How to do baby massage

Time used for massage can be relaxing and enjoyable for both you and your baby. It is a time for you to bond with your baby and is best done when they are settled and quiet.

Make sure the room is warm and free of draughts. Many people find that just after a bath is the best time as the baby is already undressed.

You should use a pure edible oil (such as apricot or light olive oil) and avoid any oil containing nuts in case of allergies for the first 4 months of life. Place the oil onto your hands, not directly onto your baby.

Use firm, smooth continuous strokes with as much of your hand as possible, for example, using the palm of your hand or flats of your fingers. If stroking on the chest, use diagonals (shoulder to opposite hip) and if stroking on the back, use long strokes down the back. Stroking can also be used on the face, head and limbs.

Baby massage is soothing and can comfortably last 10 to 30 minutes. Make sure your hands are warm and you should also remove any sharp or spiky jewellery. You might also like to wear some old clothes in case you get oil on you and have a towel handy. You can also have some soft music playing in the background.

Massaging your baby is about connecting with your child and also relaxing them. Make sure you have some time allocated where you will not be interrupted and can be done whenever fits into your routine.

It’s also not a good idea to massage your baby when they are upset. Be guided by what your baby likes and how you feel as well.

Getting started

  • To get started, smooth a few drops of oil into your warm hands and begin massaging the soles of your baby’s feet. Use firm, gentle, slow strokes from the heel towards the toes. Always keep one hand on your baby while massaging.
  • Continue with long smooth strokes up your baby’s legs. Massage from the ankle up to the thigh and over the hip. You can try massaging both legs at once or one at time. Avoid massaging the genital area. Hold your baby’s leg under the knee and gently press it towards the tummy to help them expel gas.

Upper body

  • Start the upper body massage with your hands on your baby’s shoulders. Make gentle strokes in towards the chest.
  • Massage baby’s arms by stroking from the shoulders down towards the wrists. Try not to get oil on your baby’s hands. If this happens, wipe their fingers clean before they suck on them.
  • If your baby’s tummy feels soft (not hard or full), massage their belly using circular, clockwise strokes. Babies’ tummies are sensitive, so if they get unsettled, move on to the next step. Avoid massaging the naval area if the cord hasn’t completely healed.

Face and back

  • Use your fingertips to massage your baby’s face. Stroke from the middle of their forehead, down the outside of their face and in towards the cheeks. With your fingertips, massage the scalp in small circles as if you’re shampooing their hair.
  • If your baby is still relaxed once you’ve finished massaging the front of the body, you can turn them onto their tummy and use long, smooth strokes from head to toe.
  • Remember that you should stop the massage if your baby is not enjoying it or is showing signs of discomfort. It’s also best to avoid a massage if you’re very tense, or if your baby is agitated or upset.