Can Infant Massage Help Your Baby Sleep?

Baby Massage

You are probably always on the lookout for ideas or products that will help your baby sleep better, right? Most of our readers are. I was the same way when my kids were babies – I would try anything (within reason) if there was even a chance that doing so could result in better sleep for my baby!

If you are the same way, then the topic of today’s blog article may interest you. We’re talking about infant massage today. What is it? Why try it? And (most importantly, in our readers’ opinions), will it help your baby sleep?

What Is Infant and Baby Massage?

In truth, infant massage is nothing new. The practice of gently massaging babies has been around for centuries, in many cultures (in Indian culture, for example). However, infant massage is a relatively new practice in the West. That’s due largely to the work of a woman named Vimala Schneider McClure.

While working at an orphanage in India, Vimala watched as a 12-year-old girl routinely massaged all the children. Although the children lacked proper nutrition, they all thrived; McClure came to believe this was thanks to the regular massages they received. Returning to the United States in the mid-70’s, McClure set out to spread the word about infant massage. Her message received attention, and now, infant massage is widely recognized as a beneficial practice.

McClure’s approach to infant massage includes the Indian massage strokes she learned while working there; it also includes Swedish massage strokes and reflexology techniques.

The Benefits of Infant Massage – For You And Your Baby

According to moms and dads who’ve used infant massage, the benefits are numerous. And here’s the thing: infant massage is good for both you and your baby!

Some of those benefits include:

  • …improved digestion. Believe it or not, infant massage can actually aid a baby’s digestion, thereby reducing gas and bloating. So if your baby suffers from gas, this could be a way to help him feel comfortable.
  • …relief of stress and tension. This works for both you and your baby. Gently massaging your baby can help calm and relax her, and it will help calm and relax you in the process. This may be especially welcome information for parents of babies who are especially fussy, or who are suffering from colic.
  • …increased bonding. Nurturing touch conveys love to a baby in a way that nothing else can. So massaging your baby is a great way to strengthen the bond between you both. This, in turn, will promote healthy emotional development in your baby.
  • …improved growth and development. Studies have indicated that babies who are routinely massaged by their parents show increased weight gain and improved development. They also tend to have improved immune function, meaning they don’t get sick as often! That alone may be a good reason to try infant massage. 😉
  • …improved sleep! That’s right, parents – infant massage really does help babies sleep well! Studies show that infants who are massaged by their parents before bed tend to fall asleep faster, sleep more deeply, and stay asleep longer. In fact, this study showed an increase of approximately 1.3 hours a day in sleep quantity for 3 to 6 month olds. Good news indeed, for all you tired moms and dads out there!

How to Massage Your Baby

We cannot teach you all the ins-and-outs of infant massage in a blog article. Infant massage is not a complicated process, but it does require that specific techniques be applied in specific ways to specific points on your infant’s body.

We can, however, give you an overview of how infant massage works. This video demonstrates the basics:

YouTube video

Interested in massaging your baby? Here are a few tips from one of our own sleep consultants, Elaine, who’s trained in infant massage:

  • Always use an edible oil. Organic coconut oil makes a good choice.
  • Don’t try to massage your infant when he is fussy; wait until he is calm and relaxed.
  • If, at the start of the massage, your baby fusses and doesn’t seem to want it, stop. Massaging your baby when she does not want a massage will only make her fussier. Plus, this will help teach your baby, from an early age, that it’s always okay to say no if she doesn’t want to be touched.
  • Before massaging your baby, remove any jewelry, and trim your nails, if they are long.
  • Always start your massage with the “least invasive” body parts – the feet and the legs. From there, progress upwards.
  • Do not massage your baby if he is ill with a fever, or if he has a skin rash or lesions. It’s also recommended that you avoid massaging your baby for 48-72 hours after he’s had an immunization.
  • You can start infant massage early – even newborn babies can benefit from massage techniques!
  • Massage is something that both parents can do, so be sure that dad gets the chance to offer a massage!

If you’d like to learn how to perform infant massage, visit the Infant Massage USA website, to see if there is a class in your area. Or, check with your local hospital to see if they can recommend a trained infant massage specialist.

If you would like to read more about the origins of infant massage and to learn more about Vimala McClure’s infant massage techniques, check out her book, Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents.

Baby Sleep Help – We Have The Resources You Need!

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10 thoughts on “Can Infant Massage Help Your Baby Sleep?”

