Did you know that many parents say that baby massage can:
- help them better understand their baby’s needs
- improve their mood or sense of wellbeing (particularly if they’re feeling tired or depressed after giving birth)
- help them feel more confident about handling their baby
- enjoy a positive interaction with their baby
- help other members of the family bond with their baby
- improve their baby’s sleep
Other benefits of learning to massage your baby:
- may help with colic by relieving anxiety and improving digestion
- may help settle them before sleeping
- meet other new parents by attending a massage class
- give dads or partners of breastfed babies a way to bond through skin-to-skin contact
When can I start to massage my baby?
There's no guide for when you can start baby massage and nurturing touch can be given to your baby from when they are born. Some babies may find formal, structured classes overwhelming or over stimulating when they are newborns and parents may find it difficult to regularly attend classes with a newborn. You may want to wait to attend classes until your little one is about six weeks old when you're both feeling more settled into a routine.
If you do decide to massage your newborn, avoid using any oils or lotions until they’re at least a month old.
How do I massage my baby?
You can speak to your midwife or health visitor, or visit the NHS website to find out about classes that teach parents how to massage their baby. Or you can follow these 10 tips to get you started:
- Relax yourself first – take slow deep breaths, clear your mind of everything but your baby and you. Shrug your shoulders and loosen your muscles. If you’re relaxed, your baby will relax too.
- It’s helpful for you and your baby to be in a quiet calm, warm place, when you massage them so that you’re both relaxed.
- Get comfortable by sitting with your baby on your lap. Use a clean sheet or towel to protect your lap from massage oil and keep a towel or blanket at hand to cover the parts of their body that you’re not massaging.
- If you’re using massage oil, test a small amount on your baby’s skin the day before to make sure there’s no reaction. Warm the oil in your hands first. Unscented vegetable oil such as grapeseed, coconut or sunflower seed oil is recommended. Avoid using olive oil as this may cause irritation to your baby’s delicate skin. Store oils in a cool dry place when you’re not using them and make sure they’re within the “use by” date.
- Avoid massaging your baby after they’ve been fed. Wait at least 45 minutes and allow them to sleep after the massage if they want to.
- Use slow, rhythmical strokes with firm but gentle pressure and repeat each stroke as many times as you feel is right – about 3 to 5 times.
- Your baby may show signs of fussing when you’re massaging particularly sensitive areas. Try to rest your hands gently on these areas at first, followed by slow, gentle, rhythmical strokes.
- Begin with one hand cupped over your baby’s head and the other resting on their chest or bottom, whilst talking softly to them. This is called the “comfort position”
- The order of which area you massage is not important however you may want to start with the legs as these are usually the least sensitive part of their body.
- When massaging, use your hands one over the other like a milking motion. Return to the comfort position at the end.
When shouldn’t I give my baby a massage?
Speak to your health visitor or midwife before, or avoid massaging your baby if:
- They have any skin irritation or rash.
- Appear to be unwell
- Have been vaccinated in the last 3 days (72 hours)
- Has any injuries or bruises
- Is being treated for any illness or medical condition
Don’t worry if you’re baby doesn’t enjoy the massage at first. It’s a new experience for you both and can take time to get used to. Start with short massages and build up to longer sessions as you both become more used to the experience. Enjoy the special time you have with your little one, while bonding, touching and talking to them.