Baby massage strokes

Baby Massage - strokes and techniques

Baby massage strokes should be gentle but firm. Always respond appropriately to your baby’s cues around stress versus comfort (see ‘Massaging Your Newborn’).

Please check suitability for massage with your baby’s health care professionals if they have special needs, have recently been unwell or you have any other concerns. You can also go to www.nz.iaim.net or www.iaim.com.au to find a Certified Infant Massage Instructor in your area.

We recommend you download the illustrated step by step massage guide. This easy to follow, visual guide shows each baby massage stroke being performed by a mum, so you can be confident in giving your baby a lovely experience. These files may take a few minutes to download.

PDF Document icon Download Huggies Massage Guide (1MB)

Here are some tips for baby massage strokes:

massaging Legs and Feet

  • Hold the leg with one hand and wrap your other hand around the thigh. Pull through to ankle. Repeat, alternating the hand that holds and the hand that strokes so that you have a ‘milking’ effect.
  • Cradling the foot in both hands use the balls of your thumbs to ‘walk’ over the sole with even pressures.
  • Still cradling the foot stoke the upper side, from toes upward, with the side of your thumb. Repeat.
  • Embrace the foot and pause. “This is your foot!”
  • With your fingers together place your hands either side of the thigh and rotate all the way to the ankle (giving the effect of ‘rolling out’ – great for play too!). Repeat.
  • Embrace the leg with both hands and pause. “This is your leg!”
  • Now proceed to other leg

massaging the Abdomen

Make sure your hands are below the ribs at all times

  • With fingers together apply sweeping clockwise strokes circling the abdomen first with one hand and then the other (avoid pressure over the bladder).
  • Fold knees into abdomen and hold for 10 seconds then release knees, cradle legs and give a little jiggle to loosen up.

Repeat both the above in the order given.

  • Rest hands on abdomen and pause. “This is your tummy!”

NB You may want to try the abdominal massage with each nappy change if your baby is prone to colic or constipation.

Massaging the Chest

  • With fingers together place hands on centre of chest then smooth outwards until hands are aligned with armpits, either side of chest. Repeat
  • Rest hands on chest and pause. “This is your chest!”

Massaging the Arms

  • Hold the arm with one hand and wrap your other hand around the upper arm. Pull through to wrist. Repeat, alternating the hand that holds and the hand that strokes so that you have a ‘milking’ effect.
  • With your fingers together place your hands on either side of the upper arm and rotate down to wrist (giving the effect of ‘rolling out’ – great for play too!). Repeat.
  • Embrace the arm with both hands and pause. “This is your arm!”
  • Embrace the hand with both your hands and pause. “This is your hand!”
  • Now massge the other arm

massaging the Face

  • Cup your hands over the face then move them apart with a smoothing action over the brow as you go to greet your baby (peek aboo!).
  • With your fingertips apply moderate pressure over cheeks, doing circles on the spot.
  • Move behind the ears and repeat circles on the spot.
  • Cup the face with both hands and pause. “This is your face!”

massaging the Back

  • With both hands cradling the crown of the head, fingers together, stroke all the way to toes (“see how long you are”). Repeat.
  • Embrace the back with both hands and pause. “This is your back!”

For more information see Baby Massage or Baby Care

Contributed by Anne White
Nurse, Massage Therapist and IAIM trained Infant Massage Instructor