Published: Tuesday 20 November 2018

To Baby and Beyond do not recommend any specific oil for infant massage but offer the following guidance for parents wishing to use oil for baby massage.

In line with NHS guidance, we recommend not using any oil until baby is 4-6 weeks old due to the development of the skin layers.

For infants without any special needs, the International Association of Infant Massage recommends the use of natural, edible cold-pressed vegetable oil. Cold-pressed oils are recommended, but by no means the only choice.

Until recently, extra virgin olive was the oil of choice. However, recent research suggested that it can break down skin cells due to the high levels (around 65-70%) of oleic acid.

There has also recently been information from the Royal College of Midwives that sunflower oil may also be damaging to skin cells. There is little research and evidence on the use of other oils such as grapeseed and coconut oil.

Babies will tend to chew, suck and gnaw on their hands, feet and the hands of their caregivers. While more commercial baby products have been suggested at times, an edible oil may be more suitable for this reason. If using an edible oil, it is preferable that one which has a lower level of oleic acid is used.

If parents are planning on using oil generally, a patch test is advised; get parents to check this at home, or early on your first session and follow the following guidelines:

  • If irritation occurs, rub a small amount on an area that your baby cannot further irritate.
  • If no redness and/or bumps appear after about 15-20 minutes and/or if your baby does not seem to be having any systemic reaction (check respiration and skin & muscle tone), then you're probably doing fine with the chosen oil.

Oils which may be suitable for baby massage

  • Fractionated coconut / coconut
  • Calendula (marigold seeds)
  • Sunflower oil (although see above)
  • Grapeseed

Aromatherapy oils are not recommended for babies under 6 months and should only be added / used / recommended by a qualified aromatherapist.

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