A gentle rubdown before bedtime will relax your baby and ease them into dreamland. It's a tranquil way for you to end your day, too.
- TIP: Talk soothingly to the baby as you massage, and look into their eyes.
- Step 1: Hold one of the baby's feet with one hand, and with the other, encircle the top of the thigh. Stroke the leg all the way down to the ankle, very gently squeezing along the way. This is often called "milking." Then massage the feet and all 10 toes. Repeat with the other leg.
- TIP: The oil you use should be safe to ingest – like almond or vegetable oil – in case any gets in their mouth or up their nose.
- Step 2: Now do the same thing with each arm. Grasp a hand with one of yours, and with the other, "milk" the baby's arm from armpit to wrist. Massage each hand, working the palm and individual fingers.
- Step 3: Next, massage the tummy. Place both hands in the middle of the abdomen and push out lightly, as if you're smoothing a wrinkled sheet. Do the same with baby's chest.
- FACT: A recent study found that premature babies who were regularly massaged gained 50 percent more weight as preemies that weren't, allowing them to leave the hospital earlier.
- Step 4: Turn the baby onto her belly and massage her back with the same smoothing motion you used on her belly. By now they may already be drifting off.
- Step 5: Pour a little oil into the palm of one hand and warm it by rubbing your hands together. Use just enough oil so that your hands will glide easily over the baby's skin.
- Step 6: Undress them – you can either leave their diaper on or remove it. If you think they'll be cold, cover the parts you aren't massaging with a lightweight blanket.
- TIP: Don't massage your baby right after they've eaten or when they're hungry.
- Step 7: Remove jewelry from your fingers and wrists; then wash your hands. If your fingernails are sharp or jagged, file them.
- Step 8: Choose a warm room for the massage. Drape a towel on the floor, changing table, or bed, and lay the baby on their back on top of the towel. Use a towel you won't mind getting oily and possibly soiled – the baby may "let go" during the massage.
- Step 9: Sit in a comfortable position next to your baby. If they're small enough to be massaged on your lap, you can stretch out your legs and move the towel across your thighs so the baby is lying with their feet pointed toward you.
- TIP: Playing the same soft, soothing background music each time will also act as a cue.
- Step 10: Ask the baby if they would like a massage. Doing this each time will cue them, making it easier in the future for you to gauge if they want a massage or not.
- : Don't over-massage your baby. Newborns may only stay still for a couple of minutes, while a child over two months might be ready for a longer massage.