Baby Massage

Touch is not only a reminder of the womb; like milk, it’s an essential nutrient for growth. And, in some ways, touch is even more beneficial than milk.

One study showed that preemies that received baby massages for 15 minutes a day gained more weight and left the hospital on average one week earlier. (A year later these same babies had higher IQs than preemies just held routinely.) Other research found that healthy, full-term babies who were massaged daily cried less, were more alert and socially engaged and had lower levels of stress hormones.

There are lots of ways to massage, but here are a few tips:

Baby Massage: Get Your “Spa” On!

Who doesn't love a little pampering? About an hour after a feed, warm the room, dim the lights, turn off the phone and turn on soft music. Use warm vegetable oil; almond or avocado oil is great. Keep your baby warmly covered with a thick towel (or go luxe with a mini cotton robe!) Keep wipes and diapers handy, just in case.

How to Massage a Baby

Take slow, deep breaths to be fully in the moment. Massage is an exchange of love!

Connect with your baby.

Always try to keep one hand on your baby and softly talk about what you’re doing now and as well as hoping for their life to come.

Use smooth, repetitious strokes when massaging your baby.

Warm the oil between your hands and start with your baby’s feet. Uncovering one limb at a time, use a fluid, but firm touch. Then move on to their stomach, chest, arms, hands, back, face, and ears, gently rotating, pulling, stretching and squeezing. Gently twist their arms and legs as if lightly wringing a wet sponge.

Follow your baby’s signals.

If your baby gets restless, it’s a sign to change your pace or end the massage. (Are they hungry?) Wipe any excess oil off of their body, letting a bit remain to nourish the skin.

Bask in the bliss!

Baby massage benefits moms and dads too because it lowers stress and boosts your self-esteem. Mellow baby, mellow parents...this is the life!

How to Massage a Baby to Sleep

We’ve all been there. When baby is feeling a bit fussy and just won’t sleep. We hope you’re ready because you’ll be putting together all of the above massage techniques together to get your little one to drift into a deep sleep. Below you’ll find a technique to massage a baby to sleep.

  • Begin at your baby’s feet. Start by using the technique listed above to rub your baby’s feet and legs. 
  • You’re going to work your way upwards to your baby’s tummy. Use the technique listed above to gently massage your baby’s tummy. 
  • Next, you’re going to move on to your baby’s chest. Try tracing a sun and moon on your baby’s chest with your fingertips. Make sure to reverse so that you switch sides where you trace the sun and moon. 
  • Once you’ve completed the sun and moon a few times, trace a heart with your fingertips on your baby’s chest with the bottom of the heart ending at your baby’s belly button.
  • After you’ve completed the sun, moon, and heart, it’s time to move to the arms. For your baby’s arms, gently rub as if you’re wringing out a wet towel. Finish by doing an open hand massage by doing little circles from the wrists to the palms.
  • Gently move towards your baby’s face. Be extra sensitive in this area. Move down from the forehead, to the eyebrows, to the nose bridge, and finish with the cheeks, and ears. 
  • Finish the massage by stroking your baby’s head, shoulders, and back. Use gentle circular motions. 
  • Once your baby has drifted to sleep, make sure to finish by telling your baby how much you love him.

More Baby Massage Tips

How to Massage a Baby’s Feet and Legs

You know how much you love foot massages? Babies love them too. Use the technique below to give your newborn baby a foot massage. 

  • Begin by holding your baby’s heel in your hand.
  • With your other hand, massage your baby starting at the top of the thigh, and work your way down to the feet. 
  • Apply very gentle pressure on the thighs and legs all the way to the ankle. Think of it like you’re handling a water don’t want to squeeze so tightly that it pops! 
  • Once you get to the feet, use your thumbs, and gently uncurl your baby’s toes with tender strokes.
  • Once you finish one leg, switch to the other.

How to Massage Your Baby’s Tummy

Massaging your baby’s tummy is a one way to help relieve constipation or gas. Here’s how to massage your baby’s belly:

  • Using your fingertips, “draw” an oval underneath your baby’s belly button.
  • Move your fingers clockwise, which follows your baby’s digestive tract.
  • Afterward, walk your fingertips diagonally, making an X from one side of your baby’s belly to the other. 
  • Repeat as necessary.

Final Thoughts on How to Massage a Baby

Baby massages aren’t the only way to soothe a fussy baby one. Check out some of our other great resources for calming crying: 

Happiest Baby on the Block Streaming Video

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.