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How to do baby massage at home

Touch is as vital as foot for infants, it is one their primary physical and emotional needs. Massage is not only a way to enjoy quality time with your little one, it enhances the bonding process while offering a range of physical and emotional benefits. Infant Massage Instructors recommend that you only provide as much massage as your baby is happy to receive and also suggest that it is best to try and offer massage every day, even if only for a very small amount of time on the basis that a little massage is better that no massage at all.


Baby massage can provide so many wonderful benefits. Following some basic guidelines helps to ensure massage time is successful and that you and your baby both enjoy the time together.




Timing for massage is extremely important. Massage at the wrong time of day and rather than helping your little one off to sleep, massage can increase alertness and keep them awake. It's worth the time and expense to book a private appointment with a qualified professional or attend a baby massage class to find out what the best time will be for your baby. Just make sure the person providing tuition holds a qualification in infant massage specifically. Despite what other qualifications they may have, it is important your instructor has been trained and assessed in massage for infants to ensure you are receiving correct and current advice. 

Perhaps even more important than knowing about when to massage, is knowing when massage is not recommended. Contraindications are situations where massage should be avoided. If you are ever unsure of whether you should avoid massage or not, it's best to contact your health care provider or a Certified Infant Massage Instructor.

It is best to avoid massage if there are:

•  Open or weeping wounds
•  Infected skin irritations
•  Fractures or other acute injuries
•  Burns, including sun burn
•  Undiagnosed lumps
•  Bleeding
•  No abdominal massage if your baby has hiccups or has just been fed
•  No massage over an unhealed navel


Using a pure cold pressed fruit, nut, vegetable or seed oil which is free from pesticides and is organic is best.
Pure cold pressed oil is easily absorbed by the skin, as opposed to mineral oil, which tends to leave a greasy film over the skin’s surface. Because cold pressed oils are absorbed so well, it is important they are free from pesticides as there is a concern of pesticides being absorbed into the body’s systems with the oil. Infants tend to put their hands or feet in their mouth during massage, and for this reason it is important that you are happy for your baby to ingest the oil you are going to use for massage time. This recommendation does not apply in reverse, i.e. just because an oil is edible, does not mean it is necessarily suitable for infant massage. Take olive oil for example. This can be purchased as pure, cold pressed and organic, it is a fruit oil, and is of course edible. Its texture however is too thick and it will not be absorbed sufficiently by the skin and recent research indicates olive oil could exacerbate or even cause eczema.



Oil-Sesame.pngSesame Oil has a wonderful texture for massage. When purchased as a cold pressed product (i.e. not cooking sesame oil found at the supermarket) it is easily absorbed by the skin, keeping it supple and soft. Sesame oil is rich in vitamins A, B and E and contains iron, calcium and other beneficial minerals. It contains a range of antioxidants, some of which help to naturally preserve the oil. If stored properly , sesame oil is not likely to go rancid. It is naturally comprised of up to 40% linoleic acid, providing anti-inflammatory and moisture retention benefits when applied to the skin. It is also naturally antibacterial and is used in the production of many soaps and emulsifiers because of the combination of these qualities. This oil is immensely popular in India where for many people, its use in massage is a part of everyday life.



Oil-Apricot.pngApricot Kernel Oil has a lighter texture for massage and is easily purchased as a pure cold pressed product. It nourishes and moisturises the skin, keeping it healthy, elastic and glowing. The oil naturally contains vitamins A and E and it is commonly used in the manufacturing of creams, balms, lotions and cosmetics due to its moisturising properties and its effectiveness in treating skin ailments. It also naturally comprises of approximately 20% linoleic acid and is an excellent antioxidant. Most apricot kernel oil is considered pesticide free due to the kernel being protected from pesticide sprays by its shell in addition to the flesh of the fruit itself.


Oil-Almond.pngSweet Almond Oil has a good texture for massage, although it is slightly thicker than apricot and sesame oil. It is easily purchased as a pure cold pressed product. Sweet almond oil nourishes and moisturises the skin, keeping it smooth, soft a
nd glowing. It is rich in Vitamins A, B and E and oleic and linoleic acids, and is effective in treating skin irritation and inflammation. Most almond oil is considered pesticide free due to the kernel being
protected from 
pesticide sprays by its shell.



Caution should be taken if you are aware or concerned regarding a family history of nut allergies. In these situations it is recommended to avoid using nut oils. In any case, peanut oil is never recommended for use in infant massage.

An Infant Massage Instructor can show you first hand how test a product before covering your baby in it head to toe. Conducting a patch test is a worthwhile exercise and it's a lot better than discovering your baby is sensitive or allergic to a product after you've used something for a full-body massage. The Infant Massage Information Service provides a free international referral service to parents looking for a qualified instructor. Simply contact the service with your name, email address and location (country and postcode/zipcode) and you will receive contact details for a qualified instructor in your local area.



Newborn baby head massage

Leaning against a wall or sofa, sit on the floor with your knees bent. Your newborn can comfortably lie on your thighs, with their head resting on your knees. This a wonderful position for new babies as it provides a good distance between you both for eye contact.

Lying on the floor
Baby leg massage

It is best to massage your baby on the floor, as opposed to a change table. During massage time, your baby’s skin will be slippery while covered with oil, meaning you could slip when you pick them up. Lay your baby on a change mat and a towel or blanket in front of you. To make sure you are comfortable during massage time sit on a cushion in front of a wall or sofa to support your back.

