Benefits for your baby
Massage has a range of benefits for your baby including:
- relaxing your baby which may improve their sleep
- helping your baby to feel safe and loved
- strengthening your baby’s bond with you
Massage is also beneficial for premature babies. It can help them put on more weight, help their brain develop and boost their immune system. You’ll need to speak with your baby’s nurse or doctor before massaging your baby if they’re born premature. When massaging premature babies, it’s especially important to make sure your baby stays warm.
Benefits for you
Massage is a great way to bond with your baby as it promotes trust and confidence. It’s also a good way to get to know your baby as you’ll get to learn about their behaviour and responses.
When to massage
It’s best to wait 20 minutes or so after a feed but not too close to sleep time. Some families like to massage after bath time as your baby is already undressed. It’s generally not a good idea to massage your baby if they’re upset. A massage can last between 10 and 30 minutes.
Preparing for the massage
Make sure the room is warm, free of draughts and quiet. It’s also best to warm up your hands, cut your fingernails short and remove any jewellery. Wearing old clothes is a good idea as well in case you spill any massage oil. You may choose to use baby massage oil or a simple moisturiser. It’s best to avoid nut-based oils such as peanut oil in case of allergies in the first four months of life. Soft music playing in the background can help some babies to relax.
How to massage your baby
The Raising Children Network outlines the following steps for massaging your child:
- Start with lying your baby on their back and begin with massaging their feet with gentle slow strokes from the heel to the toe
- Massage your baby’s legs with long, smooth strokes - you can massage both legs at once or one by one and you should avoid the genital area
- Massage your baby’s shoulders, and then make gentle strokes towards the chest
- Massage your baby’s arms and make gentle strokes down the shoulders to the wrists
- If you baby’s stomach feels soft, you can massage in circular clockwise motions - it’s important not to put pressure on the baby’s diaphragm (under the lungs, but above the stomach) or the belly button area
- Use your finger pads to massage your baby’s face - you can stroke from the middle of the baby’s forehead, down the outside of the face towards the cheeks
- If your baby is enjoying the massage, you can turn them onto their stomach and use long strokes from head to toe to massage their back
It’s a good idea to watch your baby’s reaction throughout the massage. If you notice they are uncomfortable, it’s a good idea to slow down your movements or stop the massage. Signs of your baby being uncomfortable including clenched fists, grimaces, sneezing, or hiccoughs.
Where to get more information
- Pregnancy, Birth and Baby helpline on 1800 882 436 – you can speak with a maternal child health nurse and the free service is available 7am to midnight, 7 days a week
- Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 – you can speak with a registered nurse and the free service is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Tresillian’s Parent’s Help Line on 1300 272 736 – you can speak with a Tresillian nurse and the free service is available 7am to 11pm, 7 days a week.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified health care professional.