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4 Keys to Infant Massage for Sleep and How it Benefits Baby

If something is proven to encourage bonding, better sleep, and less fussiness with your baby, would you give it a try? If you’re thinking, “Heck ya I would!” then read on. We’ve got the scoop on what baby massage is all about, why it’s beneficial, and how to incorporate it into your baby’s bedtime routine.

In This Article 


What is Baby Massage?

What are the Benefits of Infant Massage? 

How do you do it correctly?

Common Questions from New Parents

Baby being massaged.

We’re all about the parenting hacks here at Nested Bean. There are so many well-researched, effective ways to encourage infant wellness that parents just don’t hear about, and baby massage is certainly one of them! Done correctly, there are many benefits to integrating a massage into your baby’s bedtime routine.  So, we’re excited to share the what, why, and how behind baby massage, and  help you build a well rounded nightly ritual for baby.

What is Baby Massage?

Let’s start from the beginning. Baby massage isn’t something you often see or hear talked about, so what exactly is it? It’s the practice of using light pressure touches to soothe and bond with your baby. It’s an exploration of what gentle touch is helpful and soothing to your infant. Not every baby massage will look the same because each baby is different and will respond positively or negatively to certain things. Your baby might even respond differently each time you give them a massage. So, let’s get into why infant massage for sleep can be beneficial and how to do it properly — by paying attention to your little one’s signals and figuring out what works best for them! 

What are the Benefits of Infant Massage?

Mom massaging baby.

  • Parent and Baby Bonding

Along with having several potential health benefits, baby massages can also promote your little one’s emotional health by helping to strengthen the bond between baby and parents. Skin-to-skin contact is an integral part of bonding with baby, and touch is essential to  your little one’s emotional development. Bedtime massages are  an excellent way to make skin-to-skin bonding a part of your everyday routine. 

  • Sound Sleep

Your touch can release the “feel-good” hormones, dopamine and oxytocin,  in your little one. A parent’s touch has been scientifically proven to soothe and help babies sleep, and baby massage has been shown to aid the infant hormones that manage stress. So, while a massage can help calm fussiness any time of day, it’s especially valuable as a part of an essential bedtime routine. The soothing effects of your touch can lull them and help baby sleep. This sensation and the benefits of touch are an essential element to the design of our gently weighted sleepwear. Lightly weighted pads extend the gentle pressure of your touch during sleep so babies can continue to experience the soothing feelings a massage provides even well they sleep.

  • Ease Tummy Troubles

Some specific massage techniques can help ease gastrointestinal discomfort by aiding digestion. It’s a great daily tool if your baby tends to struggle with constipation, gas, and other stomach discomforts. 

  • Development

According to Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, infant social, emotional, and cognitive development is formed, in part, by touch. So, along with all the other benefits of baby massage, as it turns out it could also support essential parts of your child’s development. It improves responsiveness in infants and can trigger growth hormones to support both cognitive and physical progress. There’s even research that suggests baby massage can even help support immune system function in infants when practiced regularly. Our founder writes more about the role touch plays in raising happy children.

Pro Tip: 

If you have a fussy sleeper or are just trying to find the bedtime routine that works best for your family, try Zen Sleepwear. It’s gently weighted in key areas to mimic the soothing sensation and health benefits of your touch to continue comforting baby even after their evening massage. We call this sensation the The Cuddle Effect™ and it helps babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer in as little as 1 to 3 nights. Join over 1 million parents who have experienced the benefits of our lightly weighted sleepwear. 

How do I do it correctly?

Baby getting a hand massage.

  • Wait After Meal Time

The first key to proper infant massage is timing. You want to ensure that your baby has had time to digest their most recent meal before beginning the massage. So, a good rule of thumb is about an hour or more after mealtime. 

  • Timing is Everything

Sometimes your baby will be more interested in a massage than others. If they’re 
calm and relaxed when you touch them, it’s probably a good time! If they tense up 
and pull or look away from you, it might be best to try again later.

  • Set the Scene

 Similar to the ideal spot for bedtime, you want to set up for the massage in a calm, quiet place. Too much stimulation in the surroundings and your baby might be too distracted to reap all the benefits. Lay your little one on their back on top of the changing table or a blanket. You might even want to talk (or sing) softly while you get ready and during the massage to soothe the baby even further. Also, try to maintain eye contact to reassure your little one that everything’s okay and it’s time to relax.

  • Head-to-Toe

You want to spend a bit of time softly massaging different areas of the body, whatever amount of time feels natural for you and your little one. Thirty seconds to a minute per area tends to be a good starting point. Start at the torso with baby’s chest and tummy, rubbing in a circular motion. Then see which other areas of baby’s body seem to soothe them — this can include the back of baby’s head, shoulders, hands, and feet. Be careful to tread lightly on baby’s skin, because you want be sure to avoid tickling them. If your baby is comfortable with it, try to gently flex and extend their limbs as well. 

Remember, it’s vital to listen to your baby and watch their physical cues. Keep an eye out for things that seem to make them tense up and things that help them relax. There are certainly best practices when it comes to baby massage for sleep, but your little one will let you know what works for them along the way. 

  • Massage Oil

You don’t have to use oil if it’s too messy for your bedtime routine, but it can help prevent tension between your hands and baby’s body. The use of massage oil or lotion can also help nourish your baby’s skin.

Common questions from new parents

  • What is Baby Massage?

  • Why is it Important?

  • How Do I Know if My Baby Likes Messages?

  • Where Can I Massage My Baby?

  • How Does Zen Sleepwear™ Help Get Baby to Sleep?

  • How Can I Learn More About Infant Massage?

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