Sitting up for massage time
Toddler massage

Once your baby can support herself a little she can sit in front of you for massage time.You can place some of their favourite toys in front of them to keep them entertained or even sit in front of a full-length mirror so they can watch themselves throughout their massage. Sitting in front of a mirror for massage is fantastic for increasing your
baby’s body awareness. She will both see and feel you massaging her arm as you say “arm”, and feel and see you massaging her leg as you say “leg”, and so on.


Baby back massage

If your baby is happy to receive massage while rolling back and forth in front of you, massage the areas that are available each time they roll. Massage on the floor and never restrict his/her movement to ensure massage is a relaxed and happy experience for both of you. 


1. Is it a good time for you, are you relaxed?

2. Is it a good time for your child?

3. Get the oil, towel, music etc ready for massage time.

4. Remove any jewellery that may scratch your baby during massage (including rings, watches and bracelets).

5. Check the light in the room. When you lie your baby down, will there be glare or bright lights in their eyes?

6. Make sure your hands are nice and warm. Warm them briefly in front of a heater or under some warm water just before you start.



Infants can easily learn to recognise cues. You have probably seen your baby respond to cues from a very early stage in their life. Think about their feeding time. Many babies become impatient and fumble looking for the breast when mum sits down and prepares to feed. In this example, the baby has recognised a predictable situation.
Infant Massage Instructors use this same principal to teach parents a ‘permission sequence’, using a cue to indicate that massage is going to occur. 



Following a positive response after the permission sequence, it is best to begin by touching your baby’s legs first. Never go straight to the abdomen, chest, or face as this can feel intrusive. Babies prefer long firm strokes so try not to be too timid in your massage technique. Long, relaxed, firm and confident strokes can help your baby to relax. If you feel unsure about pressure and timing, make an appointment with a qualified Infant Massage Instructor so they can take you through a massage routine step-by-step, making sure you're using correct pressure as you go.



1. Indian Massage

Using a ‘C cup’ hand hold (fingers and thumb curved to make the letter “C”) perform long, firm strokes from hip to
ankle, alternating your hands with each stroke. Support the leg by holding the ankle firmly with each stroke to allow
your baby to relax the leg muscles.

Newborn baby leg massage



Keep Baby’s leg between your palms and roll the entire leg from hip to ankle. When you reach the ankle, place your
hands back at the thigh one at a time to repeat the technique.

How to do baby leg massasge


3. Swedish Massage

Using a ‘C cup’ hand hold (fingers and thumb curved to make the letter “C”) perform long, firm strokes moving from
the ankle to the hip, alternating your hands with each stroke. Support the leg by holding the ankle firmly with each stroke to allow your baby to relax the leg muscles.

How to massage baby's leg


It is very important for the comfort of your baby that all abdominal strokes are performed below the diaphragm. Having the correct amount of pressure is also important if you want to provide maximum benefit to the digestive system.

1. Locate the diaphragm

Using your index fingers feel along your baby’s back for the lowest ribs. From this point, gently bring your index fingers to the centre of his belly, in a straight line. The diaphragm is located directly above this line and all your massage strokes should be below this line.

2. Scooping

Place your hand flat across the width of the tummy ‘scoop’ downwards from just below the diaphragm to the base of the tummy. Alternate your hands with each stroke.




There is are some very specific body language cues to look out for you when it comes to massage on the chest. Your baby may appear content but subtle arm movements can indicate they are not enjoying massage on the chest and in this case, it is best to move on and massage another area.
Because the cues can be subtle, it is best to leave chest massage out unless you've had a qualified instructor teach you how to perform chest massage and most importantly, how to interpret body language cues that indicate whether you baby wants massage on the chest.


The following images show how older children can receive arm massage in a seated position; it is recommended that small infants remain lying down for arm massage. 


1. Indian Massage

Using a ‘C cup’ hand hold (fingers and thumb curved to make the letter “C”) perform long, firm strokes from the shoulder to the wrist, alternating your hands with each stroke. Support the arm by holding the wrist firmly with each stroke to allow your baby to relax her arm muscles.

Toddler arm massage



Keep baby’s arm between your palms and roll from the shoulder to wrist. When you reach the wrist, place your hands back at the shoulder one at a time to repeat the technique.

How to massage my toddler


3. Swedish Massage

Using a ‘C cup’ hand hold (fingers and thumb curved to make the letter “C”) perform long, firm strokes this time moving from the wrist to the shoulder, alternating your hands with each stroke. Support the arm by holding the wrist firmly with each stroke to allow your baby to relax her arm muscles.

Relaxing arm massage for toddlers


Infant Massage Instructors recommend 5 different positions that can be used for back massage and provide personalised instruction on the position that suits your baby best. The basic tips below will help to get started but if you're feeling unsure, it's best to check with an instructor directly and discuss the positioning that will work best for your baby.

1. Long strokes down the back
Place your hands horizontally across your baby’s shoulders and with one long firm stroke move down to the buttocks. Perform this technique several times, alternating hands.

2. Back circles

Using the pads of your fingers perform the circle strokes several times, moving down the back relaxing the muscles.
Use the circles on either side of the spine, massaging right down to the lower back and including the buttocks.

Baby girl enjoys back massage

By following a few simple tips and techniques, massage time can be a wonderful opportunity for you to bond with your baby while providing a range of benefits for you both.

There are many more techniques than we've been able to list here. If you would like to know more or if you'd like some additional help on the massage techniques detailed above, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to put you in touch with your local Certified Infant Massage Instructor.



Articles of interest:
What does an infant massage therapist do?
How do I become a baby massage therapist?
What it's like to work as a baby massage instructor