Baby massage is wonderful for bonding with your child and it is also great for tummy pain and constipation.
Find tips on when and how to start massaging your baby, and many benefits from premature babies to toddlers.
You can try baby massage really early, actually from the day your baby is born. Massaging is a great bonding activity if done right.
Massaging completely newborn babies can be a challenge, though. Many newborn babies absolutely hate being naked and will cry until you put their clothes back on. It is often a lot easier to start when the baby is at least 1 month old.
It’s never too late to start! I gave our 8-year-old son some “baby-inspired massage” when he had a hard time falling to sleep!
Baby Massage Tips for a Wonderful Time together
- Benefits of Baby Massage
- How to prepare for and do baby massage the best way
- When is Baby Massage NOT Safe?
- Recommended Infant Massage Products
Benefits of Baby Massage
Infant massage has many benefits. In addition to being nice and cozy, massaging babies will have a number of benefits.
1. Helps the bonding between the baby and parent
Baby massage can benefit the bonding and attachment between the mother and baby. Recent studies show similar results for dads, which, of course, seems reasonable. Studies have actually been able to measure the reduction in paternal stress, through baby massage.
I would assume that the presence, communication (read more about that below), touching, and even just learning to handle the baby with confidence all contribute to the bonding.
2. Improves the communication between the baby and parent
With young babies, it can easily be so that we mainly feed them, change diapers, and try to make them sleep. Baby massage provides an alternative way to spend time together with and with presence. This means that the parent will without doubt learn more about the baby’s cues, such as body movements, sounds, or facial expressions when the baby appreciates or doesn’t like something.
3. May prevent or mitigate colic, wind, and constipation
Infant colic is extremely trying and stressful for new parents, and of course, for the baby too. There are few real remedies. However, a study in 2016 found baby massage to improve colic in as little time as one week!
4. Can help your baby relax and sleep better
A study in 2016 investigated if babies would sleep better and develop better through baby massage. The hypothesize was that massage may improve brain function and raise the release of growth hormone, and strengthen muscle.
The study was carried out on 60 babies aged 3-6 months, put in two groups. The results showed quite a strong link between baby massage, sleep quality, gross, and fine motor development. Even if it is a small study, it points in the same direction as other earlier studies
5. Benefits for premature babies
Several studies have found that baby massage may be particularly beneficial for premature babies. For example, it has been found that medically stable premature babies that are given baby massage will be more awake and active and gain weight faster. (Source) The effects are so significant that premature babies that get a regular massage can actually be discharged earlier from the hospital.
How to prepare for and do baby massage the best way
Here are a few things to consider when you are about to start with the baby massage.
1. Start early
You can start massaging your baby more or less from day one. To prevent or mitigate a tendency to colic, you should definitely start when your baby is around 1 month old.
However, if you didn’t, it is never too late, although it is kind of hard to massage a baby that crawls away…
If you want to try massaging your newborn, experiment with just dressing off the body parts you are massaging, to prevent your infant from protesting too much. This may seem like a strange first baby massage tips, but many newborn babies seem to hate being naked!
2. Attend a class
Infant massage is not difficult! But I thought it was a bit tricky the first time, especially to know how hard to massage my baby.
Attending a baby massage training is a perfect way to learn how to do it. And it’s fun! But if you can’t find a course that works for you, buy a book or a DVD.
If your baby has some tummy pain (don’t they all in the beginning), massage is a very good idea!
To get an idea of how baby massage is carried out, check the video below.
3. Warm room temperature
Since babies easily get cold, it is very important to carry out the massage in a warm room.
Really young babies may very well start crying when undressed, even if the air temperature is as high as 80F (27 C).
A tip is to choose the smallest room you have, shut the door, and put in an extra radiator for a while to get the room temperature up.
A small bathroom or a walk-in closet works well as long as you have enough space on the floor to carry out the massage.
The older your baby gets, the less sensitive he will be to the temperature.
4. Not drafty
Even if the room temperature is alright, if it is drafty, your baby might not like the situation anyway. Close the window and doors!
5. Undressing the baby
If you want to give baby massage to an infant younger than 2 months, it might be a good idea to not undress the baby completely from the start. Many newborn babies seem to feel insecure or cold when naked and just cry until dressed again.
6. Not too hard, not too gently
I think it is very easy to be too gentle when massaging a tiny little baby. Of course, you can’t be heavy-handed, but too gentle touch will only tickle the baby. Be a little bit firm.
If you watch your baby carefully you will soon notice what he or she prefers.
7. A good, organic baby oil
Choose a good organic oil for the baby massage. And choose one that doesn’t have a strong smell. Use only a few drops at the time. Rub the oil in the palm of your hands to make it warm and start massaging.
8. Choosing the time of the day
If you attend a class, try choosing a time if the day when your baby is likely to be awake. If you have no routines yet, choose a time that you find convenient.
At home, it may be wise to do the massage in the evening. This can help your baby navigate the 24 hours of the day – “now it is evening and I will soon be put to sleep”. It can also prevent tummy pain at night.
9. Take a lot of photos
I keep nagging about taking a lot of photos… Well, it is so easy to forget, especially with your second or third child.
When is Baby Massage NOT Safe?
Baby massage is safe in general and may even be used to soothe a sick baby or a baby with cold, for example.
However, some doctors recommend NOT massaging a baby with a fever, so in such a case or in any case of severe illness, definitely talk to your baby’s doctor first.
Some oils and cremes can irritate a baby’s skin, so always patch test and only use massage oils that are meant for babies. Personally, I always strive to use organic products.
Of course, infants need a light touch, so any deep pressure would not be safe!
Recommended Infant Massage Products
- Baby Massage – The Gift of Love (online course)
- High-quality baby massage oils
- Infant massage – a handbook for loving parents
More Baby Activity Inspiration
- Newborn Activities Tips
- Baby Swimming Lessons
- Baby Sign Language
- Baby Music Classes
- To The Playground With A Baby
- Mom And Baby Exercise
- Fun Toddler Craft Ideas
Do you have any baby massage tips to share or thoughts on it? Share by commenting below! :-)
Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing is based on studies in cognitive-behavioral models and therapy for children and her experience as a mother and stepmother. Life as a parent has convinced her of how crucial it is to put relationships before rules. She strongly believes in positive parenting and a science-based approach.
Paula cooperates with a team of pediatricians that you find here. They write or review all health-related articles.