How to Give Massage to a Baby: A step-by-step Guide


Because babies are curled up in the womb, massage helps the baby "open" to the world by encouraging the opening of hands, flexing of toes. spontaneous kicking and arm waving.

Once the baby is born and the umbilical cord is cut, this new small existing in its own right, separate from its mother. The baby's growth is quite rapid in the early stages of life. After months of being restricted in the womb, massage will encourage the baby's limbs to stretch.

As each baby is individual, the massage sequences and techniques must be adapted not only to suit the baby but also to allow for particular moods and times of the day. Because babies are curled up in the womb, massage, as well as creating a bonding, sharing contacts, helps your baby "open" to this new environment. A primary aim of baby massage is to encourage the opening of the hands, flexing of the toes, spontaneous kicking, and arm waving. The strokes of baby massage move down the body from the head and from the trunk outwards along the limbs. All pressures must be light. This procedure is the opposite of that used in general massage, which follows the return of fluids, avoiding pressure on lymphatic and venous valves by moving firmly up the limbs, back to the heart. In baby massage, strokes working away from the heart are executed lightly. Of course, babies also have as many one-way valves in their fluid systems as adults, so the pressures must never be so strong as to put the delicate valves in both the veins and the lymphatic vessels at risk. Thus, although the strokes in baby massage are concentrating on working down the body and limbs as outlined in the chapter on basic massage movements, most movements are either stroking or gentle squeezing. The squeezing is light and the fingers slide to the next squeeze, never exerting any force that would be damaging to the frail new blood vessels.

Instinctively, babies are born with only two fears - the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. To overcome these fears, always place your baby in a secure position for the massage. If you are not comfortable massaging while seated on the floor, make sure your baby won't roll off the bed, table, or chair. This is especially so once the baby can roll spontaneously, usually at about 11-14 weeks. Ensure you have everything you need before beginning the massage and take all possible precautions against sudden or loud noise so an atmosphere of peace will prevail.

Having fully prepared for your baby's massage, you must decide what position will be most suitable for your baby. Your baby's sense of security is of first importance and that is only possible if the person performing the massage is in a comfortable, sustainable position. Kneeling, especially when sitting back on the heels, may be damaging to the medial knee ligaments. If starting in this position, you would be wise to change your position when you turn your baby over, before working on her back. To keep your own body in good condition, remember to bend from the hips when massaging, keeping your back straight. Bending from the waist and leaning forward is tiring, and may damage your back - especially if you twist sideways, to pick up a towel for example. Simultaneous bending and twisting are very common causes of back injury. Basic care of your own posture is paramount if you are to stay well and so be able to care for your baby.

Roger Woodward, the internationally renowned pianist, when lecturing to senior music students, placed his hands on the piano keys and leaned forward, explaining that by using his whole-body weight, he was able to gain a more controlled and delicate touch. The same rule applies to massage; by placing hands in the required position and leaning from the spine, effortless, precise control is achieved. This is better for the baby and also for the person massaging, as by using the body in this manner, the strain on specific muscles is avoided.

The following sequence is appropriate for the massage of a healthy baby from a few months old onwards. The movements can also be adapted for the newborn, but always remember that a tiny baby needs more than anything else a caring, bonding touch.

Under six weeks of age, babies need only about ten minutes of massage, made up of stroking (sliding your hands on the skin of the face, abdomen, and back) and gentle massage movements (gently moving the muscles beneath the skin on the gluteal, thighs, legs and arms). Do not use essential oils on the newborn.

A good time for a massage is after the baby's bath.

In each massage, the left side is worked on first. This follows polarity and the oriental concept of one side being more receptive, while the other side is more outgoing.


1. Gently hold your baby's face between your hands, while talking in a calm, quiet voice. Look into the baby's eyes while talking and using both hands, stroke down either side of the face; this will achieve a feeling of encapsulation for you both.

2. Roll your hands sideways and slip them under the baby's head. Support the weight of the head on the heels of your hands while massaging the scalp with your fingertips moving in small circles. If your baby is a newborn, gently stroke the head in circles including the fontanelle (soft spots).

3. Use your thumbs to stroke the ears. Press the ears with your thumb and forefinger, working from the top to the earlobe.

