february 2023

Benefits of Baby Massage for Newborns & How To Do It Safely

Read about the benefits of baby massage and how to safely perform this nurturing practice on your newborn. Learn baby massage techniques here.

10 min read Jayne Airey baby Recommended Products
Baby massage with mother

jump to section

As mammals, we instinctively touch and stroke our babies from the moment they are born. Massaging is a lovely way to bond with your baby, and in many countries, infant massage has been part of daily life for centuries.

Research suggests that the benefits of baby massage are wide-ranging for babies, their parents, family, and society in general.

In this blog, you will learn about the following:

  • The benefits of massage for a baby
  • When to start massaging your newborn
  • How to do a baby massage, with a step-by-step guide so you can learn baby massage techniques

Read on to learn about the benefits of baby massage and how to safely perform this nurturing practice on your newborn

What are the benefits of newborn baby massage?

The real benefit of infant massage is to facilitate bonding and attachment. When you massage your baby, you communicate with them via touch and eye contact. Baby massage benefits fall under four main categories:

  1. Interaction between you and your baby - Reading and respecting their cues develops trust and self-esteem and allows pre-language communication
  2. Stimulation- By massaging your baby, you are:
    • Stimulating their blood circulation Encouraging their lymphatic drainage
    • Aiding their digestion
    • Helping them gain weight
    • Increasing their immunity
    • Influencing their hormones
    • Promoting body awareness
  3. Relief - Massage can soothe your baby by reducing pain associated with constipation, gas or colic, teething discomfort and muscle tension. It may also help to relieve mucus congestion
  4. Relaxation - Studies show infant massage reduces stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) and increases calming hormones (oxytocin). You may notice improved sleep patterns and fewer or shorter crying episodes

Read our guides on newborn sleeping and newborn crying here.

When is the best time to do a baby massage?

As parents, you can begin to massage your baby from their first day. You will instinctively stroke your baby from the moment you have them in your arms.

There is no best time to do a baby massage, as each baby is different and each day varies, so choose a time when your baby is quietly calm and alert but not sleepy, fretful, or recently fed.

Infant massage only takes 10-15 minutes, so aim to do it at least once daily, keeping in mind that this is a baby-led activity.

What do I need to do for a baby massage?

The essential things you need to give your baby a massage are:

  • Your undivided attention
  • A warm room
  • A towel
  • Your chosen massage oil

When choosing a baby massage oil, we recommend that you:

  • Avoid mineral oils and synthetic oils (they remain on the skin, making the baby quite slippery)
  • Avoid olive oil, as studies have shown it may disrupt a baby’s immature skin barrier
  • Use unscented cold-pressed vegetable oil or our specially-formulated Mega Calm Massage Balm - ideal for use on newborns

Follow our step-by-step guide to newborn baby massage below.

Baby massage techniques

The following step-by-step guide explains how to do some baby massage techniques.

Before you start

  • Ensure the room is warm and draught-free
  • Lay the towel on the floor
  • Have your massage oil close by
  • Take a few deep breaths to relax
  • Remember: the best time to massage your baby is when they are quiet, alert and at least 30 minutes since they were last fed

Getting started

  • Undress the baby and lay them on the towel, facing you, so you have good eye contact
  • Let your baby know it's time for a massage by talking to them and rubbing your oiled hands together
  • Watch for cues at the beginning and throughout the massage
  • Before you begin, rest your hands on the body part you are about to massage and consciously relax and engage with your baby

Step 1 - Massage baby’s legs and feet (one at a time)

  1. Form a C-shape with your hands
  2. Smoothly massage from the thigh to the ankle three times
  3. Gently roll each toe between your fingers
  4. Use the soft thumb pads to walk up and down the sole
  5. Again, form a C-shape
  6. Massage from ankle to thigh
  7. Repeat on the other leg

Step 2 - Massage baby’s stomach

  1. Use the fleshy part of the palms
  2. Apply gentle strokes from underneath their ribs and down over their tummy three times
  3. Make gentle circles in a clockwise direction with the heel of your hand three times

Step 3 - Massage baby’s chest area

  1. Place your hands side by side on the chest
  2. Move smoothly across their chest and down to the sides
  3. Return to the start point
  4. Repeat three times
  5. Use less stroke pressure on the return
  6. Move your hands to each shoulder and alternate in a criss-cross motion three times

Step 4 - Massage baby’s arms and hands (one at a time)

  1. Use the same strokes as the legs and feet
  2. Form a C-shape with your hands
  3. Smoothly massage from the shoulder to the wrist three times
  4. Gently roll each finger between your fingers
  5. Use the soft thumb pads to massage the palm gently
  6. Again, form a C-shape
  7. Massage from wrist to shoulder
  8. Repeat on the other arm

Step 5 - Massage your baby’s face

  1. Place flattened fingers on their forehead (try not to cover their eyes or nose)
  2. Sweep across the forehead and down the side of their face three times
  3. Lightly stroke their eyebrows with the fleshy part of your thumbs
  4. Apply gentle thumb strokes up the side of the nose to the bridge
  5. Gentle strokes across the cheeks
  6. Make small circles around the jaw with your fingertips
  7. Sweep over and behind the ears and under the chin

Step 6 - Massage baby’s back

  1. Place the baby on their tummy, on the floor or over your lap
  2. Place your hands on the baby’s back, near the neck
  3. Mould your hands to their body and gently massage back and forth, down the sides of the spine.
  4. Work down to their buttocks and back again.
  5. Make small circles with your fingertips, avoiding their spine
  6. ‘Comb’ with your fingertips from their shoulders to their lower back
  7. Make each stroke lighter
  8. This will signal your baby to say the massage has ended

This is an example of a massage routine, and we encourage you to create your own. You can also go to a baby massage class and learn tips there.

Safety tips for massaging your newborn

Before massaging your baby, there are a few important safety considerations to bear in mind:

  • If your baby is unwell, wait until they are in good health before massaging them
  • For premature babies, gentle touch may be a lovely way to connect, but make sure to take advice from your health professional first
  • Avoid massaging your baby on a raised surface – they could wriggle and fall
  • If your baby’s skin is sensitive, do a patch test with your chosen massage oil in case of allergy. We’ve made our Mega Calm Massage Balm completely free from artificial ingredients and fragrance to be used on the most delicate and sensitive skin

Baby massage can connect and soothe

Baby massage can start as soon as you are both ready and is best done when your newborn is quiet but alert. Following our step-by-step guide, you can make massage time a part of your daily baby care routine.

At My Expert Midwife, we know that your baby’s skin is different from adult skin and, therefore, needs special care. This is why we have developed a whole range of baby skincare products that protect and support your baby’s skin using only the best ingredients. Developed entirely free from artificial ingredients, our Mega Calm Massage Balm supports the integrity of your baby’s skin and will not cause damage to your baby’s skin flora or microbiome.