AAA: Can You Use Essential Oils Around Babies?
They’re small, cute and kissable; they fuss, cry and make messes but you love them anyway; they’re babies.
Like most people you love, you may be prone to give babies the very best of everything — essential oils included. After all, the littlest of us seem like they could benefit the most from natural remedies. But does the risk of using aromatherapy with babies outweigh the benefit? Let’s find out in this short guide on essential oil safety for babies.
You may have noticed that a baby’s skin is quite different from your own. Besides being ultra-soft, a newborn’s skin does not begin to mature before three months of age. Baby skin is also much thinner than that of an older child or adult. So when you consider the fact that essential oils increase skin permeability, safety precautions are critical.
Aromatherapy expert Robert Tisserand recommends that essential oils are diluted to .1% for babies up to three months old and .25% for babies 3-24 months old. He also notes that these guidelines are meant to be helpful suggestions and are not based on research.
To err on the side of caution, we don’t recommend topical use on children under six months old.
Breastfeeding & Contraindications
It’s known that what goes into a nursing woman's body oftentimes goes into her breastmilk, and the same is true of essential oils. Tisserand believes that 1% of a mother’s essential oil dosage gets transferred into her breastmilk.
Therefore, the following essential oils are not recommended for use by nursing mothers and babies, due to known contraindications to infants:
- Star Anise: Found in Bliss and Marigold Myrrh blend
- Birch: Found in Cellulite blend
- Buchu: Found in Super Bloom (limited edition) blend
- Carrot Seed: Found in Digest Ease, Gal Pal and PMS Ease blend
- Cassia: Found in Hope blend
- Cinnamon Bark: Found in Allure, Bliss, Guardian, Sunshine Spice, XOXO and Candy Cane Lane (limited edition) blend
- Blue Cypress
- Fennel: Found in Cellulite, Digest Ease, Gal Pal and PMS Ease blend
- Myrrh: Found in Age Defy, Fearless, Frankincense & Myrrh, Marigold Myrrh and Vanilla Sandalwood blend
- Sage: Found in Cellulite, French Lavender Sage and Harmony blend
- Wintergreen: Found in Massage Therapy, Muscle Relief and Candy Cane Lane (limited edition) blend
Consequences & Risks
From the earliest stage of a baby’s life, they can smell their mothers and breastmilk. These maternal scents help soothe babies, improve breastfeeding and create a bond between a baby and their mother. Adding essential oils to the mix can interfere with this ability, preventing babies from interacting with their mothers in this way.
It’s also important to note that diluted oils, let alone essential oils in their pure forms can be overwhelming for babies, as their metabolisms are underdeveloped.
The consequences of misusing essential oils with children and babies, unfortunately, range from severe to dire. One of the most well-documented misuses of essential oils has been the harmful effects of Eucalyptus and Peppermint on children.
Both Eucalyptus and Peppermint have been shown to cause breathing and neurological problems in young children, and are therefore not recommended to be used on or around infants and young children. Essential oils rich in a natural component called 1,8- cineole, such as Eucalyptus, Ravintsara and Cajeput, along with Peppermint should be avoided altogether in children younger than three years old.
On the other hand, essential oils have also been documented to benefit babies in a variety of ways.
- One study examined the use of an aromatherapy patch containing essential oils of Lavender and Roman Chamomile on babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome. The patch was found to reduce the average hospital stay of infants who used the patch by 6.4 days.
- A separate study measured the effects of Lavender oil diffusion and placebo on infants being vaccinated. Scientists concluded that a low dose of Lavender oil lowered pain reactions in infants significantly.
- Pediatric doctors examined the effects of abdominal massage with Lavender oil on babies experiencing colic. These observations were compared to babies given no colic treatment. Doctors found that Lavender oil was an effective colic-reliever.
Due to their heightened sensitivities, we suggest using essential oils infrequently (if at all) on children younger than two years old. If you do choose to use essential oils with your baby, here are our suggestions for safe use:
- Essential oils should be topically applied to babies infrequently, inhaled using a passive diffuser or diffused for a maximum of 5-10 minutes in an active diffuser.
- Check with your child’s pediatrician before using essential oils.
- Essential oils should not be used on premature babies, babies younger than three months old and babies with medical concerns. To err on the side of caution, we don’t recommend the use of essential oils on babies under six months old.
- Always dilute essential oils to a safe dosage for topical use. Never topically apply undiluted essential oils to your baby. Perform a skin patch test before using essential oils profusely.
- Only use essential oils marked as OK For Kids.
- If irritation or adverse reaction occurs, discontinue use and consult a medical professional.
- Assess the child’s individual needs and risks when choosing essential oils.
- When in doubt, don’t use essential oils on your baby.
- Do not use essential oils on babies or children without their parents' permission.