Across the internet there is lots of information about essential oils, and there is lots of conflicting advice about essential oils and babies. Some people will say never to use essential oils on babies below 2 years of age, others 12 weeks, and others say it’s fine to use oils from birth. The problem is, as with everything around essential oils, it depends on the circumstances, the baby and the oils being considered.
When your baby is first born their world has immediately grown much bigger and they are facing sensory bombardment, so do we really want to add to this with essential oils? Your baby’s sense of smell is stronger at birth, so they can smell the milk, and from a practical view it’s not a good idea to add to this by including strong smelling aromas, such as essential oils.
Do you need to wait until 12 weeks?
If a mum comes to me and has been using essential oils from birth and wants to continue using oils after the birth, I don’t see it as a problem. The baby has already been exposed to the oils and as long as safety considerations are taken, using appropriate dilutions and oils is not going to be an issue for a baby. I often see ladies after giving birth and we include aromatherapy oils in her massage.
If a parent comes to me and wants to use them with their baby, then we need to look into it a little further. Why is the parent looking to use the essential oil and what benefit are they hoping to achieve? How are they hoping to use the essential oil? We need to look at how old the baby is, are there other more suitable methods available which are worth trying before essential oils and does the baby have any pre-existing health conditions we need to be careful about.
If we put a diluted essential oil onto a baby’s skin it is going to absorb a lot quickly than an adult skin, because it is thinner. It is also worth remembering the skin barrier on a baby is not fully formed until about 7 weeks, so you do not want to place an essential oil onto a baby’s skin before this time. This is why your health visitor will recommend cotton wool and water for cleaning a baby in the first few weeks, as it is reduces the risk of future skin issues. This is why my personal stance is I would recommend waiting until your baby is at least 12 weeks of age before you put any essential oil onto your baby’s skin.
As a mum, I was never in a rush to place essential oils onto my baby’s skin and I waited until my children were older. The first time I used an essential oil in a blend on my first child was when he was weaning and had enjoyed his food a little too much! He ended up crying a lot and seemed to be experiencing a stomach ache, so using an essential oil suitably diluted for a stomach massage helped me reduce my ‘bad mother’ feelings in managing the situation, and helped me ease my son’s problem.
So how can you use essential oils?
One way I encourage parents to think about using essential oils around babies is on a cotton wool ball. We often talk about essential oils in relation to sleep, as it always seems popular with parents! l suggest using the cotton wool ball in the bedroom with a couple of drops of the essential oil placed in the room before the baby is due to sleep, making sure the cotton ball is out of the reach of children and pets – I used to place mine in a small glass jar on top of the wardrobe. Some people think this isn’t very strong, but using a cotton wool ball means it will diffuse gently into the air and reduce the risk of overloading the baby’s body with essential oils, as it will gently mix with the air in the room and will only diffuse the molecules which are on the cotton ball. If you’re using an electric diffuser, it is recommended you ventilate the room and consider turning it off once your baby is asleep, as continual diffusion can lead to headaches or irritations. Many people think inhalation is not an effective method for essential oils, but it is actually better than trying to put the oils onto the skin, as the oil molecules can easily pass into the blood stream.
If you want to use the essential oils in a bath, it is important to dilute them correctly and add them to a suitable bath base, which you can buy from an aromatherapy supplier. Do not add the oils directly to the bath, as essential oils aren’t keen on water and will stick to your baby’s skin, so may result in irritation. You can dilute oils in a carrier oil, but do be careful, as your baby is going to become very slippery and your bath will also be slippery, even after you have emptied the bath.
If you want to add essential oils to a massage blend, then you literally add 2 drops to 50mls of carrier oil. It is important to choose an oil which is safe to use with babies, and while 2 drops may not sound much to you, it is enough for your baby. When massaging your baby it is then important to remember to avoid massaging the face and hands, as you don’t want your baby to ingest the oil.
What is very important to remember is that if you use all of these methods on your baby, you are going to overload their body. Each method is going to allow the essential oil components into your body, so, if you decide you want to use essential oils safely with your baby, I recommend you choose one method to reduce any risks associated with over-exposure.
So, where does the 2year suggestion come from?
With essential oils and babies, it’s important to check if the oil is safe for your baby. Some essential oils are not recommended for use on children below 2 or 3 years of age because of their chemical components. Some oils can be safely used for specific situations if you are using the correct type, but can cause issues if you choose the wrong chemotype or variant. Some people don’t recommend essential oils until after this age because of the lack of research around using essential oils with babies and children, and because there is likely to be less of an issue if the wrong oil has been chosen. It’s worth considering why you want to use essential oils, what benefit you feel there may be and where you have taken the advice about essential oils. If you are looking for help with a specific issue or your baby has health issues, then it really is worth making an appointment with a clinical aromatherapist who can guide and make up bespoke blends which are best suited to your situation.
If you would like further reading about essential oils and babies you may find Aromatherapy for Babies and Children by Penny Price, which will advise about essential oils which are suitable to use with babies. I also talk about essential oils which are safe to use with babies during my baby massage course.
Louise is an holistic therapist who owns the Therapy Centre, BS14 9HB, a clinic offering a range of holistic and beauty therapies. Louise offers reflexology, aromatherapy, aromatology, holistic massage, Indian head massage, reiki, baby massage and story massage. She is a mum of two boys and when she is not working she enjoys getting outdoors with her family. For further information visit louise-morgan.co.uk or contact her clinic on 01275 217160