Baby massage is a beautiful, relaxing activity to do with your baby. It’s a special time for the two of you to spend together, where you learn how to interact, communicate and bond with your baby through gentle loving touch.
The physical benefits of baby massage are also numerous, including helping your baby to feel more relaxed, sleep better, relieve windy, gassy tummies and help with constipation.
Infant massage is a baby-led practice. That means you watch and follow your baby’s cues to make sure they’re enjoying the massage. Unlike an adult massage, you’re not trying to relieve muscle tension, so instead of applying pressure, you’re gently touching and stroking your baby.
And the great news is you don’t need to do an infant massage course to learn these skills! If you maintain eye contact and are present with your baby you’ll quickly learn how, when and where they like to be touched. If you want to build your confidence and get new ideas, we teach you basic infant massage and baby yoga techniques during our Mums & Bubs CoreFix Course. Check out the Mums & Bubs yoga course here.
When should you massage your baby?
You can start massaging your newborn baby within the first week. But timing is key! Make sure you’re not massaging your baby after they’ve had a big feed because it may be uncomfortable for their tummy. Likewise if they’re hungry, tired or grizzly it may not be the most ideal time for them to enjoy a massage. Massage doesn’t need to be a long, involved session! When adults go for a massage, we usually have a 30-60 minute session. But baby massage is quite different.
Finding the ideal time when a newborn baby is not tired, hungry or full can be challenging! So you might find it suits you and your baby better to start with just a couple of minutes at a time. If they’re enjoying it you can continue for longer of course! Many babies enjoy being massaged after a bath, when they’re already feeling relaxed and sleepy.
Remember that babies pick up on your mood, so choose a time when you feel relaxed yourself. Do some gentle yoga stretches or take a few deep breaths to centre yourself before you begin.
Where should you massage your baby?
Have your baby lie on a towel or blanket on a comfortable soft surface, like a bed. You can sit in front of them with your legs out wide, or kneel, or sit cross-legged. If it hurts your back to lean forwards, you can place your baby on an elevated surface in front of you. But never leave your baby unattended on a bed or elevated surface in case they roll off.
Alternatively, your baby can sit or lie across your lap. This tends to suit older babies better than newborns.
Baby massage oil
Baby massage can be done with or without oil. Some considerations about using oil:
- If you’re undressing your baby to massage them using oil, make sure the room temperature is warm enough for your baby to be comfortable. Babies don’t like the cold so you’ll find the room will need to be really quite warm!
- It’s advisable to test a patch of baby’s skin prior to the massage to ensure they’re not sensitive to the oil
- Some massage oils have strong perfumes so consider this when making your choice
I use organic coconut oil on my children as it’s natural and has a beautiful smell.
I love to combine baby massage with baby yoga – because a gentle stretch makes everyone feel great! For that reason, you might prefer to do a clothed massage from time-to-time as it makes it easier to do the stretches.
Here’s some baby massage techniques to get you started!
Technique one – Basic baby massage and baby yoga
- Begin by lightly running or brushing your hands down your baby from head to toe, to establish trust. Tell them that you’re going to be doing some massage together
- Pick up one foot and gently circle the ankle in both directions. Place the foot down and repeat with the other foot. Repeat the circling with their wrists
- Hold their right ankle in your right hand and gently squeeze your hand around their ankle before releasing – as if checking if an avocado is ripe! Work your way up the right leg all the way up to their thigh, gently squeezing and releasing. Repeat with the left leg and then do the same on their arms
- Take hold of both ankles, stretch your baby’s legs away from their body and then bend their knees in towards their tummy, gently hugging them into their chest. Repeat a few times. This helps with aligning your baby’s hips
- Place your hands on the soles of your baby’s feet, and help your baby to ‘walk’ bending one knee at a time into their chest. You might image your hands are bicycle pedals and your baby is riding a bike
Technique two – Baby massage for constipation
If your baby has a sore tummy, try some of these baby massage techniques for colic, constipation
and gas. These moves can also be enjoyed by your baby even if they don’t have a sore tummy:
- Massage your hands around your baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction, which will help to move things along in the digestive tract. If your baby doesn’t have a gassy tummy or constipation you can massage in the other direction, otherwise keep massaging in a clockwise direction
- With their knees bent into their tummy, circle their legs in a clockwise direction from left to right. As above, you can change direction if your baby doesn’t have gas/constipation
- With their knees still tucked into their tummy, take both knees across to the left in a spinal twist, and then across to the right. You can deepen the twist by massaging the opposite side of the chest
Technique three – Face massage
You can use oil for this facial massage, but it can be done fully clothed, so it’s easy even if the room is not hot.
- Take a small amount of warm oil and stroke it along your baby’s forehead. Use one or two fingers from each of your hands and start in the centre of their forehead, stroking out towards each ear
- Move your fingers down to their cheek bones and begin to massage their jawline upwards
- Finish by massaging your baby’s ears
Technique four – Rhymes and movements
Make your massage fun and interactive by combining words with movements or massage strokes. Here are two ideas for you to try:
I heart you massage. This is a beautiful massage that still brings a smile to my older children.
- Take both hands to your baby’s chest and draw a straight line down the middle of their upper body to the bottom of their tummy, to make the letter ‘I’
- Bring your hands back up to the top of the I, and separate them to draw one half of the heart on either side of their torso, joining the hands again at the bottom of the tummy to form the point of the heart shape
- Separate your hands again, to make the letter ‘U’ on their upper body, ending with your left hand on their left shoulder, and your right hand on their right shoulder
- Repeat as many times as you like, saying the words “I love you” as you draw the letters
North, South, East and West. This is a fun rhyme to combine with stretching your baby’s limbs. Holding your baby’s hands, you say:
- “North” as you reach their hands up above their head
- “South” as you reach their hands back down alongside their body
- “East” as you take their left arm out to the side
- “West” as you take their right arm out to the side
- “You’re the baby” as you wrap their left and right arms across their chest
- “I love best” as you gently rock them from side to side
- You can do similar movements with their legs
If you’re interested in learning more about baby massage and baby yoga, check out our virtual Mums & Bubs CoreFix Course. During the five-week course which is conducted live via Zoom, we teach Mums how to re-build their core muscles, including your pelvic floor, abdominal muscles, glutes and back. You’ll also learn important breathing and relaxation techniques. You’ll get to spend some time doing baby massage and baby yoga with your little one and the recordings are yours to keep forever! For more information and to book your spot, head to mothernurtureyoga.com.au/mumsandbubs