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When To Start Oil Massage For Newborn Baby & Its Benefits

Baby Health / Last Updated on Jun 13, 2023 / Vetted by Dr. Rukaiya Mithaiwala (PT)
When To Start Oil Massage For Newborn Baby & Its Benefits

Massaging of newborn babies using oils had been introduced centuries ago in China. It is also a common traditional practice in India that has been passed down through the generations and is now also an emerging practice in western countries. All due to the growing body of scientific research research that has documented several benefits of newborn baby massage using oils for both the baby and the parent. Literature has documented a wide range of physiological, psychological and social benefits of massage for newborns and it has also been proven that the use of oils is more beneficial than simple touch therapy. This article shall discuss in detail the benefits of oil massage for a newborn and how to get started on the journey for your newborn baby.

What Is Newborn Baby Massage?

Newborn massage is the process of using various techniques to rub and stimulate the baby’s muscles and joints. Oils or other lubricants like lotions or creams may be used in conjunction with stroking and kneading methods. Oil massage is considered to be a cost effective and non-invasive technique to facilitate the physical and emotional development of a baby. These techniques have the potential to improve interaction and bonding between the parent and baby, reduce baby and maternal stress along with promotion of optimal growth and development in infants. Light touch, gentle strokes and kneading. Massage can be a good method to just slow down and spend some quality time with your baby. Using stories, poems or music during massage time enhances the experience for both the baby and parent and makes it more personalised.

Benefits of Oil Massage for Newborns

The benefits of oil massage are two fold. Not only do oil massage techniques benefit the newborn but also have an effect on the caregiver. Let us discuss these in detail below:

1. Some benefits of oil massage for the newborn are related to the application of oil whereas the others are due to the touch stimulation provided to the baby. The application of oil on the skin has proven to improve the function of the skin barrier and help in the regulation of body heat through the skin. Oil application has also been shown to have a positive effect on the growth of a preterm baby through absorption of fats through their thin skin.

2. Enhancement of weight gain and overall physical growth of the newborn as massage techniques stimulate the pressure receptors of the muscles.

3. Massage also stimulates the nervous system which causes stimulation of the motility of the gut leading to better digestion.

4. Stroking the belly helps in improving digestion and elimination therefore relieves symptoms of gas, constipation and diarrhoea. Massage also helps to relieve colic symptoms which improves the baby’s mood.

5. Oil massage for babies suffering from jaundice is particularly helpful as the touch stimulation helps lower the bilirubin levels.

6. Touch therapy during massage stimulates the relaxation receptors of the body which are responsible for lowering the heart rate and reducing stress thus leading to better sleep for the baby. Further, touch stimulation provided by massage techniques are researched to increase the melatonin levels which adjusts the circadian rhythm of the body.

7. Promotes cognitive development of the baby in areas such as attention, concentration and orientation by stimulating certain neutrons in the brain.

8. There is an improvement in the motor development of the child due to facilitation of the muscles during massage.

9. Massage sessions with caregivers help improve the pre language skills of the child with positive engagement thus working on eye contact, listening skills, babbling and imitation.

10. Massage sessions provide quality one-on-one time with the parent. This time for interaction is highly engaging and fun which increases the baby’s attention and liveliness.

11.Time spent with the baby during an oil massage session has been proven to improve the sleep quality for the mother and also improved maternal understanding of the baby’s sleep and mood.

12. Studies show that massage sessions with the baby have improved the mother’s mood, reduced symptoms of postpartum depression, improved maternal satisfaction and increased the self esteem of parents.

13. Promotion of a stronger and more positive relationship development with the baby has been observed. There is also more involvement of both parents and better engagement with other family members.

When to start oil massages for a newborn baby?

In the first few months of the newborn’s life, dry skin is very common as the newborn skin is more prone to losing moisture. Because of this, the recommendation of using oils has become a traditional practice. It is usually safe to start oil massage after the umbilical stump has fallen off which generally takes about two weeks. There is a risk of infection if massage with oils is started before this period.

However, it has also been noted that starting massage too late may cause the baby to become more resistant to the process making the practise difficult for the parent. It is necessary to remember that each child is different and may react differently to massage techniques and may even have their own preferences. For preterm babies, it is best to consult a paediatrician before starting any new practice.

How To Oil Massage A Newborn Baby?

Begin with setting up in a quiet room that is free of distractions. Ensure that your baby is in a relaxed state but also alert as massage is an interactive activity that should be done with your baby and not with your baby. Your baby’s cues and responses will guide the massage sessions.

The use of oils is recommended to act as a lubricant for the baby’s sensitive skin. Natural oils free of additives are advised which most commonly include almond oil, mustard oil, sesame oil. Gently warm the oil between your palms before beginning the massage.
  • Initiate the massage by making eye contact with your baby and understanding if they are okay to begin the session.
  • A typical massage routine should include a combination of light touch and deep pressure techniques. The extent of pressure applied will depend on the baby’s preferences.
  • Some of the techniques you can use are stroking, kneading and finger tapping. Stroking can be either long or short strokes in the vertical, horizontal and circular directions. Ensure that you use moderate pressure and to include the entire body for achieving the best results.
  • Begin with massaging the feet and legs and move upwards to massage the stomach, chest, back, arms, hands, neck, face and head. This sequence can be modified according to your baby's preference.
  • Even though a massage session typically lasts for 15-20 minutes, it should only be continued as long as your baby is enjoying it. Modify the session if your baby seems to be overstimulated or disinterested.
Massage should not be carried out within an hour of feeding in order to reduce the risk of vomiting. Here is a reference video link demonstrating the steps to oil massage a newborn.

In conclusion, this age old technique of oil massage has the power of touch that is profound. Oil massages techniques should definitely be incorporated as a part of care for the healthy development of newborns. It is an inexpensive and easy to learn activity that can be customized and has several benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can we do an oil massage for a 1 week old baby?

Dry massage can be started immediately for a newborn. However, it is recommended to wait for at least two weeks till the umbilical stump falls off. Doing oil massage earlier than that may increase risk of infection.

2. How long to do oil massage for a newborn baby?

A massage session typically lasts for 15-20 minutes however, it should only be continued as long as your baby is enjoying it. Discontinue the massage if your baby seems to be overstimulated or disinterested.

3. What is the best time for newborn baby oil massage?

Whenever your baby is active and alert is a good time for massage. Many parents like to massage their babies before bedtime and the baby is in a relaxed state. Some parents also like to massage in the morning to start the day. Avoid massage immediately after feeding time.

4. How often we should oil massage a newborn baby?

You can massage your baby daily or every other day as well. The frequency of the massages will depend on you and your baby's preference.

Dr. Rukaiya Mithaiwala (PT)

Education: BPT, MPT (Pediatrics), Yoga Alliance Certified Kids Yoga Teacher, Certification in Autism Intervention
Dr Rukaiya Mithaiwala (PT) is a physiotherapist specialising in the field of Pediatrics. Post her Masters degree, she has worked for over 5 years, with children with developmental concerns. Using her background in the field of healthcare, Dr Rukaiya aims to create evidence-based informative content around child health and early development. She aspires to equip parents and caregivers with the... more

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