Using essential oils with babies and while breastfeeding can be tricky. We interviewed a certified aromatherapist to get the inside scoop on how to do it safely!
By Will Odom, Contributing Writer (and Erin’s hubby!)
In our home, we have been avid users of essential oils for several years. However, we didn’t feel educated about them enough to use them very frequently around our girls when they were babies.
With the arrival of our newest bouncing baby boy, I began doing some research on safely using essential oils with babies and while breastfeeding.
I read several articles and kept find conflicting information on what was safe and what was not.
I later discovered the reason for this is that, within the aromatherapy community, even among the experts, there are varying opinions on using essential oils with babies and while breastfeeding.
For example, certified aromatherapist Robert Tisserand, in his book Essential Oil Safety, states that there are oils that can safely be used with babies, and he gives a dilution recommendation for all age ranges.
However, Andrea Butje, the founder and owner of Aromahead Institute, teaches that essential oils shouldn’t really be used at all topcially on children under the age of 5; though, she does topically use hydrosols on infants and children under 5. She also suggests diffusing a limited number of oils.
If you are looking for some top quality oils at great prices, check out Plant Therapy.
With all this information, I decided to turn to my friends at Plant Therapy.
I sent their certified aromatherapists (usually certified through Aromahead) a list of very specific questions.
They answered my questions more thoroughly than I expected, and I was very impressed with their commitment to educate and find a safe balance to using essential oils with babies and children.
Since I am so excited about their responses, I want to share what I learned from them about using essential oils with babies and while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Safely Using Essential Oils With Babies and While Breastfeeding
Plant Therapy is also offering my readers an exclusive 10% off right now! Use the code HumbledHomemaker10 for 10% off your entire purchase.
(This excludes gift certificates. Coupon cannot be combined with any other discount or offer.)
My questions and their answers follow:
1. What are some common oils that you can use topically with babies?
KidSafe oils were specifically designed for common concerns in children ages 2-10. We make it easy to recognize KidSafe oils by adding a KidSafe stamp to the label if the oil has met Plant Therapy’s strict guidelines of being the safest oil to use with children.
Personal Note: We love the KidSafe oils in our home and use them almost daily, and there are several reasons why:
- If there is any question about an oil, Plant Therapy will not put it on their KidSafe list.
- These oils are specially formulated to contain essential oils that are gentle, yet effective for children. They aren’t just diluted versions of the adult versions.
- All the KidSafe oils are 100% pure, free from any additives, adulterants or dilutions. They are of the absolute highest quality.
- With the exception of Nighty Night, the KidSafe synergies are considered safe for use during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy.
However, all of our KidSafe oils can be used with babies as long as they are used correctly and with extra precautions.
For topical use with infants, we normally recommend a mother dilute the oils (1-2%) and apply them topically on herself.
You can use KidSafe oils topically on a baby when diluted to 0.1-0.5% (which would be 1-4 drops of essential oil in 30 ml of carrier).
Besides our KidSafe synergies which were formulated specifically for common concerns in children, some common single oils include Lavender (very calming and great for the skin) and Roman Chamomile (also very gentle and calming).
Another great option is hydrosols. Hydrosols often have the same therapeutic benefits of the essential oil but are much more mild and gentle. This is what makes them a great option for babies!
If you wish to use a lotion on a newborn, then it is advisable to purchase an unscented base like Evening Primrose Body Cream, Sunflower Body Cream, or Olive Lotion and do a 0.25% or 0.5% dilution of your favorite Kid Safe oil or synergy like Calming the Child (i.e. 2-3 drops of oil in 4 tsp of carrier is 0.5% or 1-2 drops of oil in 4 tsp of carrier is 0.25%).
Check out Plant Therapy’s dilution chart guidelines*
and how to read the chart.
* Plant Therapy recently added a Dilution Chart Magnet to their website. It is free with any purchase over $10 (just add it to your cart, and it will be free), or you can buy it for $.99. It’s a very convenient chart done in tablespoons making it easier to read, and since it is a magnet, it is also convenient to have on your fridge.
2. What are some common oils that you can diffuse with babies?
For diffusing with a small baby in the home, we recommend only using KidSafe oils and only diffusing for 30 minutes 1-2 times per day.
One great option is to diffuse for 30 minutes before bed in the baby’s bedroom and then shut the diffuser off when you put the baby to sleep.
The time of diffusion can increase as your baby gets older. For children 2+, we recommend diffusing no more than 30 minutes on and 60 minutes off if diffusing all day.
Hydrosols don’t typically work well when diffusing because they are so gentle and less potent.
Check out Plant Therapy’s KidSafe chart.
3. What are some oils or blends that address common issues with babies?
- Tummy: Roman Chamomile 1 drop in 10 ml of carrier oil applied topically to baby’s abdomen.
- Calming: Lavender diffused or diluted to 1-2% and applied on the mother.
