Aromatherapy deals with plant oil extracts in their natural state before they are chemically altered. Smell has always been a powerful instinct and aromatherapy works hand in hand with the senses helping to heal, relax and improve mood.

Aromatherapy can be a wonderful addition to your tool  kit of healing modalities for your family. From the moment they are born, babies can enjoy the therapeutic effects of essential oils. Great caution must be taken though, as these oils are extremely concentrated and must be properly diluted before use.

There are many essential oils which are not appropriate for use with babies. The essential oils mentioned here are safe for use with babies provided they are used appropriately.

Essential oils are extracted most often by distilling seeds, flowers, peal, zest, grass, leaves, roots, and the wood of plants.

Different parts of the plant give different oils; An Orange tree, for example, gives us orange from the fruit and neroli from the flower.

Consider these cautions and storage guidelines when purchasing commercial aromatherapy products.

Cautions when using aromatherapy

Great caution should be exercised when using essential oils on babies under three months of age. They are still developing in many ways and are adjusting to life outside the womb. Essential oils are too strong in most instances to use at this stage.

Here are the important safety precautions:

  • Never give oils internally and don’t use them directly on the skin (blend them first- this is very important, they can burn sensative skin if not properly diluted)
  • Don’t use oils in or too close to the eyes. If any oil accidentally gets in the eyes, flush with milk rather than water.
  • If any irritation occurs, discontinue use.
  • Always check for contra-indications and make sure the oil you are using is safe to use on babies.
  • Avoid using essential oils for babies that have a medical condition that would be aggravated by the use of the particular essential oils.

Proper storage of essential oils:

  • Make sure they are tightly sealed in dark glass bottles.
  • Store them away from the effects of heat and light to help them maintain their potency
  • Keep them out of reach of children, poisoning can occur if ingested.

How to use essential oils with babies

There are many schools of thought here. I take a middle of the road approach but I encourage you to use your own judgement. Some aromatherapists say that essentials oils should not be used on a baby under 12 months. Most agree that oils should be used very sparingly for babies under 3 months. 1 drop is adequate, if you use them at all:

How to give the oils:

Massage- Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before using on the skin, they can cause skin irritation. The safest carrier oils to use with babies are olive, jojoba, grape-seed, avocado, apricot kernel and wheat-germ oils . Nut oils should not be used until 12 months of age in case of severe allergic reaction.

Recommended dose:
3 months and under- 1 drop of essential oil in 2 T of base oil
3-24 months- 2 drops essential oil in 2 T of base oil

Bathing - Disperse oils in 1/3 of a cup of milk then add to your baby’s bath just before turning off the taps.

Recommended dose:
3 months and under – Add 1 drop essential oil to bath
3-24 months 2 or 3 drops can be added depending on the child’s size and sensitivity

Inhalation- Add 1 drop of your chosen essential oil to your baby’s pyjamas, bedding or put it on a cotton bud and place in the cot.

Oil burners and diffusers- Do not use a diffuser until the child is 4 weeks or older as a diffuser tends to ensure that every last molecule of essential oil is sent into the air and babies need a very gentle approach.

You can put your chosen oil in a bowl of hot water and place this in a safe place, well out of reach of the baby and other children and then allow the molecules to gently escape into the air as the water cools so that not all of the molecules will escape. This will give a much more gentle fragrance.

This is an excellent method when babies and children have colds.

Electric diffusers are great to use all around the house when you baby is older than 1 month.

Safe oils to use with babies

Most aromatherapists believe the following oils are considered safe to use with newborns:

  • Lavender
  • Chamomile
  • Geranium
  • Yarrow
  • Dill

From 3 months old on, you can also use:

  • Mandarin
  • Eucalyptus
  • Coriander
  • Neroli

After 6 months you can add:

  • Palma Rosa
  • Calendula
  • Grapefruit
  • Ginger
  • Tea Tree

To learn which oils to use for specific conditions please refer to the illness you wish to help in the Common Challenges of the First Year section. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, email julie@naturaltransition.com for suggestions.