Some new moms might easily be misled by the word “essential” because it basically means that it’s something you must have. When you are excitedly expecting your first or subsequent babies, part of the planning that has to happen is getting everything that baby must have – and the list is endless.
So, should essential oils be on this list? Are they something that an infant needs? Would your nursery be incomplete without an essential oil diffuser? Will you be a below-average mom if you don’t have a stock of essential oils to calm your fussy baby or apply it to whichever part of its tiny body that seems to be causing a flood of tears?
Of course, there’ll be a stream of relatives and friends who swear by this oil for this and that oil for that, but can their advice be trusted? Has enough research been done on essential oils by you, them, or specialists in the field of aromatherapy to justify rushing out and buying supplies of all the oils known to man (and there are many of them)?
First of all, you should calm down and trust your gut instinct. You’ve taken such good care of that baby during the nine months of pregnancy, when you shared your whole being with it. I am sure you watched what you ate or drank, and did everything you could to keep yourself and your little one safe and healthy. So, now that your baby is in your arms, you merely need to apply the same logic when it comes to buying and using any products that are baby-related – from choosing the best diapers, clothing, furniture, etc. down to deciding whether or not to use essential oils on your baby. Knowledge and common sense are your new best friends!
Whether you’re a recycled hippie like me, or a modern age mom who wants their baby to be happy, healthy, and wholesome, chances are you’ve been wondering if you should be using essential oils on your baby.
Just the words “essential oils” conjure up the idea of your baby sleeping peacefully surrounded by rose petals and lavender, or a curly-haired child running barefoot on the grass.
It seems that finding peace and wellbeing are becoming more important in our stressful world, and people are now looking to practices that were tried and tested by our ancestors to try to create a little bit of calm in their own lives. There’s probably no greater time of stress in a woman’s life than when she’s just brought a baby into the world and her natural instincts to do the best for that child are at their strongest.
It’s interesting to note that essential oils in aromatherapy have been used since 3,000 B.C. as part of natural health care. So, it’s easy to assume that if it’s natural, it must be safe. This is, in fact, far from the truth. I cannot stress strongly enough that using essential oils – especially with babies and young children – carries huge risks and should never be used without being certain about what you’re doing.
Some scientific research has been conducted in order to establish the specific health benefits of different herbs and plants, and which parts of the human body and mind are most likely to benefit from their use. It’s important to note that not all research has been done according to strict scientific regulations, so using essential oils with babies does carry some risk.
From skin irritations being treated with a topical application of a poultice to the use of diffusers to fill the air with mood-enhancing fragrances, there can hardly be a living soul who has not had some introduction to essential oils. In Asia, for instance, essential oil blends are used in food production because they have insecticidal and antiparasitic properties. In the Western world, we tend to use them more in treatments and generally for the “feel good” factor that comes from them.
So, if essential oils have all these known benefits, surely our babies should be smothered in them from birth!?
There is one crucial problem with that suggestion: It’s not safe to use all essential oils on baby’s skin – and especially not on the skin of newborns. It can also be dangerous for babies to take in essential oils by mouth, particularly if you are breastfeeding.
I may sound a little negative by talking about the dangers of using essential oils on babies and young children, but the strength of these oils, before diluting, could cause more problems than they solve and no loving parent would want to be responsible for causing any kind of harm to their baby.
Qualified aromatherapists have the necessary knowledge about which are safe essential oils for babies, as well as how to carry out safety checks, such as a patch test, prior to using essential oils on a baby. Before you consider using essential oils on any of your children, you should find out all you can about how to use them safely from a specialist in these oils. Many desperate moms rely on word-of-mouth recommendations or old wives tales without checking out whether that particular oil is right for their child.
One such reputable aromatherapist is Robert Tisserand He is an expert on aromatherapy and has excellent knowledge of the latest research in this field. He is also an author and many of his informative books can be bought on Amazon. He has developed a range of essential oils that you can buy for your baby and young children that can be used with confidence.
Tisserand states clearly that there are risks involved with using essential oils for babies and that when they are used without the necessary caution, or even ignorance, there can be disastrous results. He believes that if users are well-informed and follow safety guidlines, then they will be able to enjoy the benefits.
What do experts say about using essential oils on babies and young children?
During a Q&A session, Tisserand was asked whether he thought essential oils should be used on babies or young children, to which he replied:
“There is no need to use essential oils with very young children or new-born’s if there is nothing wrong with them.”
According to The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, it is NOT recommended to use essential oils on babies younger than 3 months.
In my opinion, that’s a good place to start.
So, if your baby is in need of some TLC, which essential oils should you use?
Used only on babies over 3 months old, essential oils can help with ailments such as anxiety, sleeplessness, breathing problems and even colic.
Essential oils have specific characteristics and cannot all just be used in the same way. Some are safe for use on the skin, while others definitely aren’t. Some can be taken orally and others cannot.
I think it is time that we had a look at specific essential oils and improve our knowledge of the names and uses of them.
Safe Essential Oils:
There are two types of Chamomile – German Chamomile and Roman Chamomile. Chamomile has a soothing effect and can be used to lull a restless baby to sleep. Perhaps a few drops of diluted Chamomile oil in warm bath water will calm baby down before a feed. When mixed with Lavender oil, it could ease the pain of colic.
