Getting Started: Oil and Permission

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Put a small amount of oil on your hands and rub them together, making a swishing sound. This lets baby know it is time to start the massage.

Choosing a Massage Oil Involves
Many Considerations Including:

  • Cultural preference
  • Family tradition
  • Availability
  • Cost

Your class instructor will be familiar with oils available in your area and can help you as a parent select an oil that you and your baby will be happy with.

Cold Pressed Oil and Unscented Vegetable Oils

Generally we recommend cold pressed, unscented fruit and vegetable oils such as safflower, sunflower or fractionated coconut oil because:

  • They are non-toxic and safe if ingested
  • They can contain beneficial nutrients, such as vitamin E, which are good for the skin
  • They contain nutrients that help prevent rancidity
  • These oils are less slippery when applied, so it’s safer to handle your baby after application
  • They have no added scent, so infants can still enjoy their parents’ natural smell, and are not overwhelmed

Use an oil to massage your baby that you would eat on a salad – one that is fresh, natural, pure and unscented. Perhaps you already have an appropriate oil in your kitchen. Put it in a small squeeze bottle, if possible, to prevent spills.

Put just a bit on the palm of your hand, and rub them together to make a swishing sound. Show your hands to your baby, and verbally ask permission from your baby to give him/her a massage (see Asking Permission: A Vital Step for Parents, to the right). Watch your baby to see how she or he responds. Is she saying “yes” or “no”?


A key component of the Infant Massage Program is guiding parents to ask permission
of their baby.

Howard Steele, Associate Professor of Psychology, and Co-Director, Center for Attachment Research, New School for Social Research, Editor, Attachment & Human Development

Eye contact is an important part of doing a massage, and making a deep connection with your child. This mom and baby enjoy their special time together in an infant massage class in Spain.

Asking Permission: A Vital Step for Parents

Receiving permission from your baby is important before beginning massage. Some people have difficulty imagining how a baby could possibly tell them s/he is ready and willing to be massaged. Of course, answering this question requires an appreciation for the interpersonal capacities of newborn human infants, the meaning of their gaze, their facial expressions, their posture, and other non-verbal or pre-verbal expressions of comfort or distress.

Baby massage instruction helps you recognize your baby’s range of emotional and behavioral expressions. Learning when and how to seek permission before massaging a baby is an important skill  not only for infant massage, but also achieving mastery of the care-giving skills needed to provide what a baby needs most: love and a secure infant-caregiver attachment.


IAIM MISSION: The purpose of the International Association of Infant Massage is to promote nurturing touch and communication through training, education and research so that parents, caregivers and children are loved, valued and respected throughout the world community.