Your touch can do wonders for your baby. It’s well known that infant massage positively affects a baby’s development. And if you have a baby who’s chronically fussy or has been diagnosed with colic, your touch can do even more.
Research has found that infant massage can lead to less colic and crying. A review of studies published in 2019 cited five studies in which babies who were given massage experienced less crying. Infant massage also led to:
- More sleep and less waking during the night
- Better weight gain
- Fewer infections
- Improved pain tolerance
Another bonus: parents who take time to massage their babies reported less stress and better sleep for themselves—something sorely needed when a baby with colic tends to interrupt your nights.
Researchers think massage therapy may help soothe babies because it stimulates pressure receptors under the skin and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which kicks in to help the body rest, recover from stress, and increase digestion.
Massage is also a wonderful way to bond with your little one.
How to Start Infant Massage
Your first step might be to look for an infant massage class near you or online. Learning the proper techniques from a Certified Educator of Infant Massage can give you a foundation for building a routine at home.
Try finding an infant massage class by contacting your pediatrician’s office or your local hospital system. You can also go to Infant Massage USA to find an educator.
Infant Massage at Home
In the meantime, there are some simple steps you can take to start doing infant massage at home. As you begin, remember to pay attention to how your baby responds to the massage. If your baby doesn’t seem to be enjoying it, stop and try again another day. Here are some guidelines to follow.
When to do it:
It’s best to choose a time when your baby isn’t too tired or hungry. You might choose to do it after a bath and before bed. Infant massage can be a daily or weekly routine, depending on you and your baby’s preferences.
Where to do it:
Choose a warm room and place your baby on a safe and comfortable surface, such as on a blanket on the floor or bed.
What you need:
Massage without oil was found in studies to be beneficial. But if you’d like to use a little bit of oil on your hands, the International Association of Infant Massage recommends a small amount of cold pressed, unscented vegetable or fruit oil. You might use safflower, sunflower, or fractionated coconut oil (liquid coconut oil). Putting it in a small squeeze bottle will make it easy to use a small amount. Have a towel on hand to keep you and your baby’s skin from becoming too slippery, which can make it unsafe to pick up your baby after the massage.
How long to do it:
An infant massage can last up to 10 minutes. If your baby isn’t enjoying it, however, stop earlier.
How to start the massage:
Experts recommend beginning every massage by giving your baby cues. Rub a small amount of oil in your hands near your baby’s ears and ask your baby, “Can I give you a massage?” If your baby seems open to a massage, then you can proceed.
Make eye contact and talk or sing:
Keeping eye contact with your baby helps establish your bond, and your baby will surely enjoy hearing your soothing voice as you talk, sing, or hum during the massage.
Use gentle to moderate pressure:
Undress your baby to his or her diaper. With your baby lying directly in front of you, use these massage techniques, paying attention to how your baby responds. Use firm but gentle pressure and avoid tickling.
- Start with your baby’s legs, doing one leg at a time. Support the ankle with one hand while you use the other hand to stroke from the hip to the ankle.
- Holding your baby’s foot, use your thumbs to stroke the sole of the foot from top to bottom, bottom to top, and in a circular motion. Do the same with the other foot.
- To massage your baby’s arm, hold your baby’s wrist and use your other hand to stroke from the shoulder to the wrist and hand, rubbing your thumb over your baby’s palm. Do the same on your baby’s other arm and hand.
- Now work on your baby’s chest and tummy. Move both hands from your baby’s shoulders, down the chest and belly to the top of the diaper.
- Massage your baby’s tummy in a circular, clockwise motion. Massaging clockwise helps with digestion and can help relieve constipation.
What else you can do to relieve your baby’s colic
Infant massage is a fantastic way to soothe and bond with your baby. Another way to help relieve colic is by giving your baby probiotic drops, which have been shown in studies to significantly reduce the amount of time babies with colic spend crying.
Colic Relief Plus® by Second to Mom uses strains of probiotics that have been found to help relieve colic in newborns. After seven to 21 days of being given the drops daily, the amount of time babies with colic cried went down 60%. The drops also improved the diversity of gut bacteria, which supports a healthy gastrointestinal tract and leads to less colic.