4. Finger stroke down the neck to the shoulders. Start with the little finger and use the tips of your four fingers in succession

5. Turn your hands down to rest momentarily on the front of your baby's shoulders.


1. If possible, use both your hands and stroke from the baby's shoulders to the fingertips.

2. Move to the left arm. Using each hand alternately and starting at the shoulders squeeze and slide down the baby's arm to the fingers. Uncurl the fingers as you go.

3. If your baby's reaction is positive, repeat this movement, otherwise, effleurage (stroke) the whole arm. The byword in massage is: "When in doubt, effleurage." It is always appropriate to use stroking movements in a massage.


1. Using small, circular movements massage the wrist with your thumb and forefinger. Open your baby's hand by stroking your thumb over the baby's palm. If your baby is not cooperative, present your index finger held sideways. Most babies will clutch at a finger presented like this, curling their fingers around it.

2. Play with your baby by moving the whole arm. Gradually open the hand and stroke each finger. Holding the hand with one of your hands, rotate and stretch each finger in turn, beginning with the little finger. To achieve a smooth action lightly hold one of the baby's fingers between your finger and thumb. Now lean backward - use your body weight, not the muscles of your hands and arms.

The use of the whole body allows precise control that your baby will appreciate.

3. Repeating the above steps, progress across the hand, moving each finger.

4. Place your thumb sideways then close your baby's hand over your thumb. With your four fingers together, stroke up the back of the hand.

5. During each massage stay alert to what is happening under your hands. Complete the arm massage at the shoulders. Now move to the right arm and repeat.

Be sensitive to any sore spots. Feel for the freedom of swiveling in the joints of the wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Do not exert pressure on the joints. Allow your baby freedom to move, to blend harmoniously with your movements. In this way, each message becomes an assessment and an awareness for you of your baby's development.


1. Stroke down the front of your baby's body from the shoulders to the toes in a general movement, using one or both hands depending on how they fit. If using one hand after the other, keep the movement continuous by leaving the first hand in place until the other takes over. In this way, your baby will not be aware of the change from one hand to the other.

2. Using your fingertips, circle your baby's breast, avoiding the nipples. Be aware of the ribs as your fingers slide over the area. Use the very tip of your little fingers to lightly trace each rib, then slide them back along with the space between the ribs, giving the muscles a very slight stretch. Finish this movement with the fingers close together at the base of the neck

Body Strokes

1. From your baby's neck, stroke sideways along the shoulders, slightly stretching the muscles.

2. Circle the shoulders, then slide your fingers into the armpits and stroke around to the center of the body, following the rib cage. The intercostal muscles (between the ribs) are vital for breathing. The development of a smooth breathing action is of paramount importance for babies.

3. Stroke up and down your baby's body from the armpits to the thighs. Make this movement slow and smooth, or vigorous, depending on what reaction you wish to achieve. Finish the strokes with the hands positioned just below the ribs.


If your baby is a newborn, do not massage the abdomen if the umbilical cord is still in place. Once the area is healed, massage in a clockwise direction with your fingertips or the palm of your hand.

1. This movement is always done clockwise to follow the peristaltic action of the intestines. Keep your hand as flat as possible and soothe the stomach as you circle. At all times watch your baby's face while you work, but especially when working on the abdominal region. Note any negative reaction or any sore spot. Go very lightly over the lower abdomen, as this is where your baby's bladder is located. Pressure there is not only always uncomfortable, it is unwise.

2. Using the pads of your fingers circle the navel. Start with your left hand making circles around the baby's navel. Cross your right hand over the left and position your fingers to form an arc with the right hand. Thus, the left-hand keeps circling and, to prevent tying your arms in knots, the right-hand makes arcs only at the appropriate place in the circles. Take care not to work too close to the navel and not to cause any distress to the baby

3. Place your hands above and below your baby's navel and using your fingers circle it.

Some long strokes down the whole body, from shoulders to toes may be done now.


1. Effleurage (stroke) down the left leg, and run your hands smoothly and lightly back to the thigh.

2. Squeeze along the leg to the foot. If suitable use both hands, otherwise hold the heel of the foot with one hand while squeezing and sliding along the leg with the other. Your baby might help by kicking during this stroke. The encouragement of coordinated free movement is one aim of baby massage, so do not restrain your baby's spontaneity. The experience should be pleasurable for you both.