- Teething: Roman Chamomile hydrosol on a soft cloth and rubbed gently on the gums. You can also dilute Roman Chamomile essential oil to 0.1-0.5% and rub on the outside of the jaw.
- Diaper Rash: Lavender hydrosol can be used to soothe a red bottom.
We also have our 21 KidSafe synergies that were formulated to address common concerns in children such as:
- calming (Calming The Child)
- tummy troubles (Tummy All Better)
- congestion (Sniffle Stopper)
- sicknesses (Germ Destroyer)
There are so many oils that can be safely used and that can and do address many common issues with babies.
Just remember to only use essential oils when needed. In some cases, this might be daily for a couple of weeks, in other cases it might be 1-2 times a week or less.
4. Are there any oils that mom shouldn’t use if she’s breastfeeding?
Yes, there are.
Robert Tisserand has a list of oils that should be avoided by all routes when pregnant and/or breastfeeding.
Some of the common oils that are listed include:
We also recommend these essential oils be restricted during pregnancy or breastfeeding:
- May Chang
- Clary Sage (avoid during pregnancy)
- Peppermint (caution when breastfeeding)*
* There are experts that say Peppermint will decrease your milk supply (this would include Peppermint Tea and Peppermint Essential Oil); however, there isn’t much research or proof on this. In the past, Plant Therapy said it was safe; however, a few experts reached out and disagreed. As such, Plant Therapy decided it is always better to be on the safer side.
A complete list of oils to restrict or avoid by all routes can be found in Essential Oil Safety by Tisserand and Young.
Plant Therapy knows this can all be overwhelming and confusing which is why we created a chart that lists oils that ARE safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding.
View Plant Therapy’s pregnancy and breastfeeding chart.
5. Are there any oils that could help mom with breastfeeding?
Unfortunately, essential oils are not known to increase milk production.
However, there are oils that can reduce the worry and overwhelming feelings that can come when breastfeeding.
6. What are some oils that help baby and mom rest?
Like mentioned above, you could diffuse any of these oils in your baby’s room for 30 minutes before bedtime and then shut the diffuser off when you put the baby to sleep.
If you prefer not to diffuse in the same room as your baby, you can also add a couple drops to a cotton pad and place it next to your bed.
This is a great way for the mother and father to receive the amazing calming effects of these oils without the baby needing them.
7. What are any oils that absolutely should NOT be used around babies?
The chemical constituents of 1,8 Cineole and Menthol have been known to cause breathing problems in young children.
Plant Therapy went a step further when creating our KidSafe line of synergies.
If there is ANY extra precaution like simply not knowing enough about an oil, we will not mark it as KidSafe. If we don’t have the research to back up that it is safe to use around children, it will not be marked as KidSafe.
Personal note: We recently gave our girls the Lil’ Stinkers Aroma Plush Animals, and they absolutely love them. One of them even made an appearance at preschool share day. We add a couple of drops of Lavender to the pad inside each animal at night, and they snuggle up for a good night’s sleep.
8. Are there oils that can be used at certain stages…like 0-3 months, 3-6 months, etc.?
There are extra precautions when using oils around newborns because the risk is greater as their skin does not start to mature until around 3 months of age.
9. Are there any oils that can help with postpartum depression?
For postpartum depression, I would actually reach for citrus oils since they are very uplifting.
Rose would also be a good one since it is known for it’s calming qualities that help to soothe emotions and bring peace.
Plant Therapy’s blend Blues Buster is formulated to increase your positive thoughts and emotions.
Worry Free (with some precautions) is also another oil that could help momma deal with stress.
- Worry Free contains Ylang Ylang, and it is not considered KidSafe because it is a possible skin irritant.
- Diffusion would be fine around younger children (as long as the diffusion recommendations for a newborn are followed)
- Topical (for the mother) would be fine too as long as it isn’t applied some place that will be in direct contact with the baby’s skin.
Other possibilities that could help include:
Are there any oils that can help with hormonal balance?
As for balancing hormones, Plant Therapy has a synergy called Balance that could be helpful.
Clary Sage is also a great oil to help balance hormones.
The Just for Women Roll-on Set contains some great oils to help with mental, physical, and hormonal balance.
10. How important is dilution?
The most common adverse reaction that comes from using essential oils is a skin reaction that is most often related to the use of undiluted oils topically.
Robert Tisserand said, “I have recently changed my stance on this after seeing the number of people experiencing adverse reactions to essential oils that are not high risk, such as frankincense, helichrysum, and lavender.
“I am also incredulous to find that people are using undiluted oils on their face in order to improve their complexion. This is a really bad idea! Using undiluted essential oils will dry your skin as well as increase the risk of allergic reaction.
“But the real kicker is – you don’t need to do it.
“Even for the extreme situation of healing infected wounds, 5 or 10% dilution is usually enough. If you want a cosmetic effect 1% is a safe and effective guideline.”
Less is more when it comes to using essential oils with babies and children. Not only is it safer, it is effective AND will save you money!