Essential oils have been used for many centuries and are recently gaining popularity with people who enjoy the benefits of alternative therapies. Essential oils are used as a remedy for many ailments and can offer relief from a range of symptoms. Oils help to destress, it is thought that 43% of adults use oils to aid sleep and relaxation. Lavender oil is frequently added to warm bath water to help adults unwind in the evening. If they work so well on grown-ups, surely they work well for children and babies too? Before you head off to the shops to stock up, it’s worth making sure that essential oils are safe for babies. Educate yourself about what and how to use essential oils around infants.
Let’s look at what essential oils are
Essential oil is a compound that has been extracted from a plant. The extraction is done either through distillation using steam, or cold-pressed mechanically. Oils capture the smell or flavor of the flower, shrub, tree, herb or fruit – in other words, the ‘essence ‘ and that’s why they are called essential oils. Different parts of plant life are used, such as the petals, roots, bark and seeds to produce the oil.
What are the most common essential oils?
Some essentials oils, such as lavender and tea tree are added to lots of everyday products such as shampoo, soap, laundry liquid and body lotion. There are more than 90 different essential oils, some of which are rarely used. The most regularly used oils include:
– Lavender – used to calm the mind
– Peppermint – helps the digestive system
– Tea tree – fights infection,
– Chamomile – for relaxation
– Rose – reduces anxiety
– Bergamot – improves skin condition
– Jasmine – to lift moods and depression
Why are essential oils used?
People have used these oils for hundreds of years and they work in 2 ways. Firstly, when applied to the skin, they are absorbed into the body. Secondly, the aroma triggers the body to react in certain ways that help us feel better. Lavender calms thoughts and relaxes muscles. Headaches are commonly reduced with chamomile and peppermint oil dabbed on the temples. Tea tree oil is used to treat minor skin infections, head lice, jock itch and diaper rash.
Most people who are interested in leading non-toxic lives and use fewer harmful chemical turn to essential oils. They are easy to purchase and are affordable. But are they safe for children and babies?
Are essential oils safe for babies?
It’s assumed that, because essential oils are extracted from plants, they are harmless. But that is not true, after all, Deadly Nightshade called Belladonna is a toxic weed that can kill. Therefore some caution is always needed, especially when it comes to babies. And that means adults who use the oils around babies must be careful too. Oils can help little ones, but a slightly different approach is required.
How to use essential oils safely with babies
- Firstly, babies should never ingest essential oils. Don’t give them anything in their food or drink or any other oral method.
- The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians do not recommend the use of essential oils for babies under 3 months old so don’t expose your little one before this age.
- Some of the oils are very potent and can be too strong for infants. Breathing problems and skin irritation can be caused if oils are used without sufficient dilution. Citrus oils especially can cause rashes if they come into contact with youngsters’ skin. Before you use an essential oil on your baby, read the instructions carefully and make sure it is diluted as instructed. Commonly, this will be around 0.25% to 0.5% which is one drop of oil for 400 to 200 drops of carrier oil.
- Oils and water do not mix so adding a drop to a bath will not dilute it and it will stay on the top and will stick to the skin. To use it safely, dilute the oil in a carrier oil such as almond oil and then add a small amount of baby bubble bath. This will mix in the water.
- Make sure that the essential oils don’t go near a baby’s nose, mouth and eyes. These areas are too sensitive.
- Massaging diluted essential oils into a baby’s skin is the preferred method. This can be measured. Using oil burners is difficult to monitor, and they are a potential fire hazard.
- Always buy good quality essential oils from a trusted source. Don’t take risks to save a few dollars.
- Use a natural and quality carrier oil – regular baby oils are not good to use.
- Monitor your baby carefully to make sure they are not sensitive to the oils.
Which essential oils are used frequently with babies?
Lavender oil is the most commonly used essential oil. There is some evidence that lavender helps with colic and it calms infants. A quiet massage with lavender helps settle a baby in the evening.
Chamomile also calms and it helps with anxiety. It is used to soothe a fussy baby. Lavender and chamomile are a successful mix too.
Mandarin oil has a calming effect and can be used as an alternative to lavender.
Dill soothes indigestion. One drop in a tablespoon of carrier oil makes the ideal massage mix for a baby’s skin.
Tea tree oil is antifungal and antimicrobial and can be used to soothe diaper rashes. Tea tree must be diluted with an unscented carrier oil as it is harsh on the skin. Best used from 6 months old.
Essential oils that must not be used for babies
Eucalyptus oil is used to clear nasal congestion and is great for helping the symptoms of a cold but this oil should only be used with infants 2 years and older for safety.
Oils that are phototoxic and can cause skin reactions if used before going out in the sun. Phototoxic oils include Bergamot, Expressed lemon, Expressed Grapefruit and Expressed Lime. It’s important to be aware of these, and perhaps use these oils in ways where they do not come into contact with the skin.
How to use essential oils for baby massage
- Lie your baby on their back on a secure surface or the floor with a blanket beneath them.
- Dilute the essential oil 0.25 – 0.5% in a carrier oil
- Pour some into your hands to warm the oil to body temperature
- Starting with your baby’s legs, gently rub the oil on the skin.
- Massage your baby’s stomach and chest with very little pressure moving your fingertips outwards.
- Massage down each arm to your baby’s hands.
The Bottom Line
You only want the best for your baby, and natural products such as essential oils are very tempting to use. The way essential oils can soothe a restless baby and help aid sleep is a dream come true. Used carefully, they can be a useful tool to have at home.
To use essential oils safely with babies, the most important thing is to make sure they are diluted in a carrier oil with a ratio of 0.25 to 0.5%. And a good tip is to use oils one at a time so you can monitor for sensitivity or allergies. If all is well, you will introduce your baby to a lifetime of essential oil benefits.