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How to Give Your Baby a Gentle Massage

Medically reviewed by Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS · Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated May 26, 2021

How to Give Your Baby a Gentle Massage

Many parents give their baby a gentle massage because they believe it soothes and relaxes them. What are the benefits and risks of baby massage? How do parents do it safely and effectively? Find out here.

The Benefits of Baby Massage

Baby massage is not “hilot.’ Moreover, parents can only give massage to babies with no existing conditions. Keeping these in mind,  reports suggest that a baby massage can:

  • Boost interaction between parents and baby. In fact, in a small study involving mommy and babies, researchers noted that the emotional bond between mother and infant improved due to the massage intervention.
  • Help your baby relax and sleep. Reviews of various studies about infant massage concluded that it, indeed, has positive effects on the babies’ sleep-wake pattern. Another report mentioned that massage can influence the length of time the baby sleeps and how soundly they sleep.
  • Improve baby’s stress levels. Interestingly, a baby massage can also release oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone).
  • Calm a baby’s crying. And finally, if you find yourself with a colicky or visibly upset infant, experts say giving them a massage can soothe their crying.

Although we still need more evidence to support the benefits of infant massage, studies so far have mentioned its positive effects on baby weight gain and neuromotor development. It might also help in the growth of premature babies.

baby massage

Risks of Infant Massage

When done incorrectly, baby massage can lead to physical injury.

Also, remember that their skin is sensitive, so it’s not advisable to use lubricants with harsh chemicals as they might trigger an allergic reaction. Always test the lubricant first on a small part of your baby’s skin to see how they’ll react to it.

Note that your infant might also accidentally put the lubricant in their mouth. For this reason, experts suggest using edible and odorless oil.

If your baby has an underlying health condition, it’s best to talk to the doctor first before giving them a massage.

How to Give Your Baby a Gentle Massage

To safely give your baby a gentle massage, keep the following things in mind;

Create a warm and quiet atmosphere

Since you’re undressing the infant for the massage, a warm atmosphere is crucial. Lay him or her on their back so that you can maintain eye contact and talk to them.

When and how you’ll do the massage is up to you, but experts recommend doing it when the baby is quiet, alert, and well-rested. Consider infant massage after their nap or when you’re changing their nappy.

Avoid doing the infant massage within an hour after feeding to reduce the risk of vomiting.

Control the pressure

Before starting the massage, warm your hands first by rubbing them together. Always be gentle in massaging your baby and adjust the pressure you apply as they get older. Avoid tickling them as it might irritate your infant.

Massage your baby’s body.

  • You can start with their feet. Use your thumb to stroke them from heel to toe.
  • Massage their legs with a long, smooth stroke, from ankle to thigh. Afterward, you can place one hand behind their knee and use the other to push their leg gently to their tummy. Avoid their genital area.
  • For their torso, start with their shoulders and stroke down to their chest.
  • Then, massage their arms from shoulders to their wrists with a long, smooth stroke. If you’re using a lubricant, avoid getting the product ton their hands.
  • Massage their tummy using gentle, circular touch. Avoid their umbilical cord.
  • To massage your baby’s face, use the pads of your fingers. Start in the middle of their forehead then move down to their cheeks. You can also massage their scalp with the same method.
  • And finally, if the baby still feels calm, put the baby on their tummy and massage their back with long, smooth strokes.

Read your baby’s mood

If your little one smiles and giggles as you do the massage, they are probably happy about it. However, if they start turning their head away and appear upset, it’s best to stop the massage and try again later.

Key Takeaways

Giving your baby a gentle massage can help improve their mood, sleep quality, and emotional bond with parents. However, there are still some risks like a physical injury. If you’re unsure about infant massages, talk to the doctor to be sure.

Learn more about Baby Care here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Ruben Macapinlac, MD, DPPS

Pediatrics · Philippine Pediatric Society

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated May 26, 2021

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