Published: Wednesday 24 May 2017

Oil is used to make the massage experience more pleasurable for both the baby and the parent or carer. However it is important to use the correct type of oil.

For infants without any special needs, the International Association of Infant Massage recommends the use of natural, edible and food-grade fruit or vegetable oil. Organic and cold-pressed are recommended, but by no means the only choice. This means we can look in the baking/cooking aisle of the grocery store.

Extra virgin olive oil was, until recently, the oil of choice however recent research suggested that it can break down skin cells. This appears to still be causing some controversy. For this reason we are currently recommending sunflower oil for baby massage. There has also been a small study on the use of sunflower oil however no clear guidelines have yet been produced.

Babies will tend to chew, suck and gnaw on their hands, feet and the hands of their caregivers. They end up eating the oil. If it is oil that you would cook or bake with and be comfortable feeding to a child, then it is oil that that can be used to massage a baby.

Patch testing

Generally, a patch test is advised. Ask parents or carers to check this at home and follow the following guidelines:

  • Rub a small amount on an area that your baby cannot further irritate (if irritation occurs).
  • If no redness and/or bumps appear after about 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.

Which oils are generally considered safe?

  • Sunflower oil
  • Grape seed
  • Fractionated coconut
  • Almond - botanically, almond is a fruit related to the plum & peach family. It is a tree nut, so do take care (not recommended in childcare settings where nut allergies may be a problem).

Beware of oils produced for cosmetic purposes. Typical "massage oils" are not food grade and so suitable for babies.

We cover the use of oils in our Diploma in Teaching Infant Massage course, which takes place at locations across the UK including Birmingham, Bristol, Doncaster, Glasgow, London, Brighton and Hove, Newcastle and Manchester, or you can choose to take our distance learning option. Drop us a line to find out more.

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