Olive Oil: Safe to Massage a Baby?

Medically Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on July 14, 2023
3 min read

Massaging your baby is a great way to bond with your child and help relieve any stress. Massages help loosen tightness in your baby's muscles and soothe aches. You can use lotion, or you may be looking for a more natural alternative, like olive oil. But is olive oil safe to use on your baby’s skin?

Olive oil is made from olives. It’s rich in vitamin E, antioxidants, and things like squalene and oleocanthal, which may help repair skin damage. Olive oil is also not toxic for babies, kills dangerous microbes, and is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction, which makes it a good choice for your baby’s delicate skin. 

Olive oil is an ingredient in many hair and skin products, but virgin olive oil is also safe enough to put directly on the skin. 

Olive oil can help moisturize itchy or dry skin. It can also ease symptoms of skin conditions like eczema, cradle cap, and diaper rash. You can use it in place of an ointment or diaper rash cream if your baby gets a diaper rash. 

If baby wipes irritate your baby's skin, try using olive oil on a wet washcloth instead. If any oil gets on your baby’s hands and they put their hands in their mouth, it will be safe for them to swallow.

Massaging your baby encourages your bond, especially when you also:

  • Make eye contact
  • Smile at them
  • Talk in a soothing voice
  • Touch them in a loving way
  • Hold their hand, kiss their forehead, etc.

Massages improve the oxygen flow and use of nutrients in your baby’s bloodstream. They may boost the release of hormones, including growth hormones that help your baby gain healthy weight and develop their brain. Massages also let your baby gain awareness of their body.

To boost your baby's blood flow with massage:

Massage their legs and feet. Hold your baby’s foot with one hand and use your other hand to gently squeeze their leg, starting at the upper thigh and working down to the ankle. Then reverse and gently squeeze your baby's leg from their ankle back up to their thigh. Move to their feet and use your thumbs to put pressure to each part of the foot. Squeeze and uncurl each toe to stretch them out.

Massage their head. Hold your baby’s head with your thumbs on either side of their temples. Work your thumbs in a circular motion around the temples and down around their ears and neck.

Massage their face. Instead of using pressure as you did on their head, gently stroke your baby’s face. Put the outsides of each hand in the middle of their forehead and stroke outward toward their ears and down their cheeks. Trace each part of your baby's face, including eyebrows, cheeks, nose, and lips.

Massage their chest. Working from the center of your baby's chest to the sides, gently apply pressure as if you were opening a book.

Massage their stomach. The natural path of digestion is clockwise, so follow a clockwise motion to massage your baby’s stomach in circles. This helps improve digestion. Begin at your baby's belly button and work toward the outside of the stomach. With your fingertips, draw an oval below the belly button.

Massage their back. Rub up and down on either side of your baby's spine. Put your thumbs on each side of the spine and make gentle circular motions.

Remove the oil. Olive oil may end up on your or your baby’s clothes and can be hard to remove. Follow these tips to remove the stain:

  • Blot it with paper towels to remove excess oil.
  • Soak the spot in undiluted detergent for 5 minutes.
  • Wash as usual.
  • Check that the stain is gone before drying your clothes, as drying will make the stain permanent.

If these steps don’t work, cover the stain in corn starch or baking soda and allow it to absorb the oil overnight.