How and Why You Should Be Massaging Your Baby

Medically reviewed by Karen Richardson Gill, MD, FAAP on December 8, 2014Written by Annamarya Scaccia on December 8, 2015
baby and parent

The benefits to baby massages are far and wide.

With each gentle stroke, your baby will feel nurtured and loved, strengthening the bond between the two of you. Massages will also help baby feel more relaxed, and they can ease fussiness, sleep problems, and so much more.

Baby massages can help promote healthy growth in your baby, so consider introducing them into your daily routine. Not sure where to start? We’ve put together a handy guide on the benefits and techniques to teach you all you need to know about baby massages.

The Benefits of Baby Massage

benefits

Baby massages are a great way to bring you and your little one closer. Trust and communication develop as you interact with your baby. And your calming touch will make baby feel loved and cared for.

Your baby will also feel relaxed during a massage. This relaxation can help reduce your baby’s stress hormones, improve their sleep, and teach your baby to calm down. Baby massages can also increase flexibility and muscle tone.

Massaging your baby on a regular basis does have many health benefits. According to the International Association of Infant Massage, baby massage may help stimulate the circulatory and digestive systems, which can help relieve gas, cramps, colic, and constipation. Massages can also help ease muscular tension, growing pains, and teething discomfort, as well as stimulate muscle development and growth.

If your baby has any health issues, you should speak with their doctor first to decide if you should massage your baby. You may also talk with an expert who can give you advice on what techniques will address your little one’s health needs.

When to Start Baby Massage

when to start

The International Association of Infant Massage suggests that parents should introduce touch as soon as the baby is born. 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, and then move on to other areas like the arms.

After the first few weeks of birth, you can begin massaging your baby. But 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. 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. Also, the Mayo Clinic suggests waiting at least 45 minutes after a feeding, as a baby massage too soon after they ate can cause vomiting.

How often you massage your baby depends on you and 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.

How to Massage Your Baby

how to start

Here are some tips and techniques that will help you and your baby make the most out 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 your baby 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.

Start with Slow Strokes

As you massage your baby, slowly stroke and knead each body part. Your touch should be gentle at first, getting firmer as your baby grows.

  • on the belly: Place your baby on their belly and spend one minute each rubbing their head, neck, shoulders, waist, thighs, upper back, hands, and feet.
  • on the back: Turn your baby on their back and spend one minute each, flexing and extending their legs and arms. Then flex and extend both legs at the same time.

Repeat It All Over Again

Spend another five minutes repeating these rubbing motions. You can either have your baby on their belly or their back.

Keep Talking

Always communicate with your baby during the massage. Repeat your baby’s 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.

But first test the oil by applying a small dab to a patch of your baby’s skin to see if your baby has a reaction. This is especially important for babies with allergies or sensitive skin.

Takeaway

Baby massages are a wonderful, soothing therapy that calms your baby and promotes bonding time. But massaging doesn’t come naturally to all parents. So 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. But with each practice, you’re developing a deeper, loving bond with your baby. So even if you don’t get the hang of baby massages at first, keep at it. Your baby will thank you.

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