All About Baby Massage

Put a bit of oil or lotion on your hands and rub them together -- never pour anything directly onto your baby.

Use warm hands when touching your baby.

Use a gentle touch, but not so light that it tickles your baby -- about the same pressure you would use on your eyelids without causing any discomfort. On small areas of your baby's body, use your fingertips; on larger areas, like his back, use the palms of your hands.

As a general rule, strokes should move from the center of your baby's body outward; for example, when massaging arms, go from shoulders out to hands.

Keep your movements balanced; if you massage the left arm, then also do the right arm.

If your baby is a newborn, don't massage near the umbilical cord or the circumcision site (if your baby has been circumcised).

Don't forget to massage those teeny feet -- a delightful experience for any parent!

Start with a short session at first -- no more than about five minutes. Over time, lengthen your massage sessions to 20 or 30 minutes, basing the length of time on your baby's signals of enjoyment.

Don't massage your baby if she has a fever, has just had an immunization, or is ill.

Read Your Baby's Signals

Very young babies or those who are new to massage are often uncertain about it. Vary the pressure and location of your touch depending on your baby's reactions. Watch your baby's face and body language for feedback. This is a learning experience for both of you.

PARENT TIP: "I loved doing massage with all my babies and took a massage class in Sweden -- I remember the teacher there recommended giving the massage in a steamy bathroom so our newborns wouldn't get chilled. I played the same music every day when I did the massage, and after a while, they knew that, when I turned on that music, they were in for a treat!" -- Alice, mother of Patrick (6), Carolyn (4), and twins Rebecca and Thomas (2)

What About Siblings?

Here's a wonderful experience for your older child and baby alike: Teach big brother or sister how to massage the baby. This can create a special bond between them and can promote soft and gentle touches. Massage time for your baby is often a perfect time to massage your older child, too. As your baby gets a little older, he'll probably want his turn at massaging his older sibling. Few things are more special for a parent than watching siblings treat each other with gentle loving care, and this kind of ritual is perfect for encouraging sibling attachment.

At What Age Should Massage Begin?

You can, and should, massage a child of any age from newborn to adulthood. Children learn much about the power of gentle touch. My son David knows how wonderful a massage can be, and when he was eight years old, he gave me a nightly back massage throughout my pregnancy with his baby brother. (Yes, every night, isn't that sweet!) All of my older children love to be rubbed; there's something very special about spending a little time giving your teenager a backrub or foot massage. It maintains a beautiful parent-child connection throughout a lifetime.

Baby Massage Classes

Many hospitals and private organizations offer baby massage classes. These are beneficial because a certified Infant Massage Instructor can show you all the how-tos, step by step. An instructor can give you a hands-on demonstration and answer your questions to help you feel confident in this very gentle and soothing art. Remember that massage and touch is an experience that is exclusive between the parent and baby, the instructor will help you learn how to read your baby and how to use the art of massage.

PARENT TIP: "My husband gives our daughter her nightly bath and massage as a way of connecting with her after he's been away at work all day. It's a special time for both of them, and I get an hour for myself." -- Olga, mother of Eugenia (14 months old)