3. Follow with the massage of the left foot.


1. With the pads of your fingers circle the ankles. Support the baby's left heel with one hand while you stroke down the sole of the foot with the thumb of your other hand. Place your hand with the fingers together over the top of the baby's foot and stroke the sole with the pad of your thumb.

Although the thumb pressure on the sole may be moderate, do not exert any pressure with the fingers since the nerves are close to the surface on top of the foot.

2. Begin at the inside (medial) edge and stroke in parallel lines from the heel to the toe. Finish at the side (lateral part) of the foot. Use your right hand on your baby's left foot, thus your thumb is drawn down the sole to the big toe. Keep the pressure firm and even. When each stroke reaches the toes quickly slide your thumb back to the heel to do the next stroke, then move across the foot as described. Although you lift your thumb to return to the heel each time, if the movement is smooth and quick the sensation to your baby will be one of continuity

3. Beginning with the little toe lightly rotate and stretch each toe in turn. Control your movement with bodyweight as previously described. A traditional rhyme goes with this movement: "This little pig went to market, this little pig stayed at home..." and most babies seem to enjoy the rhythmic effect of the verse.

4. Repeat on the right leg and right foot.


1. Cupping both your hands around the baby's head, stroke to the shoulders and onto the back. Using both hands stroke up and down the baby's back. Keep your fingers together so your hand works as one unit from its heel to its fingertips. Concentrate on the energy flowing through your hands.

For the newborn, just slide your hands alternately moving from the neck to the gluteal. Repeat this very soothing movement several times.

2. Having effleurage (stroked) up and down your baby's back using your whole hand, finish with a stroke at the buttocks. Keeping your thumbs on either side of the spine, and having your fingers together around your baby's sides, slide up the back and down again several times, leading with your thumbs.

Be conscious of feeling the baby's vertebra between your thumbs. Never put any pressure on the spine and use your body weight not just your arm muscles to keep a light even flow to the whole process.


1. Massage around the gluteal (buttocks). Be careful to avoid any chafing. Knead these major muscles by squeezing, stretching, and releasing. This may need to be done with only fingers and thumbs. These muscles are the deepest in the body and are used extensively in most movements, even when we are seated. Avoid your baby's anus.

2. By using your first two fingers and thumbs, roll the flesh from the baby's thigh up to the sacrum (end of the spine). Make these rolls fan out from the base of the buttocks (gluteal) to the sides of the pelvis.

Stroke lightly down the body from head to toes to complete this part of the massage. Light stroking stimulates the nerve endings.


1. Turn your baby back to face you and gently stroke across the forehead, using the pads of your thumbs. Avoid the baby's eyes, and be careful not to let any oil get into them, nor near them.

2. Stroke the nose and around the mouth then stroke the cheeks and along the jawbone.

To complete the massage, do some final full-length strokes right down the body from head to toe.

Finish with a kiss and a cuddle.

Oils for baby massage

For baby massage use carrier oil only. Use essential oils only if required for an approved treatment for a specific problem. Once a baby is sitting up and moving easily, one drop of a gentle essential oil could be added to 43 oz (20 ml) massage oil. Take care with adding essential oils to the baby's bath. Once sitting, they will splash and put water into their mouths. It is much wiser to use diluted herbal teas such as chamomile in the bath.

After the baby is one year old, the dilution for 1 oz (30 ml) of massage oil is three drops of essential oil for the body. Do not use on the face until the child is 3 or 4 years old,

For all uses of essential oils on babies, apply the maxim "less is better than more".


At all times hold your baby in such a way that the spine and neck are held safely. When babies are very young the weight of the head must be supported in all positions.

The quality of any massage is improved by keeping contact with your child's body. Make all movements connected and flowing smoothly.

After completing the massage to the legs and feet, turn the baby over onto the tummy. If newborn, you may prefer to lie your baby across your thighs. If you have been kneeling, you may benefit from a change of position at this stage.

Take care not to cause discomfort in the baby's neck. Also, periodically, change the direction of your baby's face from side to side. Otherwise, only one position will become neurally imprinted in your baby's brain.

Check your own posture. Keep your back straight, whatever position you are working in. Bend from the hips, not the waist, and control

the pressure with your body weight, not your muscles. This technique will produce a smoother action and give better control to the massage, allowing the development of gentle precision.

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