X.”
- Back. Stroke his back side to side and then up and down.
Infant massage tips
Here’s what to keep in mind before you (or your partner) give your newborn an infant massage:
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- Make infant massage part of your daily routine. Consider massaging your baby around the same time every day so that he comes to expect and enjoy it. What time’s best? There’s no “best” time, really. In general, you want to choose a time when you’re not feeling rushed (so don’t try to squeeze in a squeeze session while dinner’s cooking or you’ve got the washer and dryer going) or when your baby isn’t hungry (since he won’t enjoy the belly rubs if his belly’s empty) or too full (he’ll likely spit up his supper — you won’t make that mistake twice!).
- If you’re using massage oil, choose one that’s edible, unscented, and either a cold-pressed fruit or vegetable oil. Sure, you don’t need oil to rub your little one the right way, but it’ll be more pleasant for both of you if your hands glide more easily over your baby’s body. Coconut oil is a good option since it is easily absorbed into a baby’s skin — and easily digested when your little one sucks on his hands or fingers. Only use a dab and stay away from baby oil or mineral oil — they clog the pores. And nix nut oils too because of the potential for allergies.
- Pick an area that’s comfortable for both of you. Ideally, the room should be warm — at least 75 degrees F — so your nearly naked newborn doesn’t catch a chill while he’s chilling from your massage. You can massage your little one on the changing table, your bed (put a towel underneath to avoid oil stains on your comforter) even on the rug (use a towel there too). Add some soothing background music or simply use the time to talk and sing to your baby.
- Follow your baby’s cues. No one likes to be massaged when they’re not in the mood, and that’s true for your baby as well. If he turns away or frowns or cries when you lay your hands on, save the session for later. And remember, you don’t have to give a full-body massage every time. If your baby decides he’s had enough after you’ve rubbed his legs and feet, that’s okay too.
- Be gentle — and don’t apply too much pressure or it will be overpowering. Another smart tip from the infant massage playbook: Stroking away from the heart (from shoulder to wrist, for example) is relaxing, and therefore better suited for pre-nap or pre-bedtime massages. Stroking toward the heart (from wrist to shoulder) is more stimulating and better suited for when your baby will be awake and active. You can also do a combo.
How to Massage a Baby to Sleep
Baby massages have a variety benefits. With each gentle stroke, your baby will feel nurtured and loved, strengthening the bond between the two of you. Massages will also allow your baby to feel more relaxed, which may improve their sleep.
Not sure where to start? We’ve put together a handy guide on the benefits and techniques. It’ll teach you all you need to know about baby massages.
Baby massages are a great way to bring you and your little one closer. Trust and communication develop as you interact with your baby. Your calming touch will make your baby feel loved and cared for, too.
Your baby will also feel relaxed during a massage. Anecdotal reports suggest this relaxation may help improve their sleep, but more research is needed.
According to the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), baby massage may help to stimulate the circulatory and digestive systems. This might, in turn, help some babies with conditions such as:
However, a Cochrane systematic review found little evidence for these reported benefits. More research is needed to support these claims.
If your baby has any health issues, you should speak with their doctor first to decide if you should massage your baby.
Many moms and dads love to do so by placing their baby on their chest, bare skin to bare skin. This is known as skin-to-skin care or kangaroo care. While you’re holding your baby close, gradually start stroking their legs and back. Then move on to other areas such as the arms.
After the first few weeks of birth, you can begin massaging your baby. However, make sure to follow your baby’s mood. Your baby should be calm, alert, and content when you’re ready to give them a massage. Never perform any massage technique that seems to make your baby uncomfortable.
It’s not the best time for a massage when your baby turns their head away from you or stiffens their arms, according to the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic also suggests waiting at least 45 minutes after a feeding. Performing a baby massage too soon after they eat can cause vomiting.
How often you massage your baby depends on you and your baby. Some parents give their baby massages daily, while other parents massage their little ones every other day.
You can massage your baby during the morning to get the day going or at night before bedtime to help soothe your baby to sleep. Pay attention to your baby’s cues to help determine the best massage routine.
Here are some tips and techniques that will help you and your baby make the most of massage time.
A cozy atmosphere is essential
Massage your baby in a warm, quiet place.
Make sure you and your baby are in a comfortable spot. Place them on a towel on their back so they can maintain eye contact. This can be on their changing table or on your bed. Let them know it’s massage time as you undress them.
Place your baby on their back and begin by slowly rubbing each body part. Your touch should be gentle at first.
Spend some time rubbing each of their body parts, starting with their head and moving gradually down to their feet. There’s no specific recommended time for the massage. Each part of the massage should last as long as you and your baby are enjoying it.
You can also try placing your baby on their belly for a short massage, though some babies may not like being on their tummies for long.
Repeat it all over again
If you and your baby are enjoying the massage, continue by repeating the rubbing motions, starting again from their head and moving down toward their feet.
Always communicate with your baby during the massage. Repeat their name and the word “relax” to help them calm down.
You can also tell a story or sing their favorite nursery rhyme as you move around their body.
Oil is optional
Some parents find oil too messy, while other parents use it to help eliminate skin friction from massaging. If you do use oil, make sure to buy one that’s odorless and edible since your baby may get it in their mouth.
Baby massages are a wonderful, soothing therapy that calms your baby and promotes bonding time. However, massaging doesn’t come naturally to all parents. Don’t be discouraged if massaging your baby doesn’t work out at first.
You and your baby may have to practice a few times before getting the massage just right. With each practice, you’re developing a deeper, loving bond with your baby. Keep at it, even if you don’t get the hang of baby massages at first. Your baby will thank you.