The gentle art of Baby Massage

The gentle art of Baby Massage

The gentle art of baby massage is a fantastic technique for calming and bonding with your baby. In fact, if there’s one activity that should form part of your ideal routine with your baby, it is baby massage. Moving from the secure, warm environment of the womb, to the cold sterile world is a dramatic transition for your baby. Most babies need the close comfort of their parent’s touch and in the early days, are more settled when in mum or dad’s arms.

Quiet periods of massage are a wonderful way to feel connected to your baby, to take a deep breath and relax and just to feel like you are ‘doing something’ constructive. Massage will increase your sense of confidence in caring for your baby. For your baby, the benefits are immense, including:

  • Bonding – Massage will help you and your baby to connect.
  • Body image – Massage reinforces a sense of self worth and develops body image.
  • Calming -The deep touch of massage is a calming input to the nervous system and therefore is an excellent remedy for “colic”
  • Wellness – Massage in general is good for your baby’s health and thus is really useful for ill of premature babies.
  • Sleep – By associating massage with a bedtime routine, you can prime your baby to fall asleep with greater ease.


Your baby is most responsive and will benefit most from massage when in the calm alert state. To identify this state look for few big body movements, open and focused eyes, and regular breathing.


  • Schedule massage at the same time every day
  • The environment should be relaxing and free of distractions for you and your baby.
  • Position yourself comfortably, leaning against a wall or pile of cushions. Put your baby between your legs on the floor.


The length of the massage will vary according you your baby’s age. Start at the beginning of these steps and stop when you feel your baby has had enough.

Make contact with your baby by placing your hands on your baby’s hips for a moment and ask your baby permission to massage them, showing respect and also signaling the massage is about to begin.

  • Legs: Begin at the hips and stroke the leg firmly from hip to toe and back again to the thigh. Repeat the action down to your baby’s ankle.
  • Feet: Using your thumb stroke three times along the bottom of the foot from heel to toe with deep strokes. End this stroke by pressing into the foot for 3 seconds.
  • Toes: Gently squeeze each toe individually pulling lightly from the base of the toe to its tip.

Repeat on other leg.

Next you can massage your baby’s tummy. Always move your hands in a clockwise direction on the tummy as this is the direction the bowel follows. The following strokes are excellent for babies with colic, other digestive problems and elimination difficulties.

  • Paddle wheel: Place one hand just under the ribs and glide the hand towards the groin area. Before lifting your hand, place the other hand under the rib cage and repeat. Continue alternating hands making sure one is always in touch with the skin.
  • I love you: Say “I – Love – You” as you do each of the three parts of this stroke. Using only your dominant hand, begin the first stroke below the rib cage on your right (baby’s left side) and stroke down making an “I”. Then move your hand to the baby’s other side under the rib cage, glide your hand across the top of the abdomen, under the chest and then down to the groin. This forms an “L” on its side. Finally, place your hand near the child’s right hip (your left), stroke up to the ribcage, then across and then down the opposite side, making and upside down “U”.
  • Arms: Symmetrical starting stroke – stroke both arms from top of shoulders to hands, repeat by moving one hand at a time back to the shoulders. Always leave one hand in contact with the skin.
  • Hands: Thumb press in palm – press your thumbs into the pads of the palm, under the thumb and little finger, maintaining pressure for 3-5 seconds, this should encourage opening of the hand.
  • Fingers: Finger squeeze – Very gently grasp the base of each finger (one at a time) and slide your fingers to the end of the baby’s finger, gently rolling and squeezing the finger. This stoke can be combined with a rhyme about fingers, e.g. this little piggy.
  • Head: Cradle your baby’s head in your hands and look into to his eyes and wait him to make eye contact. Take your thumbs towards the centre of the forehead and gently but firmly stroke out towards the ears.

CAUTION Do not massage your baby for a few days after immunizations as their temperature is slightly raised. At all times keep your baby’s joints well aligned to prevent damage to the joints.

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Meg faure

Meg Faure

Hi, I’m Meg Faure. I am an Occupational Therapist and the founder of Parent Sense. My ‘why’ is to support parents like you and help you to make the most of your parenting journey. Over the last 25 years, I’ve worked with thousands of babies, and I’ve come to understand that what works for fussy babies works just as well for all babies, worldwide.