How to massage my baby
Newborn massage is a beautiful and powerful way to express your love for your baby, as well as soothe, calm and bond with them at the same time.
At a glance
Massage can be a relaxing part of baby’s bedtime routine
It can ease tummy troubles, and even teething pain
A mother’s touch releases oxytocin which can help relax and settle baby
Is there a massage class near you? Ask your health visitor
Baby massage may sound like a warm, fluffy extra but it has a surprising number of proven benefits. It can be a really important part of caring for your little one in the early weeks and months which is why there are many baby massage classes in local health centres and children’s centres. Have a look online or ask your health visitor if there’s one near you. Practising in a group environment could boost your confidence and fine tune those baby massage skills, plus it’s a great place to meet other mums.
Baby massage benefits
- Baby massage is a lovely way of affirming your bond with baby. It can help you, your partner, and any carers have a positive interaction with them.
- Touch is a beautifully simple form of communication. Baby massage helps you feel more attuned to baby’s needs and, because you’re tapping into their moods, you’ll feel empowered too.
- It can relax baby's muscles, leading to deeper breathing which may help baby settle better and even sleep better.
- Massage raises the levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin in both you and your baby. This helps you both feel calmer and relaxed.
- Massage can help ease tummy troubles like trapped wind and constipation. It may also aid healthy digestion.
- It’s a unique way of communicating that can help babies with additional needs, such as those with Down's syndrome or cerebral palsy.
How to massage my baby
Before you warm your hands up here’s a few things to consider when massaging baby:
When is the best time for baby massage?
There isn’t one. But it helps if you make massage part of a regular routine. Yes, finding a time when baby isn’t too tired, too grumpy, too full or too hungry can be a bit of a challenge. A massage before bedtime might be a good time to try first as it will help baby wind down and be ready for sleep after the stimulation of the day.
Do I use baby massage oils?
It’s often easier to massage using oils or creams as they help your hands glide over baby’s skin. Although you can start massage from birth, bear in mind a newborn’s skin is extremely delicate so it’s best to wait until they are at least a month old before using oil or cream. Aromatherapy oils are too strong for small babies, while commercial baby massage oils and creams are often perfumed and may irritate baby’s sensitive skin. Cooking oils are also highly refined and unsuitable. Your best bet is cold-pressed oils, like Rapeseed, Grapeseed and Calendula – they’re easy to use, inexpensive and tried and tested by lots of parents.
How do I prepare for my newborn’s massage?
Pick a time when you’re not feeling rushed or tired (easier said than done, we know). Make the room quiet and peaceful with soft, low lighting. Make sure it’s warm enough for baby to be naked, 24 °C is ideal. Trim your nails so they’re short and smooth, remove your jewellery and wash your hands.
To minimise disruptions during this special baby bonding time, switch your phone to silent. It’s also worth making sure the weekly shopping delivery isn’t due to arrive in the middle of this special spa treatment.
What do I need for baby massages?
- Any baby massage oil you might use
- Something soft for baby to lie on like a changing mat or the bed
- Relaxing music
- Muslins or towels to mop up any accidents
- Nappy and clothes for after massage
Keeping these things in reach keeps massage time calm and relaxing.
For other handy checklists have a browse on our Mother of All Checklists App.
And now for the baby massage
Gently undress baby and lay them on their back, on something soft.
Get yourself into a comfortable position and pour a generous amount of oil into your hands. Rub your hands together so hands and oil get warm.
It’s good to move from the feet up as this gets them used to your touch before you reach the more sensitive areas. Start by slowly and gently stroking and stretching baby’s feet and toes.
Work your way up baby’s legs, gently stroking and lightly squeezing the muscles – remember to support ankles with one hand.
Do the same for the arms and hands, supporting the wrists as you go.
Finish by stroking your baby’s chest and massaging their tummy with a clockwise circular motion.
Chat softly to baby and try to maintain eye contact. As oxytocin levels rise you’ll both be feeling relaxed.
Very light touches are enough, try not to rub or squeeze too hard.
If your baby seems uncomfortable, becomes upset or falls asleep, stop massaging.
Gently humming or singing to baby in time with your rhythmic strokes can have a very calming effect.
Try reading your baby’s cues whilst you massage. Their face and body language will tell you if they’re enjoying it and when they’ve had enough.