Traditional practice of oil massage of neonates in Bangladesh

J Health Popul Nutr. 2002 Jun;20(2):184-8.


Topical application of natural oils is practised routinely in many countries and may either improve skin barrier function and health or have detrimental cutaneous and systemic effects, depending on the composition of the oil. Little literature on the epidemiology, practice, and perceptions of traditional neonatal oil massage is available. This study was undertaken to gain insights into the epidemiology, practice, and perceptions regarding traditional oil massage of Bangladeshi neonates. A questionnaire was administered verbally to the primary caretaker of 332 outpatients at the Dhaka Shishu Hospital, and to 20 women with children encountered at the Matlab Health Complex in Bangladesh. More than 96% (340/352) of the caregivers practised oil massage, irrespective of socioeconomic status and place of residence. Among those at the Dhaka Shishu Hospital who practised oil massage, mustard oil was used alone or in combination by 95% (303/320) over the entire body, 1-3 time(s) daily (96%), starting in the first three days of life (72%) in both term and preterm neonates. Perceived benefits included prevention of infections (69%) and hypothermia (2%). Oil massage is an important traditional domiciliary practice used annually on more than three million newborns in Bangladesh. Given its potential for beneficial and harmful effects, further research is needed on the value of this practice, and ways to optimize its beneficial effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Bangladesh
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia / prevention & control
  • Infant
  • Infant Care / methods*
  • Infant Care / psychology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infection Control / methods
  • Massage*
  • Oils* / adverse effects
  • Perception
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Oils