5 Essential Precautions for Baby Massage

by MassageJoy - February 3, 2019

A baby massage is usually performed by a parent and it is crucial to know the precautions to take when massaging a baby. Parents don’t typically bring their baby in for a professional massage because you never know if the baby will accept the massage from a stranger! I asked our expert massage therapists about precautions parents should take when massaging their baby.

So what are the precautions for a baby massage? Take these 5 essential precautions when performing a baby massage:

  1. Avoid high surfaces like tables or beds to perform the massage
  2. Use only gentle or moderate pressure
  3. Never force a baby to receive a massage
  4. Never add essential oils to the massage oil
  5. Use Jojoba oil or grape-seed oil for the massage

Professional massage therapists are trained to take specific precautions, but rarely massage babies. In fact there are massage therapists who teach baby massage techniques and precautions to parents. In this article I will cover the precautions for baby massage in detail and will also provide simple baby massage techniques you can use today!

Precautions for Baby Massage

Baby massage is an excellent way for parents to bond with their baby. The contact and intimacy that baby massage creates is beneficial for both the parents and the baby. In fact a study showed that massage therapy led to weight gain in preterm infants when moderate pressure was applied, which in turn helped them recover faster.

However it is essential to take these precautions when massaging a baby:

Avoid high surfaces like tables, changing tables or even a bed. It is best to massage your baby on a blanket on the floor. Or you could sit down on the floor and lay your baby on your lap. The primary reason for this is safety. If you insist on massaging on a high surface, make sure your baby cannot roll over, by placing pillows around your baby.

Use gentle to moderate pressure and massage your baby for 20-30 minutes following the techniques I will cover in this article. Although moderate pressure is recommended for preterm infants, only use gentle pressure with normal infants. Always remember the baseline, when it comes to massage you are stronger than you think and the pressure you apply might be hard.

Never force your baby to receive a massage. In fact most practitioners advice that you first get your baby’s permission. To do this take a little massage oil and applying it on your baby’s navel and behind the ears. See your baby’s reaction and body to judge whether you have his/her permission or not. You can ease them into accepting the massage by singing to them or playing with them.

Never add essential oils used for aromatherapy to the massage oil if you are new to using essential oils. The essential oils are too strong for the baby and it is inevitable that your baby will get some oil into his/her mouth as they have a tendency to put their hands in their mouth. Later on in this article I will explain the correct way to use essential oils for babies.

Use Jojoba oil or grape seed oil for the massage because these oils are odorless. Most hospitals will provide you with olive oil to rub on flaky skin of new born babies and you can continue using olive oil for massage as well. Avoid any oils with heavy scent.

3 Essential Baby Massage Techniques you can Use Today

There are several massage therapists and practitioners all over the world who teach new parents the art of baby massage. I highly recommend taking a few sessions to learn the techniques to massage your baby. If you are in London you can contact us to set-up a session. I will now show you 3 basic baby massage techniques.

The 3 basic baby massage techniques are:

  • Baby Face Massage Technique
  • Baby Back Massage Technique
  • Stomach Massage Technique for Babies

Baby Face Massage Technique

The baby face massage technique is great to begin with as it ensures your baby will remain calm as it can see you directly. After you have tested if your baby is ready for the massage by rubbing a little oil on it’s navel and behind the ears you can perform the following sequence:

Baby Face Massage Technique
Baby Face Massage Technique
  • Lay your baby on a blanket on the floor
  • Before beginning the massage rub your palms together to warm them. It is also important to ensure the room is warm
  • Now place your hands on your baby’s face and scalp (see illustration)
  • Ideally do not use oil for the face massage
  • Slowly glide your palms around your baby’s face going from the top of their head to their chin and neck
  • Once you reach the bottom of the glide lift your palms and place them back on the top of the scalp and repeat the gliding stroke in a downward direction
  • Continue this for a few minutes till your baby is calm and relaxed and ready to accept a whole body massage

Baby Back Massage Technique

Once your baby is warmed up with the face massage you can then proceed to perform the baby back massage:

Baby Back Massage Technique
Baby Back Massage Technique
  • Lay your baby face down on the blanket on the floor. After the face massage your baby should show no resistance at all
  • Put grape seed oil or jojoba oil on your palms and rub them together gently. If you would like to use our recommended baby massage oil formula see the related questions section
  • Place your palms on your baby’s back and slowly glide your palms up their back
  • Once you reach the top of their neck lift your palms and place them back at the bottom of the back and repeat the stroke
  • Avoid the spine and only massage the back muscles
  • Maintain very gentle pressure and do not increase pressure as you do when massaging adults
  • Continue this gentle gliding technique for 7-12 minutes

Stomach Massage Technique for Babies

The stomach massage technique can be performed after the face and back massage. However you can use the stomach massage technique for babies independently especially for colicky babies. This massage technique is very helpful to soothe their stomach and intestinal discomfort.

Stomach Massage for Babies
Stomach Massage for Babies
  • Place your baby on its back on a blanket on the floor.
  • Put jojoba oil or grape seed oil in your palms and gently rub them together
  • In this technique you will be using your fingers rather than your palms
  • Place your fingers on your baby’s stomach and slowly glide your fingertips around their belly in a clockwise circular motion (see illustration)
  • Continue this technique for 4-8 minutes

You can perform all the 3 techniques shown in a single session. Make sure to take the precautions listed and also use the special baby massage oil formula shown. Following these instructions you and your baby will have many massage sessions that you will cherish.

Correct Way to Use Essential Oils on Babies and Infants

We generally discourage the use of essential oils for babies and infants mainly because most people do not know the correct way to use and apply essential oils on babies. However using essential oils for babies can be very effective if done correctly.

One of the gentlest and most effective ways to treat common ailments is to allow the molecules of essential oils to circulate around the baby’s room. This can be done in 2 safe ways:

  • Steam Method
  • Diffuser Method

Steam Method

Place a bowl of steaming water on the floor in the baby’s room and add 1 drop of essential oil to 0.5 liters of water. As you can see the concentration of essential oil is highly diluted. The essential oil molecules will rise with the steam and circulate around the baby’s room

Diffuser Method

Use a glazed diffuser and not clay porous diffusers. Mix one drop of essential oil with a tablespoon of water and pour this mixture in the diffuser bowl. Never use only essential oil without mixing with water as the heat from the diffuser will evaporate the essential oil completely and this will be too powerful for the baby.

Essential Oil Diffuser
Essential Oil Diffuser

Essential Oils for a Baby’s Room

The following are the essential oils you can use in the baby’s room:

  • Roman Chamomile
  • German Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Yarrow
  • Dill

Never apply neat essential oil directly on to your baby’s skin. If you wish to use essential oils in combination with a base oil to massage your baby you will need to heavily dilute the essential oil. You can see a sample baby massage oil formula in the related questions section.

Related Questions

Which oil is best for newborn massage? A good massage oil formula for new born babies, to treat eczema and inflammation, while boosting immune system, is to use sweet almond oil as the base oil. Mix the following essential oils in 30ml of sweet almond oil to create the baby massage oil

Chamomile Roman1 drop
Lavender1 drop
Geranium1 drop

Does massage help a baby grow? There has been research which shows that massaging a preterm infant will lead to weight gain. Moreover a baby massage is performed by a parent and touch and intimacy are beneficial for the baby. Due to these factors it is believed that massaging a baby will have a positive impact on its growth.