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11 Tips for Massaging Baby

hand on back of sleeping baby

BrandX

Never underestimate the power of a nice rubdown on your infant. "Massage reduces irritability and helps babies sleep better -- the two biggest pediatric complaints," says Tiffany Field, PhD, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine. "Parents generally discover that babies have a favorite place they like to be massaged," she adds, so sample these simple techniques to find your baby's sweet spot.

  1. Starting below the ribs, massage your baby's tummy, using clockwise circular motions. (Going in this direction aids digestion.)
  2. Don't be intimidated -- baby massage doesn't have to be a formal affair, nor do you have to be an expert. Just consider sneaking in a quick foot rub or a light belly rub as a way to say "I love you."
  3. After baby's bath is an ideal time for a massage. She's already naked, and her skin is still moist -- the perfect time to apply oil or lotion.
  4. Put oil or lotion in your palm and rub hands together, which warms up the lotion and your hands -- and makes for a more comfy, enjoyable massage.
  5. Using your entire hand, gently massage each leg, putting light pressure on her thighs. Flex your baby's legs and knees, which will softly push her thighs against her body.
  6. With your thumb, put gentle pressure on each toe, the pad of the foot, then the toes again. Next, caress each of the toes and use circular motions to massage the heels.
  7. Use slow, rhythmic strokes when massaging your baby, says Field.
  8. With your baby on her stomach, make large, slow movements around her head, neck, back, and legs, always going in one direction. Softly stroke her shoulders and back, and massage these areas with your fingertips using small circular motions. Be careful not to press on the baby's spine.
  9. Form a ring with your middle finger and thumb around your baby's arm. Caress the armpit region and then work your way along the arm. Be gentle -- especially at the elbow, an ultrasensitive area.
  10. If you want a light, natural oil that won't leave baby feeling goopy, we love Mustela's Massage Oil ($11.50; mustelausa.com). But if your baby has very dry skin, Johnson's Baby Oil Gel ($4; drugstores) is heavy-duty without the runny mess of plain mineral oil.
  11. Begin by stroking the forehead, temples, and the bottom of the skull. Move on to the eyebrows and eyelids, the nose, the cheeks, around the mouth, and then the ears and their surrounding areas.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, December 2005.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.