Why massage your baby​? Touch is the child’s first language

“It’s through our hands that we speak to the child. That we communicate. Touch is the child’s first language. Understanding comes long after feeling.”​- Frederick Leboyer, obstetrician and author of Loving Hands, 1976​

Baby massage has been practised for centuries in Africa, South America and Asia. Its popularity has exploded in the last few years. The caring touch of massage has many benefits for both infants and parents or caregivers.

Touch is essential for the growing infant​. A number of studies support infant massage and its benefits on both term and pre-term infants. Most of the early research in massage therapy was carried out on pre-term babies. "Studies h​ave shown that babies​ who were massaged gain more weight daily, have more motor activity and stay for fewer days in the hospital," said doctors from the De​​partment of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine, Singapore General Hospital, a member of the SingHealth​ group.

​Infant massage overcomes problems related to early deprivation of touch​

While we are now able to sustain the lives of infants born as early as 24 to 25 weeks of gestation, we also increase their time in hospital even as we try to give the infant a secure and comfortable environment within the incubator.

Pre-term infants often have to undergo invasive procedures. Some may end up associating any form of touch with an act of aggression. One of the simplest and most powerful techniques to overcome this is baby massage.

Babies​ may vary in their response to the massage. The length and duration need to be adjusted to suit each individual baby’s level of readiness. It is important, however to remember that the goal is to create a new message... that touch can be comforting, relaxing and healing.​​

Infant massage technique

Preparation for infant massage

Before beginning, make sure your hands are warm, undress the baby – if required - and lay him or her on a towel in whichever position you have chosen.

If you are using a light touch or stroking on very sick, premature babies, oil is usually not needed. Essential oils, used for aromatherapy and massage, are not recommended for premature babies​. These oils are quite potent; they can cause problems if used incorrectly.

Basically the massage flows from the head to the toes. With soft and gentle touches you will work on the head, face, shoulders, arms, chest, stomach and legs.

While you massage your baby, look tenderly at him or her. By doing this, you stimulate all the senses of the baby and establish a more intense, visual and tactile communication. Feel free to speak to your baby. Do not inhibit yourself.

Step by Step Description

Massaging the head:

Touch the forehead, temples, base of the cranium, eyebrows and eyelids, nose, cheeks, the area around the mouth, ears and surrounding area

Massaging the jaws:

Massaging the frontal part of the neck. (Remember to do this very gently) Make small strokes and massage the posterior part of the neck with slow movements down to the shoulders.

Softly put both hands on the baby’s shoulders. Caress the baby from the neck to the shoulders in the direction of his chest.

Massaging the shoulders and arms:

Form a ring with your fingers and thumb around your child's arm.

Begin to caress around the armpit and then go down along the arm. Be very careful when you arrive at the elbow, it is a very sensitive region.

At the wrist, you can gently practise turning motions using circular motions. Remember to take great care with all these movements.


Massaging the stomach:

Massage the stomach in a circular way (the genitalia area is excluded from the massage).

Caress the abdomen, moving your hands clockwise starting from below the ribs.


Massaging the legs:

Caress each leg with your whole hand. Press gently on the thighs.

Slightly flex the legs and knees, pressing the thighs gently against the body.


Massaging the heels and feet:

A foot massage is very relaxing. Begin by putting soft pressure on each toe, then the foot and return to the toes again.

Sometimes a foot massage can help reduce stomach pain. Gently caress all the toes. Apply circular strokes at the heels.


Massaging the back:

Turn your baby around. Begin with large and slow movements on the head, neck, back and legs, but always in one direction.

Give your baby soft strokes on the shoulders and back, massaging with your fingertips in circular movements.

Do not massage the spinal cord. Only put your hands over it and let the baby feel the warmth.

You can even make small circular movements on your baby's back.

Put your hands at the top of the legs and begin gently caressing while working your way down towards the foot.

  1. Repeat these massages when you want to have a few special moments with your baby.
  2. Do them when you have adequate time for you and your child.
  3. Do not be impatient if the baby does not cooperate...simply try again later.

Finally: There are many ways to express your love, this is ONLY ONE of them...

Ref: N18