Infant Massage: How To Do It [+ Why You Need To Try It ASAP!]

Infant massage is one of the most underutilized tools of in America today. What if I told you regularly massaging your infant can provide a slew of benefits from better sleep, cognitive development, and overall lifelong happiness? What if I told you it'll be the best 10 minutes a day you invest in your newborn?

While it’s been around for thousands of years, practiced in the east, Africa, central and south America; American mothers and fathers still either have not heard of it, believe it’s a luxury practice, or just a nice activity to do once in a while.

As an internationally certified infant massage instructor, I find myself both educating people in America about baby massage, why it is so critical, why some babies seem to protest it, tips for how to massage babies, benefits of baby massage, and more – all of which we'll touch on in this post!

What is infant massage?

The practice of infant massage uses gentle, loving strokes to rub a child's muscles.

While it may sound easy, if you've ever tried massaging a baby you're not alone if you ended up feeling defeated. It's not uncommon for infants, especially those who need massage most, to appear as if they are protesting at first.

Why do babies protest massages?

This can happen for a variety of reasons. A few that I see often: too much pressure, not in the mood, or you feel unsure in how to touch your baby and that causes them to tense up too as babies often mirror our energy.

Infant massage is more than just rubbing your baby before bed. It involves knowing and following certain cues, specific strokes for various ailments, and of course finding the best timing for your baby to be the most receptive.

What are the benefits of infant massage?

  • Improved sleep
  • Reduces congestion, gas, colic
  • Improves immune system function
  • Increases bonding and healthy attachment
  • Can help overcome breastfeeding challenges
  • May alleviate postpartum depression
  • Improves physical growth and cognitive growth
  • Preverbal communication development
  • Increases mobility and flexibility

How often should you do a baby massage?

While we may typically think of it as an activity to do once in awhile, the more often you can do it, the better. Even if it's just for a few minutes a few times a day.

For infant massages to be the most effective it truly needs to become part of your lifestyle. A daily habit (or multiple times daily even) will show the greatest impact and benefits.

When can you stop infant massages?

A common misconception is that you can stop once your baby is a toddler. Massage is lifelong, the benefits far outlast childhood.

Growing children need massages as they deal with stress, growing pains, anxiety, sleep challenges, etc. 

Massage helps their nervous system and bodies as a whole adapt to the ever changing rollercoaster of childhood and life.

What should I use to massage my baby?

Since newborn skin is so sensitive you want to be mindful to avoid products with harmful chemicals or toxic fillers and always do a test on the sole of their feet before using it for a full infant massage.

This infant massage oil is one of the best out there with ultra clean and nourishing ingredients (Calendula flower, Chamomile leaf, Elder flower, Vitamin E Oil, Almond Oil, Lavender Essential Oil). They also offer some children's herbal tinctures for sleep and colic that we swear by!

I also love this oil for baby massages. It's made from ultra clean ingredients: grass-fed tallow, tucuma and cocoa butters softly melted into fresh golden jojoba oil, that won't oxidize. Use discount code TCM for 10% off here!

Here are a couple other massage oils I love for babies:

You can also make your own infant massage oil with a nice blend of essentials oils in carrier oils like jojoba, olive, and coconut oil or even in tallow.

Essential oils and infant massage

The world of essential oils is broad and deep and there is an oil for everything. In fact, most drugs and medications include medicinal plants that you can find in pure form in essential oils without the negative side effects. If you’re just getting started, I would recommend these four oils to have in your mommy toolkit. 

  • Lavender, which is great for sleep, bug bites, relaxations etc. It is considered the Swiss army knife of oils because it can address so many things. 
  • Lemon, which is great for immunity, congestion, and cleaning! You can even diffuse this to help with colds.
  • Fennel/Ginger (diluted) for digestive issues from gas/colic to constipation
  • Peppermint (diluted) for immunity

Dilute the oils in a carrier oil, like fractionated coconut oil or jojoba oil, and test on the sole of your baby's foot to start before doing a full body massage with it. You can find some great combination oils for digestion at Rocky Mountain oils and DoTerra.

Fun Facts and Tips About Infant Massage

  • If you massage baby before bedtime, you increase the amount of melatonin released, helping them sleep deeper and longer and you can use lavender oil to maximize the benefit. Who wouldn’t want more sleep and rest in the home?
  • Daily massage for just one month increases the amount of white blood cells helping baby better fight off infections and viruses. And, if like me, you have little ones in daycare, this is critical.
  • Just ten minutes of massage daily changes the DNA expression, transforms their brain, helps them increase body awareness and understand the difference between loving and not loving touch, an important distinction as they become tweens and teens.  
  • For digestive issues and tummy massage, always move in clockwise direction, the direction of digestion, to help baby eliminate.

How do you massage a newborn baby?

In our full massage and mini massage courses, we cover over 30 strokes to address various conditions and incorporate reflexology.

What is reflexology? 

Reflexology is the practice of massage the feet, or hands, in a particular way that correlates with releasing/alleviating other organs and body parts.

Our feet have 72,000 nerve endings. What we do to our feet impact our whole body and there are areas to stimulate for different issues.

For example, massaging the toes, particularly the big toe, can help with teething issues. Or, massaging the center of the foot, which aligns with the small and large intestines, help with digestion. Some moms lovingly call this “the toot button”. 

Why isn't infant massage more popular?

If one practice can help all of those things, and save families money and time, why aren’t more people doing it? 

Like I said earlier, I think some people think it's a luxury. Others may think of an adult 60 minute massage and feel overwhelmed by the mere thought. Ultimately, I think it comes down to a lack of education about the benefits and how easy it and impactful it can be when done right.

In my practice of virtual and in-person instruction, I also teach about other modalities, the importance of having a conscious pregnancy, and the value of planning for a successful fourth trimester, along with which oils to use seasonally for massage. 

Getting started with infant massage:

The course is self-paced and you have lifetime access and can use it to teach parents and grandparents. Because of the intimate nature of baby massage, we recommend only trusted caregivers massage baby and that they make a special ritual out of it. 

Massage is multi-sensory and your intelligent baby will make associations to relax even before massage begins. They will utilize all their senses while stimulating their brain, as they hear your voice, the massage music, smell the oil, feel the touch, and see your loving face.

Don't be surprised when they respond with increased eye contact and vocalizations. An added benefit, and this is our little secret, is that once baby is a toddler and accustomed to massage time, they will reciprocate by massaging you! Score! 

If you want to give your child a gift that will last a lifetime, while feeling more empowered as a parent; then make massage a part of your family’s lifestyle.

It’s never too late and the space to sit with your child for a minutes every day to create greater health, happiness, and bonding will be cherished.