Essential oils have been used medicinally for thousands of years and many alternative medical practices still use them for a several ailments and diseases. They are extracted from a variety of plant sources through a process of distillation. Many essential oils are aromatic and carry the distinct smell of the plant they have been extracted from, and hence are also used in aromatherapy, an alternative therapy which uses plant extracts for healing and cosmetic purposes.
If used correctly, the unique properties of these natural oils can also be used to benefit babies and children. Some of the ways in which essential oils can help babies include better sleep, reduced anxiety, and relief from colic. However, essential oils are concentrated plant extracts and one needs to careful about using them for babies. Using essential oils directly or in the wrong concentration can lead to skin irritations, allergies, and even vomiting in babies. So here’s what you need to know before using essential oils for babies.
How To Choose Essential Oils For Babies
There are wide range of essential oils available in stores today. Essential oils can be used for massages, therapy, and in fragrance diffusers. This is why you will probably find essential oils in different degrees of concentration or mixed with other substances. Since babies have delicate skin, it’s important to choose the right essential oil. Use these pointers to make sure you buy the right oils.
- Check product label to see if the oil is pure and unadulterated.
- Avoid essential oils that have been mixed with alcohol.
- Be careful about buying synthetic ‘fragrant oils’ instead of essential oils.
- It’s always better to opt for essential oils that are organic.
Essential Oils That Are Safe For Babies
Babies have very delicate skin which could also be hypersensitive. Because essential oils are concentrated oils, you need to be cautious about using them on infants. But there is no need to get too concerned. Taking a few simple precautions can ensure that your baby is safe from any harmful side effects or reactions.
Precautions before using essential oils
- Do not use essential oils for infants who are younger than 3 months
- Never apply essential oils directly on the skin
- Always dilute with carrier oils before applying
- Be careful that babies don’t drink or ingest essential oils
- Don’t use essential oils directly in the baby’s bath
1. Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)
Lavender is know for it sedative and calming effects. If your baby is fussy and does not fall asleep easily, a soothing lavender oil massage can help the baby relax and drift into sleep. A study also found that massaging babies with lavender oil helps alleviate symptoms of colic.1 Lavender oil is also a great natural remedy for insect bites and skin inflammations.
2. Distilled Lemon (Citrus Limon)
Citrus oils are great mood-enhancers and also infuse energy. But they are photosensitive and could cause irritation in babies. This is why it’s better you go for distilled lemon essential oil which does not cause irritations. This oil also improves immune function and because of it’s invigorating properties, it can be used to wake up babies after a nap.
3. Eucalyptus (Eucalpytus Radiata)
Being a natural expectorant, eucalyptus oil works wonderfully well to relieve respiratory congestion. However, you need to be cautious about which eucalyptus oil you use. The commonly found eucalyptus globulus oil is safe for adults but is too strong for children under 2 years. For infants, it’s best to use the essential oil of eucalpytus radiata. Consult you pediatrician before using eucalyptus for respiratory problems.
4. Dill (Anethum Sowa)
Essential oil of dill has calming and antispasmodic properties which help the baby’s digestive function. If your baby has weak digestion, use dill by diluting it in 1 teaspoon of carrier oil or water and blend well before massaging it on the baby’s skin.
5. Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomilla or Chamaemelum Nobile)
Is your baby up all night or takes a long time to go to bed? Just give your baby a gentle massage with chamomile. Roman chamomile or German chamomile is a mild essential oil that can help your baby sleep better. It has a soothing effect which can be used to treat babies with insomnia. Like lavender, chamomile is also useful to relieve symptoms of colic.
6. Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia)
Tea tree is a strong oil which can be harsh on the baby’s skin. It’s best not to use it on babies who are younger than 6 months. Even after dilution, make sure you do a patch test before using it on babies who are older. Tea tree oil has natural disinfectant, antifungal, and antimicrobial properties. Use it as a natural remedy for diaper rash and fungal infections.
7. Mandarin (Citrus Reticulata)
Mandarin is a sweet smelling oil and like other citrus oils, it’s not phototoxic. Applying this oil to the baby’s skin after dilution should not cause any irritation. Similar to lavender, mandarin has a calming effect which can be used to help your baby sleep better. For babies who are irritated by the smell of lavender, mandarin can be used as an alternative.
How To Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are highly concentrated and must be used only after dilution without exception. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) recommends a dilution of 0.5 – 2.5% for infants depending on the condition.2 Once diluted, essential oils can be used to gently massage your baby.
Essential oils should be also be kept away from a child’s face. It’s best to avoid using essential oils in baths for children but if you want to use it, make sure that it’s diluted in a water soluble carrier, such as raw unfiltered honey or vegetable glycerin. It is also not advisable to use essential oils in or around the nose for children.
While essential oils got by distillation, carrier oils are pressed from the fatty portions (seeds, nuts, kernels) and do not evaporate or impart their aroma as strongly as essential oils. Carrier oils, also known as base oil or vegetable oils, are used to dilute essential oils before they are applied to the skin for massage and aromatherapy.
Commonly used carrier oils include sweet almond oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and sesame oil. They have their own unique properties which help moisturize the baby’s skin and keep it soft. Some carrier oils also contain peanut oil so check the label for ingredients to avoid potential allergies.
Essential oils can also be used as a natural replacement for artificial room fresheners. To ensure a safe environment for your baby, instead of using candle diffusers, use water-based vaporizers to diffuse the scent throughout the room. It’s also good to test the scent for an hour and check if your baby gets irritated by the fragrance.
You can spray diluted essential oil around the baby’s room to create an ambiance of calm. But make sure you don’t spritz on pillows to avoid the baby accidentally ingesting the essential oil.
Introducing Your Baby To Essential Oils
Essential oils can cause skin irritations even after dilution and you need to watch out for break outs and inflammation after using essential oils for the first time or if you’re using a new essential oil. To avoid such situations, perform a patch test on your baby’s arm or leg.
- Apply a dab of diluted essential oil to the baby’s arm or leg.
- Wait for 24 hours to see if there is any reaction
- If you see a reaction, like inflammation or redness, do not use the essential oil.
- In case there is no reaction, continue to use the oil.
- Also, never test more than one essential oil in a day.
These are the many ways in which essential oils can be used for keep your baby happy and healthy. Just make sure you take the basic precautions and always use essential oils after diluting and mixing them well with carrier oils.