How to Massage a Baby: Infant Massage Tips, Tricks and Techniques

It’s natural to want to shower your new baby with plenty of kisses and cuddles. I mean, look at that little ball of squishy goodness!!! In addition to the snuggles, why not add another level of connection to your daily ritual? Infant massage! 

We hear nothing but good things about baby massage from parents – it’s a great bonding experience, relaxes baby, helps with wind and sleep, and plenty other benefits. We’re sure if babies could talk, they would be saying the same thing.

But we also know there is a bit of confusion about the right way to massage your baby. How hard do you press? Should you massage clockwise or counterclockwise? Are there any special moves to use or areas to avoid?

Our guide to infant massage should help clear a few things up.

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Source: Adobe Stock

Why baby massage?

According to Mothercraft nurse Beth Barclay,

Massaging baby helps parents get to know their baby’s sensitivities to touch, what particular parts of their bodies responds to a soothing touch more than others. It is even known to reduce colic symptoms and improve digestion.”

Below are just a few more benefits:

  • Great bonding experience
  • Nice way to wind down the end of each day (after a bath)
  • Helps to relieve excess gas and wind
  • Promotes better sleep
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Source: Adobe Stock

Baby massage tips and tricks

1. Choose the right time. After a warm bath is a good time, when bub is in a quiet, yet alert state. Avoid massage straight after a feed or when baby is overtired.

2. Set up your station. We suggest massaging the baby on the floor or on the bed. This allows for close face-to-face with bub. Place a soft blanket down and keep bub in nothing but a nappy (if it’s warm enough).

3. Have your lotion handy.  Avoid massage oils and lotions that are made for adults. These could irritate baby’s sensitive skin. Instead, use a made-for-baby oil which lets you add another layer of relaxation to the massage.

Our recommendation?

Cetaphil’s Baby Massage Oil. This made-for-baby oil contains botanical extracts and helps to moisturise your little one’s skin, keeping it soft and hydrated. You can pick up the entire range of Cetaphil Baby, including Cetaphil Baby Massage Oil, Moisturising Bath & Wash, Shampoo, Daily Lotion and Gentle Wash & Shampoo at Priceline or Chemist Warehouse. 

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4. Watch for baby’s cues. If your little one is squirming or seems uncomfortable, try another area. If baby starts to act hungry or tired, stop and try again tomorrow. You may find bub is only comfortable for five minutes or will happily lay for an infant massage for a half hour. It will depend on how your baby is feeling at that time.

5. Remove any jewellery. Also, make sure your nails are nice and trimmed.

6. Use firm, but gentle strokes. We have a more in-depth guide to different strokes and baby massage techniques below.

7. Baby massage is all about finding the sweet spots that your baby likes. If you are unsure, start by massaging the feet, legs, and arms before moving on to the more challenging areas like the head and the tummy.

Baby massage: how to do it

Feet (baby on back)

  1. Start by adding a drop of baby massage oil to the sole of the foot.
  2. Use a thumb-over-thumb motion to gently massage from heel to toes.
  3. Once you reach the top of the foot,  gently squeeze and pull each toe (very very gently!!)
  4. Repeat on the other foot.
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Source: Adobe Stock

Legs (baby on back)

  1. Add baby massage oil to your hands and rub it in.
  2. Do long, smooth strokes from the bottom of the leg to the top. Massage more leg and then swap or massage both legs at the same time.
  3. Once you reach the top of the leg, stroke down from hip to foot with both hands, rotating in opposite directions – kind of like wringing out a towel, but much softer!
  4. To help release wind, hold baby’s legs under the knee and gently press it towards the tummy (see pic above). Repeat a few times but stop if bub becomes unsettled. You may notice some hefty bottom burps with this infant massage move.
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Baby massage is a great source of relieving wind in babies. Source: Adobe Stock

Tummy and chest (baby on back)

  1. The tummy can be a bit tricky. Avoid the belly button area if the cord hasn’t healed. If it has healed, start by walking your fingers around her naval clockwise. Apply gentle pressure.
  2. If baby’s tummy is soft, you can massage the area with circular, clockwise strokes. If bub seems unsettled, move to another area.
  3. Hold your hand like it’s a paddle and apply gentle pressure to the tummy area. Start at the base of the rib cage, stroke down with one hand and then the other in a paddle-wheel-like motion.
  4. Place your hand on the baby’s tummy horizontally and rock your hand from side to side a few times.
  5. Move on to the upper body/chest by making gentle strokes from the shoulders towards the chest (in a V motion with your hands).
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Source: Adobe Stock

Arms  (baby on back)

  1. Massage baby’s arm by stroking from shoulders down to the wrists. You can do the towel wringing move – the same one as you used for baby’s legs.
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Source: Adobe Stock
  1. Massage the wrists by moving your fingers in small circles.
  2. Hold baby’s hand and gently rub it while holding it.
  3. For the fingers, stroke each finger gently going from the wrist to the fingertip. Gently squeeze and pull each finger – GENTLY!
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Source: Adobe Stock

Back (baby on tummy)

  1. Massage baby’s back using long, smooth strokes, as if your fingers are a rake.
  2. Start from the head down to the toes. Repeat several times.
  3. Switch it up by massaging in small circles down one side of baby’s spine and up the other. Avoid putting pressure directly on the spine.
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Source: Adobe Stock

Head and Face (baby on back)

  1. Start with the scalp. Cradling your baby’s head in both hands, massage the scalp with your fingertips, as if you’re shampooing but avoid the soft spot on baby’s head (the fontanel).
  2. Move to the forehead. Use your finger pads to gently apply pressure to baby’s forehead.
  3. Stroke from the middle of the forehead, down the outside of the face and towards the cheeks, kind of like you’re making a heart-like shape with your hands.
  4. Use your thumb and index finger to gently rub baby’s ears.
  5. Place your thumbs between baby’s eyebrows and stroke out. Then do the same thing over baby’s eyelids.
  6. Stroke from the bridge of the nose out over the cheeks.
  7. Finish by using your fingertips to massage the jaw in small circles.
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Source: Adobe Stock

Babies can and will enjoy massages for months and months but infant massage is extra fulfilling when your baby is still super small and can’t wriggle away. So enjoy this special bonding time with your bub.

Hopefully adding infant massage to your regular routine will result in a more settled baby and a few more hours of uninterrupted sleep for the both of you!

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Source: Adobe Stock

What to read next

This post is sponsored by Cetaphil Baby
Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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