How to massage your baby

If you’ve ever had a massage yourself, you probably know how wonderful they can make you feel. Massage is just as good for babies – it relaxes and calms them, and helps to promote good sleep patterns, digestion, nerve development and motor skills. Plus, it’s a beautiful way to bond with your little one; the gentle skin-to-skin contact is perfect for helping your baby to feel safe, secure and close to you or your partner.

Of course, baby massages aren’t exactly like the adult version – they’re a lot gentler, for one thing! Here are some tips to help you explore this calming, lovely bonding activity with your baby.

  • Pick a time when you and your baby are both in a good mood – no time pressure or stress is needed here! Also, it’s best not to massage your baby straight after a feed or meal; most babies have some degree of reflux, and you might find that what went down comes back up again during the massage!
  • The room needs to be warm and cozy, around 24°C, so your baby doesn’t get chilled. Make sure your hands are warm, too, and you’ll probably want to take off any jewellery you’re wearing.
  • Get your supplies ready – a nice soft towel and a gentle, natural baby massage oil - like our lovely HiPP baby oil will make the massage comfortable for your baby, and you will also want to have your nappy-changing supplies handy, just in case. Before you begin, warm a small amount of the oil by rubbing it between your hands.

1. Upper body. Start by using your hands to gently, but firmly stroke from one of your baby’s shoulders down over the belly to just above the opposite hip. Alternate sides as you go. Next, put both hands gently on your baby’s chest; stroke gently outward and down as if you’re making a heart shape.

2. Legs and arms. For each arm and leg, use the same firm but gentle touch to stroke several times from the shoulder or hip down toward the hand or foot. Then use your thumb to make small circles on the palms and soles. Finish massaging each limb by gently ‘pulling’ your fingers down each finger and toe in turn.

3. Back. Turn your baby over and stroke several times from the nape of the neck down to the base of the spine, alternating hands as you go.

4. Head. Cradle your baby’s head in your hands and use your thumbs to gently stroke from the centre of the forehead down towards the ears. You can also use your fingers to gently massage the scalp, as if you’re washing his or her hair (just avoid the fontanelle or "soft spot").

5. Finish the massage with some long, gentle strokes all the way from shoulders to toes. Pat off any excess oil, then get your baby dressed and have a cuddle – you’ll probably find they drift right off to sleep!

If you’re trying baby massage for the first time, you may want to start slowly – perhaps just the legs at first, until you and your baby both get used to it. If your baby starts to show signs of restlessness or unhappiness during the massage, just wind things up and try again another day.