Just like the rest of us, babies loved to be touched, and your baby may enjoy a massage now and then. Massage can help strengthen your parent-child bond and can also help relax your baby—and what’s better than a calm and content baby! Learn more about the potential benefits of infant massage and how you can massage your little one in the comfort of your own home.

What Is Infant Massage and What Are the Benefits?

Infant massage is a soothing therapy that involves gently touching and stroking your baby in a way that communicates your love and care. The benefits of massaging your baby may include:

  • Fostering a stronger bond through skin-to-skin interaction with your baby

  • Helping your baby calm down, relax, and sleep better

  • Having a positive effect on your baby’s stress levels

  • Reducing crying

  • Helping your premature baby grow and develop.

How Do You Massage Your Baby?

With just a little bit of prep and some basic massage techniques, you are all set to start massaging your little one. Follow these five easy steps:

1. Pick your location. Find a warm, calming environment, like a quiet room or a shady spot outdoors on a nice day. The massage can take place on the floor or the ground, on a bed, or on the changing table. But be sure not to leave your baby unattended on a high surface, as he could roll and fall. Always keep a hand on him during the massage.

2. Get your baby ready. You might consider massaging your baby after a bath as being bathed may help calm him in advance. Gather your oil if you're planning on using it. Once you’re ready to begin, place your baby on a blanket or towel. Remove his clothes except for his diaper, and softly tell him it’s time for a massage.

3. Pay attention to your touch. Start by massaging your little one with gentle strokes on each part of his body, including his head, neck, upper back, shoulders, hands, waist, thighs, and feet. As he gets older and more accustomed to the routine, you can gradually increase the pressure or firmness of your touch. Avoid tickling or irritating your baby but do whatever makes him happy. You could try some of the following massage variations:

  • Stroke your baby with open palms

  • Stroke him with your fingers or thumbs

  • Rake him with your fingertips

  • Tap him lightly with your fingertips

  • Use a wringing motion to massage his arms and legs.

4. Move from top to toe. Begin by placing him on his stomach and gently rubbing him from his head down to his hands and feet. If you’re using massage oil, don’t overdo it as your baby can get very slippery. Once you’ve turned him onto his back, extend and flex each of his arms and legs separately and then simultaneously. Then, you can repeat the massage again from top to bottom. Avoid your baby’s abdomen if he’s recently eaten. Otherwise, you can try the “I love you” abdomen massage, by stroking the letters I, L, and U across his abdomen.

5. Be calm and communicative. Throughout your baby’s massage, you’ll want to stay connected to your baby by quietly talking to him, narrating the massage, or by singing a song or telling a story. The way he responds will clue you in to whether he is enjoying the massage or not. If he flaps his arms and seems happy, then you’re onto something. If he turns away from you, fidgets, and seems unhappy, then it’s time to stop. You can always try again another time.

If you still feel hesitant about starting infant massage, look for a book on the subject at your local library, watch some videos online, or reach out to your child’s healthcare provider for guidance. There may even be classes on infant massage at your local medical center or a massage specialist you could consult for more information. If your baby has any special medical issues, be sure to check with his healthcare provider before beginning massage.

When and How Often Should You Massage Your Baby?

You can start massaging your baby as early as you like. Just be sure to be extra gentle with newborns. Here are some tips on choosing the right times to massage your baby:

  • Wait 45 minutes or longer after a feeding. Starting too soon after she's eaten could cause your baby to vomit.

  • Pay attention to your baby’s moods. If she seems calm and looks at you with a steady gaze, she’s probably good to go. If she seems fussy, turns her head away from you, or stiffens up when you pick her up, it might be best to skip the massage for now.

  • Choose a time that’s good for both of you. It’s really up to you and your baby when and how often you do this activity together. You may decide to massage your baby in the evening, for example, as part of her bedtime routine. It could serve as a soothing ritual to calm her before sleep.

What Can You Use for Baby Massage?

This is a personal preference. You may like to use an oil (that you may already have on hand for your baby’s skin care) during your baby’s massage to help reduce any friction created between your hands and your baby’s delicate skin. Some experts recommend vegetable oil, which won't be absorbed as quickly as a standard baby oil. Or, you may decide using an oil is just too messy. If you do decide to use oil, choose one that is free of harsh chemicals and fragrances, and one that's edible, in case it gets into your little one’s mouth. Before using the oil for the first time, you’ll want to test it to gauge the reaction on your baby’s skin. Do this by applying a tiny bit to an area of his skin and wait to see if there’s a reaction. If there is, stop using the oil and consider trying another type of baby oil, or skipping it altogether.

The Bottom Line

Massaging your baby is a great way to soothe her and to bond with her. You might find that you enjoy this time together just as much as she does! Choose a time when she’s in a good mood, and, who knows, it could turn into a routine that your little one comes to love and expect. In between your baby’s massage sessions, you’ll probably be changing lots of diapers. Why not make it a bit more rewarding? Download the Pampers Club app, scan all your diapers and wipes purchases, and earn rewards points. Then simply redeem the points for cool rewards like gift cards or cash back.

How We Wrote This Article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.