Last updated on April 4th, 2024

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Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

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Infant Massage – Ten Steps to a More Peaceful Baby

Giving your baby an infant massage can help baby relax and drift off to sleep.

Have you ever had a massage? The lights are low, soft music gently floats through the air, your thoughts drift as you sink onto a decadently covered surface where you delve into relaxation and begin to part with all of your daily tensions.

Wow – That was GREAT! Why shouldn’t we offer the same comfort to our babies? Massage has been around for thousands of years to aid in rest and relaxation. Today, we often think of massage as a modern-day stress-reliever, but if we go back to the roots of massage, we can find many benefits to sharing this age-old tradition with our baby.

We’ll help you figure out:

  • what supplies you’ll need
  • which massage oils are ok for babies
  • how to commit time for massage
  • how to gently perform infant massage

infant massage

Getting Ready for Infant Massage

Article adapted from Melinda Blau and Tracy Hogg’s book, Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer.

When getting ready give your infant massage, make sure everything you need is at your finger tips: a pillow; a waterproof pad; two fluffy bath towels; baby oil, vegetable oil, or a specially formulated baby massage oil (make sure it is formulated just for babies as other oils can be too strong and irritating for young skin).

You can set up on the floor or a changing table. Use a soothing soft voice when speaking to your baby and make sure you tell your baby before you touch her, ensuring her of what you plan on doing each step of the way. Build your baby’s tolerance to massage with a few movements lasting only two or three minutes at a time. Within a few weeks, you can work up to twenty minutes and often times, will have an eager, happy baby on your hands!

1. Prepare the Room for Infant Massage

The temperature in the room should be about 75 degrees, with no drafts. Put on soft music. Your massage area should consist of a waterproof pad placed on top of a pillow, which is then covered by a soft bath towel.

2. Prepare Yourself for this Time with your Baby

Turn off the ringer and let the phone go to voicemail. Begin by washing your hands and soothing your baby with a soft voice. Use this time to tell her what you plan on doing and how much you’re going to enjoy this special time with her. Put a teaspoon or two of oil in your hands and rub your palms together to warm it.

Wonder why newborns wake up at night so much?
Read: Why Newborns Wake at Night and 10 Things You Can Do About It

3. Begin with the Feet

Make sure you continue talking to her throughout the massage, letting her know what to expect. The soothing sound of your voice will become a trigger for her relaxation.

Start with those irresistible baby feet!

4. Use a Thumb-Over-Thumb Movement

One thumb should rub upward, taking turns with the other thumb, which moves in the same direction. Gently stroke the sole of the foot, heel towards toe. Delicately squeeze each toe.

Massage the top of the foot towards the ankle, making small circles around the ankle. As you go up the leg, gently use what Blau and Hogg refer to as the “rope twist”: wrap your hands loosely around your baby’s legs. As you move your top hand toward the left, move your bottom hand toward the right, gently and softly massaging her skin and muscles, thereby increasing leg circulation.

5. Next, the Stomach

Using both thumbs, gently massage from the belly button toward the outside. “Walk” your fingers from the stomach to the chest. Make gentle, sweeping motions outward.

6. Moving Up

Blau and Hogg suggest making a “sun- and-moon” motion by using both of your index fingers to trace a circle — the “sun” — that starts at the top of your baby’s chest and ends around her belly button.

Now take your right hand and go back up, tracing a “moon” (a backwards “c”) up to the top of her chest; then do the same with your left hand (a forward “c”). Repeat this a few times. Then do a heart-shaped movement — with all of your fingers on the chest, at the center of the breastbone, gently trace a heart, ending at her belly button.

Starting to think about sleep training?
Read: Starting Sleep Training? 10 Steps to Take BEFORE You Start

7. Now to the Arms

Use the “rope twist” method, then do open-hand massage on both arms. Delicately roll each finger. Make small circles on the top of each wrist.

8. Gently Massage Baby’s Face

Be extra careful on your baby’s sensitive face when doing an infant massage. Remember to use your soothing voice as you begin to massage her forehead and eyebrows, and then gently use your thumbs to massage around the eye area. Go down the bridge of your baby’s nose, back and forth across her cheek, from her ears toward her upper and lower lips and then back. Make small circles around the jaw and behind the ears. Rub her earlobes and under her chin. Now gently turn her over.

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9. Roll Over!

Once you gently roll your baby over, get ready to make circles on the back of your baby’s head and shoulders. Using a back-and-forth motion, stroke her up and down. Make small circles along the back muscles and allow your hands to travel the full length of her body, from the top of her back all the way down to the ankles.

Still swaddling? If baby is rolling on her own, it’s time to stop.
Read: How to Wean from Swaddling — A Gentle Transition

10. End Your Infant Massage

Tell your baby how much you love him or her, and how special your time is together. If you begin to repeat these steps, increasing the duration of the massage, your baby will begin to look forward to this experience with you . Never continue with infant massage is she cries or become fussy. If this happens, let a few weeks go by, and then try again for a shorter time. You have the power to acclimate your baby to the joy and healing powers of touch. With this will come a more relaxed baby, and an ability to instantly put your baby at ease. Relax and enjoy!


Author: Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

My name is Kim West, and I’m the mother of two beautiful girls, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 21 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. My sleep journey began when I started experimenting with gently shaping my daughter’s sleep by not following the conventional wisdom at the time. After having success (and then more success with my second daughter!), I began helping family and friends and my step-by-step method spread like wildfire, exactly like an excellent night of sleep for a tired parent should!