Baby Massage | When to Start and How Often?

Published: Jan 8, 2022 | Revised: Jan 31, 2024
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

Person giving Baby Massage

The moment to start with giving massage to a newborn baby, and the frequency, depend very much on the culture and tradition, but also on the abilities of and suitability for the baby.

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For instance, traditionally in Asian countries, providing that the baby is healthy, baby massage starts almost at day one, but typically already in the first week. This was/is often immediately done with massage oils — such as Coconut oil, Sesame oil, or Almond oil — but in other traditions one first starts with dry massages for a couple of weeks.

An important motive to start massaging with oils only after a couple of weeks is to first wait for a more developed skin of the baby in order to avoid the risk of irritation or infection with possible harmful material in oils.

Another custom is to only start with massage when the baby’s cord-stump (the remainder of the umbilical cord that’s still attached to the baby) is dry and falls off, which can takes a couple of day up to a few weeks.

The frequency of massaging the baby is also very variable, depending on tradition, customs, and on the (willingness of or suitability for the) baby. It can be one up to three times a day, usually every day, continued for several months, or even several years.

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In the first months each massage session will usually not take longer than ten to fifteen minutes. The massage session time can increase when the baby is older, but then again, over time the baby gets more agile and active, which can even result in only being able to give shorter sessions.

In the West, Baby Massage usually starts only after four to six weeks if the baby is alert and comfortable with massaging it. Typically, certain precautions and contraindications are taken into account also, such as not massaging the baby when it has a fever, skin infections, wounds, fractures, burns, injuries, recent surgeries, or a weak heart. Additionally, many parents will first ask a midwife or physician if it’s all right to massage the baby.

At any rate, nowadays, starting to frequently touch the newborn baby immediately is recommended worldwide. This includes lightly stroking and caressing the baby, including bare skin to bare skin contact, the latter activity usually called Kangaroo Care.

In all cases it’s recommended to start massaging a baby only an hour after feeding it to avoid that the baby throws up i.e. vomits.

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