Distilled lemon is a gentler citrus oil for babies and is recommended as a pep-up after a sleep.
Dill oil can be used to soothe indigestion, settle the tummy, and help your baby to relax. In a very diluted form, it could be gently massaged onto the baby’s tummy in circular motions.
Eucalyptus radiata is only safe for babies and children when indicated as such, so be careful to check the label. When diluted, this oil can help soothe a baby with a common cold because it is useful for unclogging stuffy noses and aiding breathing. Use with caution.
This oil is known for its calming qualities and can be used to quieten down a cranky baby. It’s also known to ease itchiness from bites and rashes, so it is useful for relieving cradle cap. There is evidence that Lavender oil can ease pain in babies and helps to lower heart rate.
Mandarin is another calming oil, and because it’s not phototoxic, it doesn’t usually cause skin irritation. This property makes it better for infants than other citrus oils. It’s ideal for using in a diffuser, especially for babies that do not care for the smell of Lavender.
7. Tea Tree Oil
(also known as Melaleuca oil)
This oil has disinfectant and antifungal properties. It can help to ease nappy rash and other minor infections, but it must be used with caution. Because it is a very strong oil, Tea Tree should not be used on babies under 6 months old, and for older babies, only after a patch test. Never apply this essential oil to broken skin.
How to dilute essential oils for babies:
Always remember to use a carrier oil (coconut is best for babies) when using essential oils on the skin.
For babies 3 months and older, it is recommended to use a dilution ratio of 0.5% essential oil to carrier oil – that’s 1 drop of essential oil to every 2 teaspoons of carrier oil.
Do not assume that because your little one has responded well to one essential oil, that he or she won’t have an allergic reaction to a different one. Always do a patch test on the baby’s skin (usually on the foot or arm) before any new oil is introduced.
Common essential oils NOT SAFE for babies:
Undiluted or diluted, there could be fatal consequences if these essential oils are taken orally or applied to the sensitive skin of infants and young children.
- Peppermint oil
A guide on essential oil safety:
Essential oils are extracted from different parts of plants and they are very concentrated. For this reason, they must never be applied directly onto the skin before being diluted. They have to be diluted in carrier oils, such as coconut oil or sunflower oil, and in very specific proportions. Olive oil is not to be used as a carrier oil for babies as it can damage the skin. Because babies have very sensitive skin, they need oils to be diluted even more than usual.
It’s crucial to know how to use each essential oil. Some are not safe to be used on the skin, but are safe in food. Others should only be used in a diffuser. Always read the labels.
It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about any essential oils you’re thinking to use because they may conflict with any other medications your baby is taking. They will also know if there are potential health risks that run in the family.
These oils should be treated with the same caution that you would exercise for any other medicine. Keep them locked up and completely out of reach of babies and young children. You should not keep them for longer than 3 years as they change over time and might not be as effective.
How to use a diffuser safely in your baby’s room:
There is a wide range of diffusers available that are specially made for nurseries. They come in all sorts of designs and some may even come with fancy extra gadgets, such as softly coloured lights for an added calming effect.
It’s very important to read the manufacturer’s instructions before using any diffuser in your baby’s room and check which oils are safe to use in these types of diffusers. The oils must be correctly diluted or else they could cause breathing problems or even trigger an asthma attack in babies who are at risk.
Remember to keep the nursery ventilated when diffusing essential oils anywhere near a baby.
The amount of time that a diffuser is used in a nursery is also an important factor. Do not leave it burning constantly and it should never be in close vicinity of the cot or bed. About 30 minutes at a time should be all that’s needed for your baby to benefit from the soothing effects of breathing in the oil.
The safe use of essential oils in baby massage:
You don’t have to use essential oils when giving your baby a massage, but it can make the gentle strokes even more soothing for both you and baby. The added benefits of using specific oils for problem areas could also have health benefits for your baby.
People in India have been using massage on babies since ancient times and claims have been made that the calming effects of the oils used in baby massage can improve digestion, circulation, and mood. I’m sure there are times when you and your little one could do with an improvement in all of the above!
When you massage baby’s skin, remember that you’re just smoothing it over the skin and not trying to rub the essential oil in. Massage can be done generally all over the baby’s body, at pressure points on the feet that link with specific organs (if you have this specialised knowledge), or near the problem areas. For example, massaging around the neck and jaw when your baby is teething, or using circular motions in the direction of the digestive system to soothe tummy cramps or colic.
There are many videos available on YouTube on how to give your baby a massage and it’s a good idea to get some tips on how it should be done.
I believe that gentle touch helps the bonding process between mom and baby and is something that you both will benefit from. Research shows that besides food, touch is one of the most essential things needed by babies in order to grow both physically and emotionally. When you combine this with the pleasant aromas and health-giving properties, it’ll likely become one of your daily routines.
By choosing the best time and matching it with a suitable oil, this could completely change the atmosphere in your home. Babies have well-developed senses and using these oils will stimulate their sense of smell and touch. It is also something Dad can participate in if he’s feeling a little left out while you get to do all the fun bits, like breastfeeding!
In conclusion, I hope that this information has helped you to understand the benefits of using essential oils for your baby and in your home. And one last important note: Follow my advice on their safe usage.