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Baby Massage Basics: You Should Know

There is nothing more soothing than touch, especially for babies. Touch is one of the five senses and the most developed at birth for a baby, which is why when you pick your baby up, they often calm down from crying, will fall asleep, and smile. Incorporating a gentle baby massage into your routine has enormous health benefits for your baby. In this article, we will show you something about what is baby massage, the Benefits of Infant Massage, and How to Massage a Baby.

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What Is Baby Massage?

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It’s exactly as it sounds: a parent massaging baby, whether on the abdomen, face, neck, back, or belly. “Baby massage or infant massage is a way for parents to bond with their newborns and help stimulate growth and development through gentle touch,” says Jakki Bosco, licensed massage therapist and owner of Tampa Massage Clinic, which specializes in adult and pediatric massage.

If you’re wondering what age to start the baby massage, it’s fine to begin right after birth, as soon as the baby is medically cleared to be handled—and the sooner, the better. “The best time to start infant massage is within the first three months, as babies begin to develop important physical and intellectual abilities, including motor skills,” Bosco says. “The infant massage techniques will be very light and gentle.” The goal is to get the baby comfortable and familiar with your touch.

Benefits of Infant Massage

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The health benefits of infant massage are many. Babies who grow up feeling wanted and loved, with a healthy ability to give and receive touch, are better able to grow up happy,” says Rebecca Millhouse, CMT, NMT, CIMI.

Baby massage also deepens the bond between baby and parent, which can create benefits, thanks to the touch factor and eye contact, says S. Daniel Ganjian, MD, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. That said, it’s especially important for fathers to massage baby; it puts him on an even keel with mom, who typically spends more time with baby because she’s the one nursing him. ”It can take seven to eight months for fathers to become enthralled with their little one, but when they start massage from birth, they develop that bond much earlier,” Ganjian explains. This, in turn, makes it easier for Dad to handle the challenges of raising a child.

Touchy-feely benefits aside, baby massage also brings about real physical advantages. Among them:

• Reduced gas in colicky infants. An abdominal massage (see below) can aid digestion and help babies move the contents of the intestines along their journey through the colon.

• Improved muscle tone and range. By moving and circulating the baby’s muscles, you’re preventing atrophy and helping her develop strength and motor skills.

• Brain development. When you massage baby, you’re increasing her awareness of the body’s position and movement, Bosco says. This allows the body to become more physically integrated.

• Improved focus and eye contact. With bonding and regular massage, the baby gets to practice eye contact. What’s more, maintaining eye contact while massaging an overstimulated baby helps him stay present in the moment.

• Enhanced neuromuscular connections. “Infants have to learn about all their different body parts and how to control them,” Millhouse says. With infant massage, the baby becomes more aware of sensory connections and where she is in space. That, in turn, affects how she moves.

• Healthier immune system. Believe it or not, baby massage can help cut down on colds. “Massage increases our white blood cell count, thus improving immune response,” Bosco says. It also assists in lymphatic flow, which can help fight off infections.

• Improved mood. There’s a good reason your little one is smiling after a baby massage: Endorphins—you know, those happy hormones—are released in response to therapeutic touch, Millhouse says. At the same time, the stress hormone cortisol is reduced. “The fight-or-flight response shuts off and the relaxation response is stimulated,” Millhouse explains. “A stressed infant who wasn’t gaining weight may begin to thrive and put on ounces and pounds.”

• Better sleep. “Bedtime is a popular choice because massage is so relaxing,” Millhouse says. Over time, babies begin to anticipate scheduled activities, which can lead to an understanding that first comes bath, then story, then massage, then nursing/bottle, then bed.

How to Give a Baby Massage

Baby Legs – Wrap your hands around your baby’s leg and gently, but firmly, glide your hands down from thigh to ankle. Do these three to five times on each leg.

Baby Belly – With your hands at the same level as the baby’s belly button, rub your fingertips gently, but firmly in a clockwise circular motion over the tummy.

Baby Arms – Starting at the shoulder and moving down to the wrist, gently roll your baby’s arm between your hands. Do these three to five times on each arm.

Baby Neck – Start by supporting your baby’s head and upper body with one hand. With the other hand, place your thumb on one side of the neck and your first two fingers on the other side and gently rub with your fingertips in a circular motion.

Baby Colic-Relief Massage – Give the baby a belly massage first and then bend the baby’s knees up to the tummy and hold that for about 30 seconds and release. Repeat that a few times and then place the edge of your hand at the baby’s belly button and glide your hand down in a rhythmic pattern to help release gas.

Baby Back – Stroke your baby’s back from side to side and then up and down.

Baby Chest – Fold your hands on your baby’s chest and then push out to the sides gently, but firmly.

Whether your baby is a newborn or several years old, baby massage can bring immediate and lasting results. Motherhood Center offers an infant massage class if you would like some guidance before adding this to your baby care routine!

Baby Massage Do’s and Don’ts

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Do make baby massage a part of your routine with baby. We all know that babies need routine. If you incorporate baby massage, be sure to massage your baby at the same time every day. There is no right time for a baby massage, but if you notice that there are specific times when your baby gets fussier, that is a great time to plan for the massage.  It’s also important to find a time when you can take your time or when your baby isn’t hungry or just after your baby has eaten.

Do not use scented massage oils meant for adults. You can use massage oil on your baby, but be sure it is unscented, edible, cold-pressed fruit or vegetable oil. Some good options are coconut, canola, corn, olive, grape seed, avocado, or safflower oil. These types of oils are easily absorbed into your baby’s skin and easily digested if your baby sucks on their fingers or puts their fingers or toes into their mouth. Use small amounts and do not use mineral oil or baby oil, as that will clog your baby’s pores. Also, stay away from nut oils, like almond oil, because of the potential for allergies.

Do follow the cues from your baby. If your baby doesn’t seem to want the massage, then stop. Some cues you might be a frown, crying, baby turning away from you, or wiggling around as if he is in discomfort. You can always try later. Also, keep in mind, not every baby massage has to be a full-body massage. You can just massage your legs or feet.

Don’t give the massage in an uncomfortable cold space. Both you and the baby need to be comfortable during the baby massage, but for the baby, a warmer space of at least 75 degrees is best. Remember, the baby will be naked or nearly naked. Consider your changing table if that is a place the baby is comfortable or your bed or a rug. You can put on some soothing background music, talk to your baby, or even sing to them softly.

Do be gentle. It’s important that you don’t apply too much pressure during your baby massage. The massage is meant to help you bond with your baby and to soothe and calm him. Stroking your baby away from the heart (shoulder to wrist) is more relaxing for the baby while stroking toward the heart (wrist to shoulder) is stimulating.


The message of a baby requires parents to carefully observe it in order to discover it, and more importantly, how to communicate and guide them is the core of the problem. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at any time by email or in the comments.


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