  1. Hey, Great article and you explain all the information which is really great. can you suggest any baby oil massage which useful for the baby and there is no side effect also?

    • Hi Shruti,
      Thank you for your comment – I’m so glad to hear the article was helpful for you! An edible oil like coconut oil is best, but if you’re looking for a specific brand, you might check in with your pediatrician. Hope this helps!

  2. Good blog on how to massage your baby! Thankyou for the video. I would also add that IF new parents aren’t sure how to massage their baby … they can always get a licensed Massage Therapist to teach them ?

  3. A few years ago, my granddaughter was around 4 or 5 months old. I was holding her and lightly caressing her under her jaw line. She fell asleep sitting up. I didn’t know why. Recently I saw a video of someone doing the massage technique with a baby to get them to sleep. Last week I had my grandson that is now 7 months old. He is a good baby, but was getting a bit fussy and was rubbing his eyes. He was sitting on the floor in front of me. I gently started rubbing his head and face. I couldn’t see his eyes. It appeared as if he was bending over to pick up one of his toys, when in fact, he was sound asleep. I picked him up and put him over my shoulder (which he has never done). He was sound asleep and snoring. It seemed like it took a while to get him awake when his mother came to pick him up. I was a little worried that he was hypnotized or something. Did I do anything wrong?

    • Hi @Kim – Thank you for writing to us! I would guess that your grandson was just quite tired, and that the rubbing of his face and head only helped soothe him to sleep a little. If you or his mom are at all concerned about how deeply he slept, I would recommend speaking to his doctor. From what you explain, I do not think that rubbing his face would harm him, but better safe than sorry if you are concerned about anything!
      Thank you again for visiting us! : )

  4. @ Skylersmom — sounds like you’re doing things just right, even if you don’t have any special massage skills 😉 So glad to hear that massage has worked well for you and your little guy!

    Thanks for commenting. 🙂

    @ Meredith Piscitelli — thanks for sharing your expertise and insights! Much appreciated 🙂 Thanks, too, for sharing this article on your business’s facebook page, and for linking to your site! Hopefully, some of our Boston-area readers will stop by and see you. 🙂

    @ Enid W — awesome! Glad massage has been such a great solution for you and your son. 🙂

    Thanks for commenting!

  5. I’ve been massaging my 4 month old son since he was 2 months. He loves it and I love it. I do it to start our bedtime routine. Even when he’s fussy, as soon as I start massaging his legs, he calms down and gives me a big ol grin. I absolutely love the bonding experience and the obvious trust he has with me as he allows me to massage his whole body all the way up to his face. I hope to continue doing this for a long time. 🙂

  6. Hello … I am a Vimala McClure-school trained Certified Educator of Infant Massage. I would like to thank you for posting this article about the many positive benefits to both baby and parent, of learning Infant Massage. The bonding is so incredibly important. The sleeping patterns are greatly improved because of the total relaxation from a stressful day that the baby will experience (not unlike adults. I teach new mom-plus-massage classes and, when we’ve completed the 3-sessions I require, I urge the parents to continue a form of massage for many years. I have an almost 4 y.o. who still asks me to massage his face when I sit for him. His brother is 7 y.o. and asks me to massage the story of the ‘Growing Tree’ on his back when I have him overnight. They sleep like rocks afterwards.
    The total trust a child puts in the adult who is making him feel this good is so important. It ripples out to include trust and bonding in their whole relationship. Ohhhh… there is so much good that comes from it.
    I would advise against coconut oil as a massage oil. I have had 2 babies who were allergic to it. I have my mom’s use either cold pressed pure sunflower oil or cold pressed pure grape-seed oil.I advise this over any and all the popular oils in the baby departments, since they have added ingredients which are unnecessary.
    We don’t put up a video since a little information and not the whole story, can sometimes be a dangerous thing. New parents need to be observed and assisted with pressure in certain areas and understand why certain areas are done the way they are and how.
    Sigh …. too much information, right?
    I do thank you for validating the positive benefits of massage for infants and so wish American parents were not such a ‘hard-sell.’

  7. I don’t have any massage skills, but I regularly massage my 15mo especially on the legs, ankles, and feet. He is very active and I figure I would need a massage if I stood all day like that. If he seems stressed from the day, I focus on the temples and the “Chakra” point and he really calms when I stroke his cheek. On nights when he is tossing and turning (either at bedtime or on later awakening), I will give him a massage, and it is amazing how quiet he gets and how quickly he goes to sleep.

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