How do I Give my Baby a Massage? Benefits and Techniques
Read time: 6 minutes
What should I know about baby massage?
Learn the benefits of infant massage
Know when to massage your baby
Learn how to give your little one a baby massage
A gentle rubdown is a sweet way to bond with your newborn, but it’s more than a feel-good activity. Studies have linked infant massage to several health benefits not only for baby, but also for mom. So go ahead, enjoy kneading those chubby thighs and gently stroking that round-as-a-Buddha’s belly!
What are the benefits of infant massage?
It’s well documented that skin-to-skin and kangaroo mother care does wonders for baby’s health and wellbeing.123 Infant massage doubles down on this skin-to-skin contact, acting as another way we can provide a healing touch to our babies.
When done right, infant massage may help your little one cry less, sleep better, and even lower levels of stress hormones.456 In fact, massage has been found to help premature infants gain weight and even potentially lead to a shorter hospital stay.78
For mom, baby massage not only helps to increase the mother-infant bond, but it has also been shown to improve symptoms of postpartum depression.910
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When is the best time to massage my baby?
Waiting until at least 45 minutes after baby eats will help prevent tummy troubles or spitting up.
Take cues from your baby. Your little one will let you know what feels good to them almost instantaneously: watch for positive cues like eye contact, smiles, cooing sounds and relaxed movements with baby’s arms and legs.
Stop massaging if your little one turns their head away from you, becomes stiff, squirms away, arches their back, flails their arms and legs, or cries. These may indicate your baby is not in the right mood for a massage or is not enjoying the massage. When you try again, try massaging in a different way to see if that helps.
How can I give my baby a massage?
Choose a quiet and warm room, especially if baby’s clothes will be off. On a stable, comfortable surface, such as the floor or a bed, place baby in front of you.
When massaging, your touch should be tender. Avoid tickling which may cause baby some stress. Practice long, gentle, slow strokes. Try not to press too hard on any one point at a time.
On a firm surface, you could try starting with baby on their tummy, head turned to the side. Using your whole hand, fingers together, caress each part of baby’s body: their back, shoulders, arms, and legs. Then turn baby onto their back and repeat on their chest, stomach, arms, and legs.
While massaging, start at the top of an area and slowly rub down toward the other end. Repeat these slow, soothing movements for as long as your little one is enjoying them!
Communicate more than stimulate
Babies communicate primarily through their bodies. Infant massage combines this tactile and emotional stimulation in a gentle but purposeful way -- you’re not trying to manipulate her muscles as much as you are communicating with baby in a way that pleases and soothes you both.
Rather than remaining quiet during the infant massage, speak or sing softly to your little one. Hearing your voice is another way to help your little one relax and build a stronger bond.12
Can infant massage help baby with gas?
Yes! Some babies are a bit gassier than others; massage can be a way to help your little one pass the gas and feel better.
One technique is to massage in a clockwise direction on your baby’s stomach, from baby’s right to left. Start at the top right of baby’s abdomen and stroke across just under the ribs, down the left side of baby’s stomach, then across and back up to the start. Gently rubbing in this circular motion can help move gas and stool along in the direction of baby’s intestine.
You can also do the “I Love You” massage. This massage has you going down the left side of baby’s belly to form an “I”. Then draw an up-side-down “L”: Start at the top right of baby’s belly, move across, then down baby’s left side. Last, form an up-side-down “U”, starting from the bottom right of baby’s belly.13
Read more: How Can I Manage My Baby’s Colic?
Can I use oil?
Yes! If you have your little one stripped down to their diaper, using a non-toxic (edible), baby-safe oil may be helpful to prevent chafing. You may want to test out the oil on a small patch of baby’s skin first to see if your little one has a reaction to it.
How often should I massage my baby?
Since gentle massage is considered safe and may have numerous benefits, it is acceptable to massage your little one anywhere from a couple times a week to every day.
Aim for 5 to 15 minutes a session, working up to longer if your little one is enjoying it. Find what works best for both of you.
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Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). Chat Now!
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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:
How do I Manage Gas in my Breastfed Baby?
How do I Relieve Gas in my Formula or Bottle-Fed Baby?
Could This Be Postpartum Depression?
How Can I Relieve Constipation for My Baby and Toddler?