The act of massaging our babies has been shown to have so many benefits when techniques are practised correctly. The medium we use to massage our babies with is also vitally important.

Why is it important to use the right oil for baby massage? There are several reasons why we need to carefully consider what oil we apply to our baby’s skin:

  1. Babies are born with immature systems and it takes some time for them to become accustomed to the world around them. Neonatal skin does not mature until 3 months of age so is more sensitive and permeable to certain substances.
  2. Our skin is our largest organ with the potential to absorb any substance applied to it.
  3. Due to their immature systems babies and young children are less capable of metabolizing substances and dealing with any adverse reactions.
  4. Babies need to smell their own mothers’ and fathers’ scent to facilitate bonding and help establish breastfeeding.
  5. Infants tend to put their hands and feet into their mouths.
What are the best oils to use for baby massage
Pure, cold pressed fruit, nut, vegetable or seed oil

The term “cold pressed” means no heat has been used to extract the oil, instead pressure is used to obtain the oil from its source. Heat causes molecules to expand, making it more difficult to be absorbed into the skin.

An oil that is free from pesticides

An organic or pesticide-free oil is preferable for baby massage to avoid the potential absorption of harmful chemicals into the bloodstream. If you can’t find an organic oil, ensure it is high quality.

An oil that is edible 

The baby massage oil needs to be an edible oil as there is a chance it may be ingested by baby. However, just because an oil is edible doesn’t make it suitable for massage, see below.

What oils should we avoid using in baby massage.

Oils that are scented

Your baby massage oil should not contain any essential oils or synthetic fragrances.

Synthetic fragrances have a high incidence of adverse reactions, not just in babies. Whilst essential oils are obviously a huge part of my life and work, when it comes to babies the best advice is to do without.  Essential oils are natural but they are also very concentrated and are a big safety risk when it comes to babies and young children.

We encounter fragrances everywhere. Newborns already have a lot to navigate in their environment, so there is no need to add to this.
It is highly recommended to consult a qualified aromatherapist when using essential oils around children under 12 months of age. You can find further information on aromatherapy and babies here 

Olive oil

Whilst olive oil fits the description above, it’s not the best choice. Olive oil is too thick to be absorbed by the skin. Oil sitting on the surface of the skin prevents the skin from “breathing” and can lead to rashes and eczema.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is very popular, but is not the best oil for baby massage. I’ve always been reluctant to recommend coconut oil and recent information from IMIS (Infant Massage Information Service) has clarified that coconut oil, virgin or rectified, is not the best choice for the following reasons.

Virgin coconut oil is not recommended due to its strong fragrance. As per the first point above, it’s important babies can smell their parents’ signature scent (what they usually smell like) during baby massage. IMIS recommend coconut oil is not used in regular baby massage until 12 months of age.

Also, as virgin coconut oil solidifies at 24°C, it often needs to be warmed prior to use making it less convenient.

Fractionated coconut oil has no fragrance. However, this is definitely not recommended for massage. To fractionate the oil, it goes through a complex process, being heated to high temperatures and then reconstituted.  So fractionated coconut oil is not a natural product and is not the best choice for baby massage.

What about NUT allergies?

If there is a family history of nut or seed allergies you may be concerned about using a nut or seed oil, such as almond or sesame. Peanut oil is definitely not recommended for use on babies, but refined almond or sesame oil is suitable. Allergies are usually related to the nut protein which would not be found in a refined almond or sesame oil. However, to be on the safe side you may prefer to use an alternative such as apricot kernel oil or jojoba oil. Jojoba is a little thicker so is generally best mixed with another base oil.

It is also recommended to do a patch test if there is a concern for allergies. To do a patch test, place a drop of the oil in the elbow crease and behind the knee in the morning. Observe those areas throughout the day. If is no irritation or redness, the product should be safe to use. If there is any reaction, remove with warm, soapy water and seek medical attention if concerned.


In summary – the dos and don’ts of choosing the best baby massage oil


– cold pressed
– organic (or at least pesticide free)
– fruit, nut, vegetable or seed oil
– edible oil


– essential oils or fragrance
– olive oil
– sunflower oil
– peanut oil
– mustard oil
– virgin coconut oil under 12 months
– fractionated coconut oil at any age


– sweet almond oil
– apricot kernel oil
– sesame oil
– jojoba oil

Massage oil for babies

Mother Nurture’s Baby Massage oil is a blend of organic apricot kernel and jojoba oils.

Are you keen to learn the important skill of baby massage?
I offer infant massage classes in Melbourne and online. Classes include introductory sessions or full courses and can be done in a group or privately. Click here for more information and bookings or contact me if you’re interested in learning more.