Being a parent of a baby is all about the special moments; those times when it’s just you and your bub connecting, calm, blissful, soothing. One of the easiest ways to connect with your little one is through baby massage.
There are many positive benefits of massage, often highlighted by medical research, including increased weight gain, improved behavioural development, enhanced sleep patterns, eased symptoms of colic and wind, and it helps in soothing & calming babies who are generally unsettled.
To understand the incredible benefits of baby massage and how it is essential to a baby’s overall growth and development, we’ve first laid out the essential sensory and psychological factors babies need to boost their wellbeing, followed by five simple steps to massaging your baby regularly:
baby massage: how-to in 5 easy steps, plus the many benefits
the essential sensory and psychological factors
Fresh from the womb, skin is a vital sensory organ. Just like the brain, our skin shares the same embryonic tissue, so is as thirsty for sensory stimulation as our brain is. The effect of skin contact, or the lack thereof, can have profound consequences on babies.
Touch is one of the most essential elements to your baby's overall emotional, mental, and psychological development. Babies need and desire touch, just as much as they require food to eat or the air to breathe. Historically speaking, even more than food, warmth, and shelter - babies need touch to develop their nervous systems properly.
Following on from touch, lies bonding. In holding, touching, and massaging your baby - you are not only gifting them with a loving mother/baby connection, but with a great feeling of safeness. Bonding like this can take time after the fourth trimester, and many studies have shown that by massaging your baby, you are igniting the spark and enhancing a ritualistic baby bonding process.
Of course, baby massage is also a great effective practice to establish the bonding process for a dad, grandparent, or caregiver. Bonding is super important for a baby to feel safe and connected to their loving caregiver and environment, not to mention the trust and security that develops, to serve her baby’s natural needs.
After moments of bonding develops a sense of attachment between mum and bub, and the magic begins. By massaging your baby regularly, baby has more opportunity to connect and develop a sense of trust in you, their mother. This creates even more bonding to occur, and attachment can be reached.
Let’s not forget that bonding and attachment go hand-in-hand, in being equally beneficial for a new mama to heal psychologically after birth. A lack of bonding with your baby is thought to be a major reason why many new mamas get post-natal depression. After all, motherhood can be such a tough, demanding journey, with sleep deprivation clouding your thoughts, the challenges of first-time breastfeeding, and constantly trying to do the right thing by your baby, leaving very little time, rest, or self-care for yourself.
There is no doubt that bonding with your newborn can not only bring you confidence but can boost your mental health.
Making eye contact with your baby whilst massaging them is very beneficial and important. Eye contact helps mama and baby to recognise each other and aids in unspoken communication. But it also has the power to connect you both to a natural, first-time bonding experience. They say that the eyes are a window to the soul, and since we physically birth our babies ourselves, there is a natural connection that is bound to occur between the eyes of a mama and her new baby!
The relaxed and regenerative energy that massage produces is known to calm and reduce stress in both a parent and baby. When under stress, our bodies naturally produce cortisol, a hormone which raises our blood pressure, increases our heart rate, and prepare muscles for movement when the body is under threat.
In other words, the physical benefit of massage is a great way to combat stress in you and your baby - by producing a hormone called ‘oxytocin’ - the ‘feel-good hormone’. Oxytocin helps to lower stress in the body, giving mama and baby the space to bond and attach, while immersing themselves in a state of relaxation.
stimulation and development
Stimulation and development of the brain is one of the strongest factors on why you should massage your baby as often as you can. The act of massage is stimulating your baby to discover their senses, to conduct brain signals for efficiently and to deliver messages more effectively.
Now that we’ve covered the basic, physical, and emotional needs of a baby, it’s time to have some fun, and take you through the steps – of how to do baby massage!
first, read your baby’s cues
Make sure your baby is warm. If necessary, cover the areas of the body you aren’t working on with a blanket or towel, or heat the room so that it is set at a comfortable temperature.
A perfect time to massage is straight after a warm bath, when your baby is already undressed. A good idea is to place baby in a nappy to stop any accidents.
To begin with, keep each step short and increase gradually as you work out what parts your baby most enjoys.
what oils and lotions can I use to massage baby?
A quality oil or lotion infused with the right botanicals and essential oils is your start point for releasing the benefits of massage. And of course, at b.box we’ve got you covered, with our gorgeous nourish oil and hydrate lotion, both formulated for their luxurious skin nurturing properties.
b.box body nourish bath + massage oil helps improve the skin’s elasticity by softening, nourishing, and reconditioning the skin. Enriched with a deeply hydrating and moisture intensive oil base, our aromatic nourish bath + massage oil not only gently leaves their baby’s skin feeling hydrated, silky smooth and smelling beautiful, but it is made from botanical elements of coconut, sunflower, and jojoba to hydrate and replenish the skin’s natural barrier, including the essential oils of mandarin and chamomile to offer nourishing properties to sensitive skins prone to dryness or irritation.
