Oils for Baby Massage (And what to Avoid)

Massages are soothing and healthy for your baby — and you might just enjoy them, too.

Using the right oil for your baby massage can make all the difference. Massage oils help protect your baby’s soft, delicate skin and moisturize at the same time.

However, not all oils are made equal — and they’re not all good for baby’s skin. Just because an oil is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe to use for a baby massage.

Let’s look at the best oils to use for a baby massage and which oils you should avoid.

Advantages of baby massage

Regular baby massages can help you and baby bond. Touch is a language both adults and babies can understand. Baby massages can help comfort and relax both of you!

During a baby massage, you and your little one are facing each other — without an embarrassing dirty diaper in the middle — and making eye contact. This helps your baby learn your facial expressions and develop their communication skills.

Massaging your baby regularly can also help develop their brain and nervous system.

Plenty of medical studies show that regular touch and attachment with a parent or caregiver are necessary for healthy brain and emotional development in a baby. The benefits of are lifelong!

Which oils are best?

You can choose from a variety of oils that are normally safe for baby’s tender skin. Try these oils during a baby massage and for moisturizing their skin. Some might suit your baby’s skin better than others.

The best oils to use during a baby massage — in no particular order — include:

Coconut oil

A 2020 medical study found that applying virgin coconut oil on premature newborns helped improve and strengthen their skin. It can do the same for newborns and older babies as a massage oil and moisturizer.

Several other studies also support these findings, but more research is needed.

Almond oil

Almond oil is rich in vitamin E, and clinical research from 2020 shows that it’s safe to use as a baby massage oil. The researchers found that using almond oil on premature babies improved their skin’s thickness and strength — and didn’t cause any side effects.

Petroleum jelly

Petroleum ointment or jelly (also known by the brand name Vaseline) may have been your mother’s choice of baby lotion, and for good reasons — this tried-and- true product is good for your baby’s skin as a massage oil.

Baby oil

Baby oil is actually a mineral oil. A 2012 medical review showed that, like petroleum jelly, mineral oils are safe to use on baby’s skin.

Shea butter

Shea butter is a creamy natural moisturizer that’s safe for your baby’s thin skin. Look for pure shea butter that doesn’t have any added perfumes or chemicals.

Safflower oil

Safflower oil is a cold-pressed vegetable oil that contains vitamin E. Cold- pressed means that it’s less processed than other kinds of oils.

This makes it a good choice to use as a massage oil for your baby.

Grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil is a cold-pressed oil that’s normally safe to use as a massage oil on your baby.

Chamomile lotion

Chamomile lotion is soothing for baby eczema and diaper rashes and safe to use as a baby massage oil. It helps heal and soothe dry, itchy skin and can also help your little one relax!

Jojoba oil

Jojoba oil is recommended for babies with eczema because it helps heal the skin. It’s also high in vitamin E. Use cold-pressed jojoba oil for your baby’s massages.

Borage seed oil

Borage seed oil is high in a fatty acid that can help soothe and heal your baby’s skin. It’s safe to use as a massage oil even if your baby has eczema.

Rose hip oil

Rose hip oil is high in fats that are good for baby’s skin and help build it up. It helps soothe redness and irritation in baby eczema and other skin rashes.

Oat oil

You might find oat oil listed as “Avena sativa” in your body lotion. This common skin care ingredient helps heal skin rashes and get rid of dry, itchy skin.

Oat oil is generally safe for baby’s skin.

Eczema cream

If your baby has mild to severe eczema, it may be best to use the cream your pediatrician has prescribed for them. Baby’s very sensitive skin or eczema rashes may have reactions to oils that are otherwise safe to use.

Which oils should you avoid?

Even natural oils can cause skin irritation and may not be safe for your baby. Oils to avoid using on your baby’s skin include:

Olive oil

While olive oil is a heart-healthy choice for your daily diet, it’s not good for your baby’s delicate skin (or your skin).

One of the fats in olive oil is called oleic acid. This fat can break down skin instead of improving it. Olive oil is especially not safe if you or your baby have eczema or other skin rashes.

Avocado oil

While mashed avocados are a great baby food for when your little one starts on solids, avocado oil is not great for baby’s skin.

Like olive oil, avocado oil contains the fat oleic acid. This can lead to skin irritation and breakdown.

Peanut oil

Peanut oil contains peanut proteins. Some babies may be sensitive to peanuts or develop an allergy to peanuts. Using peanut oil can result in skin irritation and may lead to reactions in your baby.

