Like adults, babies can benefit from massage and even enjoy the process! Massage is effective in helping infants with wind, colic, constipation, and reflux. Baby massage soothes your infant, relaxes them, and helps ease their gas and other issues without having any adverse effects. Knowing how to administer an effective baby massage is a great skill to have for any parent or caregiver.
When it comes to giving a baby a comfortable, safe and effective massage, there are a few key factors to consider. Chief among these is the use of the right baby massage oils.
Is using a massage oil safe for babies?
You can use a rich, moisturising baby massage oil to soothe the skin and help eliminate any friction while massaging. However, not all oils are appropriate for babies, even if marketed as ‘natural’. Just because a massage oil is natural, it doesn’t mean it will be suitable for a baby’s skin, which tends to be more sensitive and delicate. Using the wrong oil can lead to skin rashes, bacterial colonisation, and other painful or irritating issues.
So, without further ado, let’s jump into the best baby massage oils, what to look for when choosing a baby massage oil, and particular types to avoid.
How to choose the best oil for baby skin
We will now look at several types of oil, their effects, and why they are well suited for babies’ sensitive skin.
- Apricot oil — Apricot kernel oil is extracted by cold pressing from the apricot plant. The cold-pressed formula requires less processing than other extraction methods, making it one of the best oils for baby skin. A good quality organic apricot oil free from parabens and fragrances makes a great natural moisturiser.
- Almond oil — Almond oil is another natural oil rich in vitamin E, and it might be one you already use in your moisturising routine. Almond oil has been proven safe for use as a baby massage oil in clinical studies and also helps to thicken delicate infant skin, improving skin strength with no side effects.
- Jojoba oil — Rounding out our trio of vitamin E rich oil is jojoba oil. If your little one has eczema and irritated skin, jojoba oil is a powerful healing agent that soothes rashes and inflamed skin. It’s crucial to opt for a cold-pressed and organic solution when using jojoba oil on a baby. Importantly, jojoba oil is safe to ingest but isn’t digestible by infants, so it may cause stomach upsets. For a more suitable baby massage oil, a digestible product is preferred.
- Cold-pressed sesame oil — Both anti-inflammatory and great for retaining moisture in the skin, cold-pressed sesame oil is a great choice as a baby massage oil. Unlike cooking sesame oil, cold-pressed sesame oil doesn't have a strong fragrance and is easily absorbed by your baby’s skin.
- Oat oil – Oat is a famously soothing and gentle addition to skincare for both babies and adults. You might find oat oil listed as “Avena sativa” in your own skincare products. If your moisturiser or bath wash contains Avena sativa, you’ve experienced the benefits of oat oil. It’s great for banishing dry and itchy skin and is ideal for a bub’s skincare routine. This common skincare ingredient helps heal skin rashes and remove dry, itchy skin. Oat oil is generally safe for a baby’s skin.
- Eczema cream — If you’ve seen a medical professional before about your baby’s sensitive skin and eczema, you may not want to experiment with other baby massage oils, no matter how gentle they may be. That’s fine! If you’ve been controlling severe eczema effectively with a cream prescribed by a paediatrician, feel free to keep using this for massages. It prevents the risk of other oils that may irritate and works great for massages.
Other baby massage oils that are good for dry and sensitive skin
Grapeseed oil is another cold-pressed oil that is safe for your little one, as are rosehip oil and borage oil. Both are high in fatty acids and help build up the skin’s barrier, protecting it as you give your baby the extra benefits from a massage. While we’ve included eczema cream on our list of appropriate baby massage mediums, it’s important to note you should never use lotions or creams on your baby unless prescribed by a doctor.
Are there any oils I should avoid for a baby massage?
So far, we’ve covered the best oils for baby skin, which have in common their natural, gentle formulas. However, not all oils are appropriate for infants, even if they’re minimally processed and sold as ‘natural’. Here are some oils you should avoid when it comes to baby massage.
- Baby oil — Let’s start with the oil you’re most likely to reach for — baby oil, a type of mineral oil. The name might suggest that baby oil is safe for use on a baby’s skin, but mineral oil is extracted from paraffin oil, a type of petroleum. While refined petroleum may be OK in adult skincare products, it’s best to avoid it for infants as it may cause blocked pores and rashes.
- Coconut oil — Coconut oil may seem natural and gentle. However, it has two downsides that make it a less than ideal choice for a baby massage oil. Using coconut oil can raise the skin’s natural pH level, disrupting skin barrier function. And while adults may love the natural fragrance of coconut oil, babies should bond with mum and dad by experiencing their genuine and natural scent. This scent could be a combination of your perfume, deodorant and natural musk, but coconut oil masks these and makes for a less enriching massage time.
- Olive oil — Olive oil contains oleic acid, which is great for moisturising mature skin. This acid is far too strong for a baby and can have a drying effect or potentially worsen eczema and sensitivity. Stick to cooking with this one and avoid it when it comes to your bub.
- Tea tree oil — Tea tree oil is relatively strong; it’s excellent on older children and an effective lice treatment, but far too strong for infants younger than 6 months. Even on slightly older children, it’s a good idea to patch test tea tree oil to check for sensitive skin reactions.
- Petroleum jelly — Most commonly known by one of its brand names, Vaseline, petroleum jelly may have been used by our grandmothers and mothers, but it isn’t a great option for a baby massage oil. Because babies often put their hands and feet in their mouths and ingest ingredients used on their skin, petroleum jelly isn’t appropriate.
- Shea butter — Unfortunately, shea butter is a cream rather than an oil. Much like petroleum jelly, it isn’t edible, so it’s not safe for use as a baby massage oil. With any massage medium, the product must be 100% edible to avoid any risk from ingestion.
- Mustard oil — Mustard oil can be toxic to the skin barrier function and is too much of an irritant for use as a baby massage oil.
- Avocado oil — While avocado might sound gentle and natural, avocado oil also contains oleic acid, which is best avoided on baby skin to prevent drying.
- Peanut oil — Not only can peanut oil cause irritation, but it’s also a prevalent allergen. Avoid peanut oil as a massage oil to be on the safe side. There are many other alternatives, and even refined peanut oil might risk an allergic reaction.
- Essential oils — They smell beautiful and are great for providing a relaxing atmosphere in your home when diffused into the air, but essential oils are too harsh and concentrated to be used as a baby massage oil. Stick to keeping them in the infuser!
Discover the best baby massage oil and infant massage training
If you want to invest in the best baby massage oil for your little one, you’ll love the organic baby massage oil from The Infant Massage Information Service. Shop these rich oils in various organic formulas, and start giving your bub the benefits of infant massage today. Need some extra help learning how to administer safe and effective massages to your baby? We can help you find a qualified baby massage instructor or help you become one yourself! Take a look at our training options or contact us for more information.