To use, simply add nourish to baby’s bath for a relaxing and hydrating experience, or for an extra nourishing boost, use regularly for baby massage.
Here’s a bit of detail about nourish’s key ingredients:
- - helps smooth skin and works as an antioxidant
- - made of natural extracts
- - through a tiny chemical process, separates the oily liquid so that a ‘pure’ version of it can be added to our products
- - known for its soothing and skin softening benefits
- - non-irritating, boasts anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties
- - a great ingredient to soothe sensitive skin
- - decreasing inflammation, replenishing the skin’s barrier, and improving hair loss
- - contains significant quantities of Vitamin E.
Skin needs hydration and lots of nourishment. For top-to-toe smoothness b.box body hydrate moisturising lotion is packed with the natural botanical goodness of aloe vera, jojoba oil and shea butter to replenish moisture and repair skin sensitivities. Free from nasties, hydrate is plant-based, vegan-friendly and dermatologically tested with nutrient-rich Kakadu plum and green tea extract - to leave the skin feeling soft and looking radiant, and aromatic essentials oils of calendula and chamomile to calm the skin, soothe irritation, and smell amazing!
Apply hydrate generously. Ideal for body + face and designed for good absorption without any white ghosting: leaving baby feeling perfectly moisturised! Ideal for baby massage.
Here’s a bit of detail about hydrate’s key ingredients:
- - nourishes, protects, and heals the skin for optimal rejuvenation
- - soothing for mum after a long day out with the kids!
- - extremely moisturising and hydrating
- - making skin soft and smooth for pregnancy, for bubs, and for the whole family
step-by-step guide to massaging your baby
Get yourself and baby set up in a warm space. Ensure bub is laying on a comfy surface, perhaps the change table or on the floor with a soft towel or blanket. And don’t forget to keep yourself comfortable too, leaning over baby on the floor particularly while you are still recovering, can be sore on your back so get comfy!
Step 1. start with your baby’s legs …
Nurse the foot with one hand and gently “milk” the leg from ankle to thigh with the other. Next, holding the foot with both hands, use a gentle squeezing and twisting action, moving upwards from foot to thigh. To finish, stroke from foot to the top of the thigh. Repeat all techniques on the other side.
Step 2. next, move onto the tummy …
Using both hands, flatten them in a heart fanned position, and massage gently the chest then slide over tummy area 3 or 4 times. To massage the chest, glide both hands outwards from the centre of the ribcage up to the shoulders and back again. To massage the tummy using both hands, palms flat, in a hand-over-hand clockwise circular motion, from left to right.
To relieve a bloated stomach, hold knees and feet together and gently press knees up toward the abdomen. Rotate baby's hips around a few times to the right. (This often helps expel gas.)
‘Bicycling’ the legs after this massage can also relieve pain and encourage wind. Always stop if a child becomes distressed or uncomfortable at any time.
Step 3. for the arms and hands …
Nurse the baby’s hand with one hand and gently “milk” the arm from wrist to shoulder with the other. Next, holding the arm with both hands, use a gentle squeezing and twisting action, moving upwards from wrist to shoulder. To finish, stroke from wrist to the top of the shoulder. Repeat all techniques on the other side.
Step 4. beautiful faces and head …
Cradling your baby's head in both hands, massage the scalp with your fingertips, as if you're shampooing. (Avoid the fontanel, the soft spot on top of baby's head.) This is also helpful to remove cradle cap. Massage the ears between your thumb and index finger. Trace a heart shape on your baby's face, bringing your hands together at the chin. Place your thumbs/finger between your baby's eyebrows and stroke out. Stroke from the bridge of the nose out over the cheeks. Using your fingertips, massage the jaw in small circles.
Step 5. onto the back …
Gently turn your baby onto his/her tummy for the back massage. Using both hands, flat, in a heart fanned position massage the entire back area 3 or 4 times. With your fingertips, gently massage little circles all over the back. Lastly, use the waterfall stroke, which is a feathers touch moving from neck to bottom continuously and slowly.
At the end of the massage, dress baby in their pyjamas or a cosy comfy onesie, give them a cuddle and inhale that beautiful baby smell. A massage before bed can be a great part of your, and your baby’s daily bedtime routine, indulging the senses of touch and smell helping you both to peacefully relax and settle into the evening.
by Antonette Golikidis
Award-winning skincare expert, mum, and formulations queen behind b.box body - the new all-natural, baby and family skincare collection from b.box. Antonette holds a Diploma in Health Science and Personal Care Formulation, and a Certificate IV in Aromatherapy and brings more than 15 years’ experience in cosmetic product development, alternative therapies, scent science and baby massage to the team. Her in-depth research and study of skin care and cosmetics ignited her passion for working with natural ingredients to create unique, quality products that not only smell delicious, but capture the therapeutic benefits of those ingredients. Antonette lives by her everyday mantra: ‘Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do...’ and is inspired by her family and gorgeous boys – where her skin care journey began.