Mustard oil

This “spicy” oil can irritate and heat up your baby’s skin.

Soybean oil

Like olive oil, soybean oil may break down the skin’s barrier and cause irritation and redness.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil has antibacterial and antiviral properties but can cause irritation on baby’s delicate skin.

Other essential oils

Essential oils are very concentrated and can be irritating for both babies and adults, so be careful in selecting other oils for baby massage. (Some are safe, but essential oils must always be diluted before use on skin.)

ishonest Parenthood’s picks of the best baby massage oils

Burt’s Bees Baby Nourishing Baby Oil

You can feel good about using this hypoallergenic baby oil that’s made with natural ingredients and is packed with antioxidants and vitamins. With a base of apricot and grapeseed oil, this baby oil is designed to relieve any irritation caused by dry skin. As an added bonus, you can use this oil to moisturize your own skin as well.

Cocobelle Baby Organic Coconut Oil

Recent research has shown that applying virgin coconut oil to premature newborns can help to improve and strengthen their skin. It can provide the same benefits for newborns and older babies when used as a massage oil and moisturizer.This product is made with 100 percent virgin coconut oil and is known to be gentle on the skin, in addition to being useful for other needs such as makeup removal or chapped lips.

Blue Nectar Schubhr Baby Body Massage Oil

One 2020 study showed that almond oil is safe to use as a baby massage oil on premature babies to improve their skin’s thickness and strength without associated side effects. This oil is composed of almond oil, which is rich in vitamin E, along with organic ghee and coconut oil for added moisture.

Johnson’s Baby Oil with Shea and Cocoa Butter

Johnson’s baby products have been on the market and trusted forever. Paired with shea and cocoa butter — ingredients commonly found in body moisturizers and known to be safe for babies’ thin skin — this oil is an affordable find that you can trust to get the job done.

Vaseline Baby Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly is a tried-and-true product to moisturize dry, chafed and irritated skin. Vaseline is known to be the gold standard, so it’s no surprise that it offers a hypoallergenic formula to soothe baby skin and relieve diaper rash. The baby formula also offers a nice and subtle baby powder fragrance.

Earth Mama Calendula Baby Oil

This fragrance-free moisturizing oil combines calendula and grapeseed oils for an irritant-free option to soothe your baby’s dry skin. It’s also a good option for massage and cradle cap treatment.

Motherlove Birth & Baby Oil

This oil is made with just two ingredients, lavender and apricot oil, and no essential oils or fragrances. In addition to using for massaging and moisturizing your baby’s skin, this oil can also be used to bring you soothing comfort during labor.

Tips on giving your baby a massage

Here’s a step-by-step guide and tips for giving your baby a massage. Remember, there’s no one right way to do it!

  1. If you haven’t used a certain kind of massage oil on your baby before, do a test patch the day before. Rub a small amount of the oil on the inside of your baby’s elbow or on their stomach. Check the area in an hour or longer for any reaction.
  2. Make sure the room is warm enough to remove all your baby’s clothes except their diaper.
  3. Undress your baby and lay them on a soft but firm surface so that they’re facing you.
  4. Warm up the massage oil slightly before using it on your baby. If it’s not too cold, you can leave it at room temperature and just warm it up by rubbing your hands together.
  5. Talk to your baby and show them that you’re rubbing your hands, so they know the massage is about to start.
  6. Gently place your hands on your baby’s tummy or chest.
  7. Massage their tummy and chest with clockwise circular motions.
  8. Move on to your baby’s arms or legs. Hold their wrist or ankle to support their arm or leg as you massage.
  9. Use gentle strokes with your hands or just your fingers touching your baby’s skin. Stroke their limbs and body in the direction of their heart.
  10. Use your fingers only to gently massage your baby’s neck, face, and head.
  11. Turn your baby over and massage their back.
  12. If your baby gets upset or too wiggly, stop the massage (it’s hard to handle a slippery baby!).
  13. If your baby falls asleep, stop the massage.
  14. Leave the massage oil on after the massage and dress your baby. The massage oil will help moisturize and soothe your baby’s skin.

The takeaway

A baby massage is great way to bond with your baby. It can even help them grow and develop better.

This is also good for your baby’s skin — if you use the right massage oil.

Some natural oils have ingredients that can irritate or break down the skin or cause rashes and tiny bumps. Not all healthy oils are good for your baby’s skin.

Check with your pediatrician if you’re unsure about what kind of massage oil to use.

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