How to Massage a Newborn Baby? - Your Guide to the Art of Gentle Baby Massage

Written by: Megan Stander

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Time to Read: 9 min

Gentle baby massage is a wonderful way to bond with your newborn and provide them with numerous health benefits. It's a soothing and calming practice that can promote relaxation, improve circulation, aid digestion, and enhance the development of your baby's nervous system. 

 

In this guide, we will explore the art of gentle baby massage and provide you with step-by-step instructions on how to massage a newborn baby.

Gentle Baby Massage - How to Massage a Newborn Baby? - Your Guide to the Art of Gentle Baby Massage- Raising Mama - Maternal Mental Health Support

Benefits of Gentle Baby Massage:

Bonding:

Gentle baby massage is a beautiful way to strengthen the bond between you and your newborn. It promotes a sense of security and trust, as you engage in loving touch and create a nurturing environment for your baby.

Relaxation:

Massage can help your baby relax and relieve any tension or stress they may be experiencing. The gentle strokes and rhythmic movements can calm their nervous system, promoting better sleep and overall well-being.

Improved Circulation:

Gentle massage techniques stimulate blood flow and lymphatic circulation in your baby's body. This can help to enhance their overall health and promote better oxygen and nutrient delivery to their organs and tissues.

Digestive Aid:

Massage can aid in digestion and relieve common digestive issues such as gas and constipation. Gentle strokes on the tummy can help to stimulate the digestive system and promote regular bowel movements.

Developmental Support:

The gentle pressure and touch of massage can support your baby's sensory and motor development. It can help them become more aware of their body, improve muscle tone, and enhance their coordination.

Cognitive Development:

The calm and focused environment during baby massage can contribute to the baby's cognitive development. It provides an opportunity for the baby to engage in focused attention and observation, which supports brain development.

Reduced Stress and Anxiety: 

The soothing touch and gentle strokes during massage help to reduce stress and anxiety in babies. This can be particularly beneficial for babies who have experienced a challenging or traumatic birth or those who have spent time in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

When Should I Start Massaging My Newborn?

Deciding when to start massaging your newborn is an important consideration for any parent looking to incorporate this nurturing practice into their baby’s care routine. The ideal time to begin baby massage can vary, however, many experts suggest that parents can start as early as a few weeks after birth. This early initiation helps in capitalizing on the benefits of touch, which is critical for a newborn’s development.

 

In the initial weeks, your baby is adapting to the new world outside the womb. Gentle baby massage can be a comforting bridge for this transition, offering a sense of security and familiarity through your touch. However, it's important to ensure that your baby is ready for this additional stimulation. Each baby is unique, and their readiness for massage might differ.
 

Gentle Baby Massage - How to Massage a Newborn Baby? - Your Guide to the Art of Gentle Baby Massage- Raising Mama - Maternal Mental Health Support

Factors to Consider Before Starting Massage Sessions

Health and Stability:

Ensure your baby is medically stable and healthy before beginning massage sessions. If your baby was born prematurely or has medical concerns, consult with your pediatrician to determine the appropriate time to start.

 

Baby’s Response to Touch:

Observe how your baby reacts to gentle touch. Some newborns might be more sensitive and require more time before they are comfortable with the extended tactile stimulation of massage.

 

Feeding and Sleep Patterns:

It’s advisable to establish a somewhat regular feeding and sleeping routine before introducing massage. Massaging your baby when they are neither too hungry nor too full can make the experience more enjoyable for both of you.

 

Postnatal Recovery of the Mother:

A mother’s health and comfort are crucial, more so if she is to be the one giving massage to the baby. If the birth process has been particularly strenuous, it's important for the mother to recover sufficiently. Massage sessions should be a relaxing and bonding experience for the mom and baby, not a strain.

 

Environmental Readiness:

Create a calm and warm environment for massage. The area should be free from drafts, with a comfortable temperature. This setting helps in making the massage a soothing experience for your newborn.

 

Duration and Intensity of Massage:

When starting, keep the massages brief and gentle. Gradually increase the duration as your baby gets accustomed to the experience.

 

Parental Confidence:

It’s essential for the parent to feel confident and relaxed while massaging. If you’re nervous, your baby might sense it and become uneasy. If needed, attend a baby massage class or watch instructional videos to build your confidence.

 

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to when to start massaging your newborn, typically a few weeks after birth is a good time, considering the factors above. It's about finding a balance that works for both you and your baby, ensuring the massage experience is calming, enjoyable, and beneficial for your little one’s growth and development.

Gentle Baby Massage - How to Massage a Newborn Baby? - Your Guide to the Art of Gentle Baby Massage- Raising Mama - Maternal Mental Health Support

How to Massage a Newborn Baby?

Massaging a newborn baby can be a wonderful way to bond with your child and provide them with soothing and beneficial touch. Here's a detailed, step-by-step guide on how to massage a newborn baby:

Preparation:

  • Choose the Right Time: Make sure the baby is calm and alert, not too hungry or too full.

  • Warm Environment: Ensure the room is warm and free from drafts.

  • Comfortable Surface: Use a soft towel or blanket on a safe, flat surface.

  • Use Baby-Safe Oil: Optional, but can help your hands glide smoothly over the baby's skin. Natural oils like coconut, sunflower, grapeseed oils, or petroleum jelly are good choices.

Massage Techniques:

Gentle Baby Massage - How to Massage a Newborn Baby? - Your Guide to the Art of Gentle Baby Massage- Raising Mama - Maternal Mental Health Support

Gentle Strokes for Arms and Legs:

  • Start with the legs, as they are less sensitive than other body parts. Use gentle, slow strokes from the thigh down to the foot. 

  • Repeat the motion several times on each leg. Gently take hold of their arms and repeat similar strokes from shoulder to wrist.

