Daily baby massage is an essential element to establishing a strong foundation of health for your newborn. By giving your newborn the gift of daily massage, you not only strengthen their immune system and vitality, but your bond will deepen and their sense of security will increase. Once your rhythm is established, baby massage will be a joyous occasion, that both you and your newborn will look forward to every day.
Practicing on a doll or stuffed animal prior to baby’s arrival may seem silly (and fun – admit it!), but well worth it in the long run. Having practiced the sequence in advance, will make it that much more natural and easy to accomplish when baby has arrived.
Benefits of Baby Massage
Benefits for Baby
There are so many benefits to baby massage that it is one of the very best baby care practices you can offer your newborn.
- enhances immune strength and T cell production
- promotes healthy digestion and elimination
- helps prevent/reverse colic
- calms nervous system
- promotes deep sleep and healthy sleep patterns
- relieves stress from the birth
- encourages alertness
- promotes healthy weight gain
- strengthens bonding and positive attachment
- enhances love, trust and acceptance
- promotes relaxation and body awareness
- cultivates muscle tone and coordination
- strengthens circulation and vitality
- promotes healthy hormonal function
- reduces discomfort from teething and gas
- promotes body/mind/spirit connection
- enhances communication
- cultivates awareness of respectful touch
Benefits for Parents
Baby massage is a great way for the father, and possibly siblings, to deeply connect to your newborn (giving you enough time to actually shower – lol!). It is undoubtedly a wonderful and joyous opportunity for the whole family to participate in.
- enhances ability to read baby’s cues
- promotes bonding
- stimulates the production of milk in mothers
- increases parents desire to nurture
- increases sense of protectiveness in fathers
- structures quality time together
- enhances verbal and non-verbal communication
- promotes confidence in handling baby
- improves sense of well-being
- gives opportunity for nurturing contact for father and siblings
Baby Massage Timings & Cues
Best to wait until the cord stump has fallen off to give a full oil baby massage. Before that, light and gentle strokes can be applied, avoiding the umbilical area. Wait 30 minutes after feeding before giving baby massage
Avoid baby massage if:
- right after feeding
- when baby’s hungry
- baby has heavy cold/congestion
- baby has fever
Baby massage is a wonderful opportunity to cultivate positive communication and a respectful sense of touch. Ask for baby’s permission before starting the massage and see what kind of response you get back in the form of cues. If you get cues of aversion, it is best to wait until a better time. Trust your intuition.
- Eye contact
- Looking at parent
- Smooth movements of arms and legs
- Making happy baby noises
- Pulling away
- Flailing the arms and legs
- Arching the back
- Turning their head away
- Warm room – Make sure that the room you will be giving baby massage is extra toasty, hot even. They are not going to be happy about undressing and freezing their little tooshie off! Some find it helpful to give baby massage on the floor of the bathroom. Generally bathrooms are easy to heat and you can run a warm bath for them in advance, further contributing warmth to the space and ease of bathing them afterward.
- Old linens – You will want an old sheet for the floor or bed, a couple of pillows (for you and baby) and towels you don’t mind getting oily.
- Warm sesame oil – Buy organic, cold-pressed, unrefined sesame oil whenever possible. It is generally available in health food stores. Even better, the Ayurvedic oil blend ashwagandha/bala is an ideal oil for building baby’s strength and vitality.
- Baby soap/shampoo/pudding soap – Use mild, unscented soap or warm Ayurvedic pudding soap for bath time.
- Fresh clothing and diaper – Have on hand for after the bath.
- Toy – Something to keep baby happy if they get bored.
Baby Massage Tips
- 10-15 minutes is plenty of time for baby massage.
- Use as much full palm as possible. Avoid massaging with just your fingers.
- If giving massage in the evening, do a simplified version of the massage sequence below. If you stimulate baby too much, they may have trouble falling asleep at bedtime.
- Sit in a comfortable position, maybe with back support and your legs outstretched. Your newborn will fit nicely on your thighs for massage. Another nice option is for baby to lie on a pillow.
- Ask them for permission before starting massage and look for positive cues.
- Use gently firm pressure. You don’t want to tickle them!
