Babies, especially newborns, like to be held by loving hands coupled by a soothing voice. An enjoyable way to express these to your baby is through infant massage. Just like with us adults, massages help relax baby muscles and improve blood circulation. Aside from that, a baby massage may help ease colic, improve sleep, strengthen immune system and aid digestion.

Excited to see how your little one will respond to your strokes of love? Here are some useful tips before you get started.

1. Time it right. Schedule your massage ritual when your baby is not fussy or hungry. Both of you will enjoy bonding when she is relaxed and more receptive. The best time is after giving her a bath or after a diaper change.

Also consider your schedule. Nobody wants a hurried massage, so pick a time when you are not busy with other things like cooking. Your baby might be able to sense your stress and will not respond positively from the massage.

2. Set the atmosphere. There’s no need to light scented candles. Just lay your baby on a soft surface where she can switch from her back to her tummy. Spread a blanket on a bed, a towel on the floor or simply use the changing table.

Keep the room temperature warm and draft free. Play soft music in the background. Better yet, talk to your baby or sing some songs. Keep her attention while maintaining a relaxing atmosphere. Stay away from the telephone and turn off the TV.

3. Skin-to-skin. Take off your baby’s clothes and massage with just her diaper on. The warmth of your hands will bring your baby comfort and security. The friction from skin-to-skin contact helps release tension and stimulates the nerves. Keep at least one hand on the baby at all times.

Remember to just use light strokes on baby’s delicate body. Focus on the tummy and back, move on to the head and face, and then work on her limbs and appendages. Casually add butterfly kisses whenever you feel like it.

4. Lubricate with love. You can use baby oil or lotion when massaging your baby. Mineral oil or natural oils are okay, as long as you test for allergies beforehand. Rub the oil or lotion on your hand first before applying on your baby.

Lubrication is optional and you can just give your baby a dry rub if you like. Do not use lubricants on her head.

5. Try different strokes. There are many ways to rub your baby. One popular method is to massage towards the heart to increase lymphatic flow. Another widely used technique is to trace L-O-V-E on her tummy.

Use circular movements, vertical or horizontal strokes. Drum your fingers on her head and sides. Trace a heart shape on her face. Make up your own strokes, your baby will respond to them with delight or otherwise.

6. Follow your baby’s cues. First baby massages usually last no more than 5 minutes. Watch how she reacts from your rubbing and take the cue if she shows signs of disinterest. Don’t try to finish the whole ritual if your baby is not up to it. You can always try again at a later time.

7. Watch and learn. Watch infant massage videos to learn different techniques. You can also read books or join a massage or reflexology class for a more formal setting.

Bonding through physical contact is not only beneficial to the baby. Parents also feel relaxed during baby massage sessions. Massages can be given to full-term babies from day one. Ask your baby’s pediatrician for approval before giving massage to a pre-term baby.