How to Massage Your Newborn Baby

A happy baby boy getting massage from his mother

There are many health benefits of giving your newborn baby a daily massage. According to Maureen McCaffrey, a certified infant massage instructor at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, infant massages improve neurological function and digestion for the baby. Additionally, a massage can drastically reduce muscle stiffness, normalize the muscle tone, help your baby relax and regulate his or her sleep cycle. Massages also ease emotional distress by releasing endorphins and natural pain killers.

Infant massages allow you to bond with your little sugar plum. Your scent, voice, eye and skin contact helps helps your baby get to know you, remember you and feel comfortable around you. The hormones that are stimulated through a massage elevate every aspect of bonding and attachment for both parents and a baby.

The best time to give a massage is when your baby is calm and quiet, but awake. Avoid massaging immediately after feeding (wait about 45 minutes to prevent vomiting) or when he or she is sleeping. Feel free to use baby oil or lotion on the skin to help with fluid motions. Massages should be given on a flat surface like the floor. Never massage your baby on his or her changing table, as there’s always the possibility that he or she could roll off.

Here’s how to massage your newborn:

Legs

To help your baby adapt to a new sensation, begin with the legs as they are less sensitive than other body parts.  Squeeze gently and pull down, almost like you’re milking a cow. Lather up with lotion or oil for a smooth, fluid motion.

Feet

Massage form heel to toe by using your entire hand to stroke the bottom of the foot. Gently twist the ankle in small circles. Use your thumb and index finger to massage the toes. Squeeze and pull down on each one, eventually letting each toe slip through your grasp.

Baby feet in mother hands.
Baby feet in mother hands.

Arms

Repeat the milking motion for the arms just like you did for the legs. Massage all the way from your baby’s armpit to the wrist. After you’re finished with the arm, make your way down to the hand and rotate the wrist a couple of times in each direction.

Hands

Using your thumbs, trace small circles throughout the palm of your baby’s hand.
Place his or her tiny digits between your thumb and pointer finger and slowly pull until your fingers slip off the end.

Head and face

Be extremely gentle here, parents – your baby’s head is still quite fragile. Cradle the head in your hands and gently massage the scalp as if you’re washing his or her hair. For the ears, massage by placing them between your thumb and index finger. To massage the face, trace a heart starting at the forehead and bring your hands together at the bottom of his or her chin. For your baby’s eyebrows, use your thumbs and stroke out. Again with your thumbs, massage the nose by stroking from the bridge out to the cheeks. Using your fingertips, massage the jaw in tiny circular motions.

Chest

Position your fingertips over your baby’s heart and massage by stroking outward. Flatten your palms a bit as you make your way down his or her chest. Be careful not to apply too much pressure, as you don’t want to push too hard on your baby’s airway and prevent them from breathing properly.


Tummy

Get ready for some giggles, as massaging the tummy is a surefire way to make your baby laugh. Place your fingers at the base of the ribcage and stroke down with one hand followed by the other. With your fingertips, massage his or her abdomen in a circular motion. If the area around the bellybutton and umbilical cord has yet to heal, avoid massaging this area.

Back

Carefully roll your baby onto his or her stomach. With your fingertips, sketch tiny circles against the spine – all the way down from the neck to the tushy. When you’re done massaging the spine, finish the backside with firm strokes starting from your baby’s shoulders all the way down to his or her feet. Use your fingertips here as well.