- Remember to be loving and patient, relish this time of healing and connection.
- Encourage them with positive affirmations or singing.
- If baby gets bored or restless, give them a toy or change up their position.
Baby Massage Sequence
Ayurvedic baby massage is done by covering your baby in warm sesame oil and gently massaging it into your baby’s skin in sweeping and circular motions. Use a generous amount of oil 🙂
- Circle top, sides and back of the head with using your whole hand with gentle but firm pressure 3X.
- Massage the outer ears up and down with gentle squeezing motions.
- Stroke palm across the forehead 3X.
- Circle temples and cheeks 3X.
- Stroke down the sides of the nose 3X.
- Stroke across the upper lip and chin 3X.
Chest, Arms, & Belly
- Apply oil to both your hands. Using a sweeping motion starting at the belly, go up the chest and fan out both arms, all the way to the hands 3X.
- Say “hello” to the arm by gently putting it between your 2 palms and sweeping down from the shoulder to the fingers.
- Circle shoulder 3X.
- Gently squeeze the upper arm back and forth 3X.
- Circle elbow 3X.
- Gently squeeze the forearm back and forth 3X.
- Circle palm and back of hand with your thumb and fingers 3X.
- Say “goodbye” to the arm by gently putting it between your 2 palms and sweeping down from the shoulder to the fingers.
- Repeat other arm
- Massage the belly in a clockwise circular motion 7X. If baby is constipated, feel free to do a little more.
Legs & Feet
- Say “hello” to the leg by gently putting it between your 2 palms and sweeping down from the hip to the toes
- Circle hip 3X.
- Gently squeeze up and down on the thigh 3X.
- Circle the knee joint 3X.
- Gently squeeze up and down on the lower leg 3X.
- Massage foot with thumb and forefingers in circular motion 3X.
- Say “goodbye” to the leg and foot with a gentle sweeping motion down to the feet.
- Gently and carefully turn baby over, making sure to support the head. A pillow may come in handy here.
- Oil palms and say “hello” to baby’s back by starting at the base of the spine, with palms on either side, and gently press up back and out the arms.
- With long, sweeping strokes, massage up and down on either side of baby’s spine 7X.
- Say “goodbye” to baby’s back (same as “hello” stroke).
Bum, Legs & Feet
- Apply oil to your palms and say “hello” to baby’s bum, legs and feet. Starting at the bum and going down to the toes, sweep down with your palm, wrapping your fingers around the legs out to the toes.
- Massage baby’s bum with your thumbs in opposing circular motions, about 10 seconds each cheek 😉
- Gently squeeze the upper thigh back and forth 3X.
- Circle back of knee 3X.
- Gently squeeze the lower leg back and forth 3X.
- Massage the bottoms of the feet with your thumbs and forefingers 3X.
- Repeat other leg
- Say a final “goodbye” to the back, bum, legs and feet using a long sweeping motion from the shoulders, down to the toes.
Giving your baby a bath after warm oil massage is the perfect end to this routine. The warm water dilates the channels of the body, giving a greater opportunity for the oil to penetrate the body even deeper. Bath time is an opportunity for baby to explore the water and their bodies. Make it a fun and enjoyable experience, so they look forward to bath time everyday!
Bath Time Tips
- Ayurveda recommends using a pudding soap during the first year. It is very gentle and helps remove excess oil without drying the skin. Pudding soap should be applied warm and before baby enters the bath.
- Another option is to use a small amount of gentle, unscented soap/shampoo and a soft wash cloth.
- Make sure you have a firm grip on your slippery baby before attempting to put them in the bath! Cover your hands with an old towel to ensure a firm grip.
- Try to keep them warm and comfortable. Pour warm water over their exposed areas.
Baby massage is a wonderful activity that not only cultivates joy and bonding, but has lasting health benefits that will serve them throughout their life. The best massage therapist for your baby is you, the parent. Don’t worry about “doing it right”. Just applying warm sesame oil to your baby’s body will have many lasting benefits. The most important thing to remember is giving baby your loving, gentle touch. Have faith in yourself and let love and intuition be your guide. You got this!