The Benefits of Baby Massage

Baby massage is a lovely way to bond and enjoy time together with your baby. Parents have been massaging their little ones for many years. Babies cannot communicate with you but through massage, babies associate the comfort of touch which is a great bonding experience for you both.

What is baby massage?

Baby massage is the gentle, rhythmic stroking of your baby’s body using your hands. As part of your baby’s bedtime routine, you might incorporate 20 min of massage to sooth you both.

It’s important you are comfortable before beginning. Perhaps sitting in a cushion with your baby between your legs. Make sure your hands are warm by running the gently together. Strip your baby down to their nappy (or if you are feeling brave, take their nappy off). You might also talk softly or sing to them while massaging to create a sense of calm and reassurance for your baby.

The benefits of baby massage?

Baby massage was introduced in neonatal hospitals to support the development of premature babies in intensive care units. Today, there is widespread belief that baby massage can increase a mum’s awareness of her baby’s needs and support their early bond, as well as improve her sense of well-being if she is suffering with postnatal depression or other mental health issues.

Benefits to your baby include:

  • A nurturing bonding experience
    Improved sleep and relaxation
    aids / relieves constipation and other minor ailments

When can I start baby massage?

There are no set guidelines regarding the minimum age for when to start baby massage and a soothing touch and cuddle can be given from birth.

Some babies may find a formal baby massage class overwhelming in the early weeks so begin with a ‘at home’ session online to see how you both get on. It can also be hard for parents to make it to a class on time or consistently with a newborn baby. Baby massage studio classes often start from around 6 week and have the added benefit of experiencing massage with other new parents – great for both mum and baby socialising

If you wanted to have a go yourself at home, here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Choose a time when your baby is content and not overly tired or hungry. A cranking baby will not want to interact with you. Incorporating massage into your bedtime / bath routine can be a lovely end to the day.
  • Try sitting on a cushion, on the floor, bed or sofa.Tilt your pelvis slightly forward so you are comfortable. It’s really important you can relax too. Tired backs and arms will not help.
  • You want to make eye contact with your baby so make sure there are no bright over head lights. Make sure the room is warm but not hot and rub your hands together to warm up slightly.
  • It’s up to you whether you go nappy-free! Keep a fresh one close by. Also have a towel or blanket nearby to cuddle/cover your baby after the massage.
  • Before beginning, lay your baby on a towel on their back, ‘ask permission’ by rubbing a little oil between your hands above your baby so they can see what you are doing. This may sound a little strange but your baby will become familiar with this cue and know that massage is about to start.
  • It’s great to massage the whole of your little ones’ body using a range of techniques. We have described some strokes below to help you
  • Gently hold one of your baby’s legs between your palms. Then, with one hand, hold your baby’s ankle securely. Mould your other hand around the top of your child’s thigh, then slide it down the leg towards the ankle. Swap hands and repeat using slow, flowing strokes..
  • Cradle your child’s foot in your hands and use your thumbs to stroke over the sole of the foot from heel to toes, one thumb after another.
  • You could also do circles on the palms of their hands singing ‘Round and round the garden like a teddy bear’ or ‘ring or roses’.
  • You can repeat each stroke a few times, always responding to what your child seems to enjoy the most.

What oils/products should I use for baby massage?

The NHS recommends parents do not use any oils or lotions until their baby is one month old. This is because at birth, the top layer of a baby’s skin is very thin and easily damaged. Over the first month (or longer in premature babies), a baby’s skin matures and develops its own natural protective barrier.

Here is a list of oils and what is know about them:

  • Cold-pressed oil – while there is a lack of evidence on its benefits, some parents prefer to use a cold pressed oil, which is manufactured differently to cooking oils and has fewer impurities.
  • Mineral oils or petroleum-based ointments are an option if your baby has dry or broken skin, as they have been found to be effective and safe for treating skin problems, such as dermatitis and eczema.
  • Olive oil is not recommended for baby massage because of its high oleic acid content. This can make some layers of a baby’s skin dryer.
  • Other oils, such as grapeseed oil or coconut oil – these have not been effectively tested in research trials so there isn’t much information about their effectiveness or risks.
  • Sunflower oil is often recommended for baby massage.
  • Vegetable oils high in polyunsaturated fats may be gentler on your baby’s skin.

Safety tips for baby massage

Here are some tips to help you massage your baby safely:

  • Make sure you use oil that is safe for your baby’s skin and if it was to get into their mouth (see list above).
  • When massaging your child’s arms or legs, always support the ankle or wrist with one hand.
  • When massaging your child’s tummy with a circular motion, go clockwise rather than anti-clockwise.
  • If your child becomes upset or falls asleep, stop massaging
  • If your baby doesn’t seem to enjoy massage right away, don’t worry. It’s a new experience for you both and it can take a bit of getting used to. Try a few minutes the first time and build up as your child gets more used to it.

At Busylizzy, we host baby massage sessions both online and in the studio.