Infant Massage

What kind of oil should I use to massage my baby?

Today our guest blogger is Cristina Stauffer, LMSW, CEIM and infant massage instructor. She’s sharing some wisdom about what oils to use on your baby.

One of the most common questions I get related to infant massage is about what kind of oil to use. The International Association of Infant Massage recommends high quality (preferably organic), unscented, cold pressed fruit or vegetable oils as the gold standard for infant massage. Cold-pressed oil is produced by mechanically pressing vegetables, fruits, seeds or nuts with a low temperature. Many parents are skeptical at first. “Cooking oil?” they will ask. Yes, cooking oil! A food-based oil is really best for infant massage. There are many great options to choose from – grapeseed oil and safflower oil are two of my personal favorites, but coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, apricot oil, sweet almond oil, and even olive oil can be good choices too. Be mindful about potential allergies and sensitivities – a nut oil might not be a great option for a baby with possible allergies or family history of nut allergies.

You still might be wondering why a food-based oil is the preferred choice. Read on to learn 5 reasons why you should use a fruit or vegetable oil to massage your baby.

Reason #1 – Massage oil absorbs into your baby’s skin. Commercial baby oil is petroleum based and often has added chemicals and fragrance. Would you rather expose your baby’s delicate skin to a natural fruit or vegetable product or a product that is manufactured with lots of additives? The choice seems pretty easy to me. Plus food-based oils are edible and are therefore recognized as digestible food by the body. Food-based oils also contain beneficial vitamins and minerals and are very nourishing to the skin.

Reason #2 – You don’t have to worry if baby gets food-based oil in their mouth or eyes. We all know how frequently babies put their hands in their mouth or up to their face. If baby still has oil on their hands or arms from massage and bring their hands to their face, the chances of irritation is much less with a food based oil than with a petroleum based product. Again, food-based oils are safe and edible.

Reason #3 – Using an unscented oil allows the caregiver’s natural smell to be transmitted to the baby during the massage which is an important element of bonding. There is nothing more comforting to a baby than the smell of their mom or dad. Massaging with a food-based oil allows these natural smells to become part of the benefit of massage for the baby. It is not necessary to use something with added fragrance.

infant massage oils

As essential oils have grown more popular, parents also ask about using essential oils as part of infant massage. Although some essential oils can be safely used on babies with proper dilution, it is not recommended during infant massage. If you still want to incorporate essential oils into your massage experience, stick to diffusing them into the air rather than using them topically.

Reason #4 – Food-based oils are less slippery than commercial baby oils or massage oils. Try rubbing a drop or two of cooking oil (any kind) into the top of your hand. You will find that the oil absorbs quickly and is not overly heavy or greasy. During the practice of infant massage, we apply more oil to our hands as needed to make sure that our hands will glide over the baby’s skin easily; however, baby’s skin is left feeling soft and not greasy because the oil absorbs so readily. Babies do not become so slippery during the massage process that it is unsafe or challenging to handle or dress them.

Reason #5 – Food-based oil is inexpensive to buy and easy to find. When I began teaching infant massage in 2005, finding an organic oil was a little more challenging and usually entailed a trip to the local health food store. Today, you can find a variety of organic, cold pressed oils at most grocery stores or food retailers. The bottle will have an expiration date and will provide recommendations on shelf life and how to properly store your oil. To make the oil easier to use during massage, I will pour 1-2 ounces of oil into a smaller bottle with a flip top cap and store the large bottle in the refrigerator.

Are you looking for advice and support from a professional? At Gold Coast Doulas, we provide newborn care and support as part of our postpartum services. Contact us today!

There is one drawback to using a food-based oil for massage. It can spoil and become rancid over time. Store your oil in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator. Before beginning your massage session, be sure to give your oil a good sniff before hand – believe me, you will be able to tell right away of your oil has gone bad. If you store it properly and check it before each massage, a bottle of oil should last you for quite some time.

I hope you have learned a few things about how to choose the right oil for infant massage.

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Kristin & Alyssa


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