Massaging the Chest and Back:

  • For the chest, use gentle, outward strokes from the sternum to the shoulders.

  • Turn the baby on their tummy for a back massage.

  • With your fingertips, make small, circular motions on their back, avoiding the spine.

Safe and Soothing Head Massage:

  • Cradle the baby’s head in your hands.

  • Gently massage the scalp with the pads of your fingers, like a soft shampooing motion.

Massage Techniques for the Face and Feet:

  • For the face, use your thumbs to softly stroke from the middle of the forehead out towards the temples.

  • Gently massage each area of the face - eyebrows, nose, cheeks, and jawline.

  • For the feet, gently rotate each toe between your fingers and massage the sole of the foot with soft, circular motions.

Tips:

  • Gentle Pressure: Apply only light pressure, especially on the baby’s delicate areas.

  • Watch for Cues: If the baby seems uncomfortable or cries, stop the massage.

  • Bonding Time: Talk softly, smile, and maintain eye contact to make it a bonding experience.

  • Regular Routine: Incorporating massage into a daily routine can be calming for both the baby and the parent.

Let’s watch a baby massage video.

Understanding How Massage Helps with Reflux in Babies:

Reflux in babies, often referred to as gastroesophageal reflux, occurs when the stomach contents flow back into the esophagus. This can cause discomfort and pain for the baby. Massage therapy can help in several ways:

  • Relaxing the Body: Massage helps in relaxing the baby’s body, which can reduce the discomfort caused by reflux.

  • Improving Digestion: Certain massage techniques can stimulate the digestive system, potentially helping to reduce the frequency and severity of reflux episodes.

  • Soothing Effect: The gentle touch of a massage can have a soothing and calming effect on a baby, which is beneficial for babies who are often irritable due to reflux.

Wrapping Up:

Gentle baby massage can be a valuable tool for parents looking to alleviate the symptoms of reflux in their babies. It not only aids in digestion and reduces discomfort but also strengthens the bond between the parent and the baby through soothing touch. 


Regularly incorporating these gentle massage techniques into your routine can offer numerous benefits, creating a more relaxed and comfortable experience for both you and your baby. As always, consult with a pediatrician or a qualified baby massage therapist for guidance and to ensure that these techniques are suitable for your baby’s specific condition.


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Is baby massage safe for newborns?

Yes, baby massage is generally safe for newborns. However, it is important to keep in mind a few considerations.

  1. Wait until your baby is at least two to six weeks old.

  2. Always ensure that your hands are clean, and nails are clipped short to prevent any scratching or injury.

  3. Use gentle and slow movements, and pay attention to your baby's cues and comfort level throughout the massage.

  4. If your baby has any specific medical conditions or concerns, it's best to consult with a pediatrician before starting baby massage. 

Can I massage my 1-week-old baby?

While it is generally safe to massage a week-old baby, it is recommended to wait until your baby is at least two to six weeks old before starting a massage routine.


During the first few weeks of life, newborns are still adjusting to the world and their muscles and skin are developing. It's important to give them time to settle and bond with you before introducing massage techniques. However, you can still engage in gentle touch and skin-to-skin contact with your baby, which can provide similar benefits and promote bonding.

How can I prevent my baby from getting a flat-head?

To help shape your baby's head, you can try the following tips:

  1. Tummy Time: Encourage your baby to spend supervised time on their tummy while awake. This helps to strengthen neck and upper body muscles, reducing the likelihood of developing a flat spot.

  2. Frequent Position Changes : Avoid keeping your baby in one position for too long. Regularly change the side your baby sleeps on and alternate the head position during feeding.

  3. Limit Time in Car Seats and Carriers: Prolonged time spent in car seats and carriers can contribute to head flattening. Try to limit their use when not necessary.

  4. Use Supportive Devices: Utilize pillows or specially designed positioning devices to provide extra support and help prevent pressure on the back of the head.

If you have concerns about your baby's head shape or notice any abnormalities, it's best to consult with your pediatrician or a healthcare professional for an evaluation and appropriate guidance.

How to massage a baby's tummy?

Massaging a baby's tummy can provide comfort and help with digestion. Here's a simple technique to massage a baby's tummy:

  1. Find a comfortable and quiet space where you can lay the baby on their back.

  2. Warm your hands by rubbing them together or using a gentle baby oil or lotion.

  3. Start by placing your hands, fingers spread apart, just below your baby's rib-cage and gently apply pressure downwards.

  4. Repeat this motion a few times, gradually increasing the pressure slightly if your baby seems comfortable.

  5. You can also do "bicycle legs" by gently bending and straightening your baby's legs, which can help relieve gas and constipation.


Always watch your baby's cues and stop if they seem uncomfortable or if they're not enjoying the massage. If you have any concerns or questions, consult with a healthcare professional or a certified infant massage therapist.


Is baby massage good or bad?

Baby massage is generally beneficial when done correctly and gently. However, it's important to note that every baby is different, and what works well for one may not work for another. It's crucial to observe your baby's cues and comfort level during the massage and adjust the techniques accordingly.

If you have concerns or questions about baby massage, it's recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or a certified infant massage therapist.

Baby massage is generally considered beneficial and can have positive effects on both the baby and the parent. Some potential benefits of baby massage include:

  • Bonding: Massage provides an opportunity for parents or caregivers to connect with their baby through nurturing touch, promoting a sense of closeness and security.

  • Relaxation: Gentle massage techniques can help soothe and relax a baby, promoting better sleep patterns and reducing stress.

  • Digestion: Massaging a baby's tummy in a gentle and clockwise motion can aid in digestion and relieve gas and constipation.

  • Sensory Stimulation: The gentle touch involved in baby massage can stimulate the baby's senses and promote their overall sensory development.