They’re small, cute, kissable, they 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 use the most help when it comes to natural remedies. But does the risk associated with using aromatherapy for babies outweigh the benefit? Let’s find out.
You may have observed 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’s skin is also much thinner than that of an older child’s when you consider the fact that essential oils increase skin permeability, safety precautions are critical. With that said, aromatherapist 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 mother’s body oftentimes goes into her breastmilk, and the same is true with essential oils. Tisserand believes that 1% of a mother’s essential oil dose gets transferred to her breastmilk. With that said, due to contraindications in infants, the following essential oils arenot recommended for use by mother and baby in any way. We’ve also included the blends these oils are found in:
Anise Star - Bliss, Marigold Myrrh
Birch - Cellulite
Buchu - Super Bloom (limited edition)
Fennel - Cellulite, Digest Ease, Gal Pal, PMS Ease
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 its 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.
Though this blog may seem like a lot of safety precautions, the consequences of misusing essential oils with children and babies, unfortunately, ranges from severe to dire. One of the most well-documentedmisuses has been the harmful effects ofEucalyptus andPeppermint on children. BothEucalyptus andPeppermint are not recommended for application or near infants, as they can cause breathing and neurological problems in young children. Cineole-rich essential oils such asEucalyptus,Ravintsara andCajeput, along withPeppermint should beavoided altogether in children younger than 3 years old.
On the other hand, essential oils have also been documented to benefit babies in a variety of ways. In one study,Lavender andRoman Chamomile, used in anaromatherapy patch on babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, reduced their hospital stay by an average of 6.4 days. The benefits ofLavender inhalation in infants were proven in another study, in which infant vaccination pain was measured with and withoutLavender diffusion. This study concluded that a low dose of inhaledLavender oil lowered pain reaction in infants compared to the placebo group. A third study showed that aLavender-infused massage effectively reduced colic in infants. These studies lead us to conclude that there is a time and a place for aromatherapy and infants.
Due to their heightened sensitivities and fragile nature, we suggest using essential oils infrequently, if at all, on children younger than 2 years old. If you do choose to use essential oils with your baby, here are some 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 markedOK 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 or older children.
- Do not use essential oils on babies or children without parental permission.
Tisserand, Robert, and Rodney Young. Essential Oil Safety: a Guide for Health Care Professionals. Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier, 2014.