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When can I start using essential oils on my baby?

When can I start using essential oils on my baby_
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Are you a new parent?

Yes? Oh, congratulations! You’ve suffered through perfect strangers giving you their horrifying birth stories and endless advice on breastfeeding (in case you were doing it wrong!) Perhaps you are wondering when you can start using essential oils on your new baby. Maybe you’ve been talking with different people and have heard conflicting advice.

There are a couple of distinct camps of essential oil users on this topic specifically. They are:

  1. Start using essential oils immediately after birth and forward
  2. Wait some weeks before introducing the baby to essential oils

I’m not sure which side of the fence you are sitting on, but very soon you will find out which side I’m sitting on.

In case we haven’t met, my name is Deanna. I’m a mom too, and I wish that I had known about essential oils when my daughter was much younger. Long story short, I’m a clinical aromatherapist and work with new moms. One of my goals is to empower these women to love both themselves and their families. Another big part of what I do is education on essential oils. One question that I get asked over and over again is:

When can I start using essential oils on my baby?

This question is usually followed by additional questions such as: Which ones should I use? And how should I be using them? Let’s have a look.

Have a good reason

The first point I’d like to mention is that before you use an essential oil on anyone, there should be a good reason for it. Ask yourself: “Do I really need to use an essential oil to solve this problem- or is there a better option for me in this situation?” Treatment of a problem is different for everyone, including children. You need to always do a risk benefit analysis for each situation. What is the safest and most beneficial option? Maybe it’s an essential oil- but maybe it isn’t. It’s okay if it isn’t.

Special considerations of babies from birth to 6 months

Did you know that babies inhale 50% more air than adults do?

This means that the essential oils used in your diffuser are twice as concentrated for an infant than for you. You only need to use tiny amounts of oils in your diffuser. When you do use them, sticking with safe and gentle oils such as citrus and floral essential oils is recommended.

Babies and toddlers have a much more sensitive olfactory system than adults and the smell will be stronger to a young one. Incidentally, this also includes smells such as cooking and pet odors.

Avoid using essential oils during the first 6 months

So, now you know where I sit on the fence. I recommend this especially if the mother is nursing. You want to create an ideal bonding environment between you and your baby. Using excessive essential oils can create confusion and should not be used as a replacement for cuddling, eye contact and vocal recognition.

If there is a situation where use of essential oils would truly be of benefit (that outweighs the risks), use them HIGHLY diluted. For this age range, the dilution rate is  0.1-0.2%

What this looks like for topical application:

0.1%= 1 drop for every ounce /30ml of carrier oil

0.2%= 2 drops for every ounce /30ml of carrier oil

What this looks like for diffuser use:

0.1%= 1 drop per 100ml of water

0.2%= 2 drop per 100ml of water

For babies aged 3-24 months, the dilution rate is 0.25-0.5%

For excellent and more detailed information on essential oil safety, please read: Robert Tisserand’s safety article

Here’s a handy little chart to help you visualize what dilution rates look like for your baby’s age group:

Baby friendly essential oils

When the time is right to start using essential oils on your baby, here are my recommended essential oils to use:

Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)

Chamomiles are among the most gentle of essential oils and Roman chamomile is  especially suitable for babies and small children. It is calming and helps to ease fussing, tantrums, nightmares and tummy upsets. Although the price of this oil has gone up dramatically, if you can afford to get Roman chamomile, I do recommend it. The good news is, a drop or two is really all you need.

Mandarin (Citrus reticulta)

Mandarin also has a calming effect, especially useful for the digestive system. Using mandarin or tangerine in a massage oil blend for your babies’ upset tummy can work wonders.

Lavender (lavandula angustifolia)

If you only choose one essential oil for your home, it should be lavender. It is super versatile and effective. However, I do caution against overusing it. If you use it too much, it’s possible to become sensitized to lavender, even though is it one of the safest and gentlest oils.

Side note: although you can reportedly use this oil “neat” that is, undiluted, I wouldn’t recommend it, not even for an adult. (I might make an exception in a first aid situation for an adult) but that’s it.

When purchasing lavender, be sure that you don’t accidentally get lavandin- which is a hybrid oil. This is fine for making soaps and such, but I prefer lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) for the jobs I need done.

Lavender grown at higher altitudes are reportedly also higher in ester content. Esters are the component responsible for calming effects. These types of lavender are are sometimes labelled lavender population. Expect to pay a bit more for them.

baby massage

Baby Massage Oil Recipe

One of the most beneficial ways to apply an essential oil to your baby is through massage. This answers the “how?” question. Below I give you a recipe that you can use for baby massage.

Here’s a terrific baby massage oil blend geared for babies 3 months and up. The dilution rate is 0.5% (approx.)

  • 1oz/30ml sunflower oil or rice bran oil
  • 2 drops lavender
  • 1 drop Roman chamomile

Be sure that your baby seems open enough to receive the massage. You can also add a couple of drops of this to their bath water if they are too fussy for a massage.

For detailed instructions on administering a baby massage, go here. This article outlines benefits of baby massage, and other details such as when to give one, and how to do it. You can also check out this article from smart parent advice.

For a video on how to give your baby a massage, this one is good to watch. Please note that they suggest using olive oil or coconut oil in the video. If that’s all you have access to that’s okay, but I feel they are not the most ideal choices, which is why I use sunflower oil in the recipe. You can also use rice bran oil, which is also very suitable for babies and sensitive skin.

Please note: for newborn infants, you can still do the massage but you should consider reducing the essential oil to just 1 drop- or leave it out altogether.

Summary & recap

Safety is paramount and should be your first concern. Use appropriate essential oils:

  • When the time is right
  • Appropriate essential oils for your child’s age
  • Diluted into a carrier oil for topical application at a safe dilution rate
  • When you have a good reason to use them

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