What do you do when you come across one group of individuals vehemently against essential oils for kids and babies, and the other group in support of the oils? And, which side do you choose when you read about the potential benefits of essential oils, and you think that your baby’s health and wellbeing, as well as that of the entire family, could be better if only you used essential oils, of course, by following the set guidelines?
Like any parent out there, we always look for the best things and experiences for our kids. Therefore, it is impossible to overlook the potential benefits of essential oils.
With that in mind, all that a parent needs to do is to research widely to ensure that the oil selected is safe for children.
Wondering why is it important to take precautions before introducing kids to essential oils?
- First, kids have underdeveloped immune systems, and they may be unable to fight allergens or potentially harmful ingredients in the essential oils.
- At the same time, essential oils, though helpful tend to be toxic or poisonous when used incorrectly.
- Also, while essential oils, herbs, and other natural remedies have wonderful benefits, they may only be safe for adults. It, therefore, makes sense to understand the use of essential oils for children, and also to ease into essential oils slowly.
- Lastly, babies and young kids have highly sensitive respiratory, as well as circulatory systems which are still developing and growing. The essential oils are too potent for the underdeveloped organs. Adding water to the oils reduces the potency of the essential oils and also result in the formation of hydrosols which are safer for kids than the pure and potent oils.
An alternative to essential oils- Hydrosols
Hydrosols are also known as flower waters. They result from distilling fresh fruits, leaves, barks, leaves and other plant parts. They have similar properties to those of essential oil but, they are less concentrated than the essential oils. They also have subtle aromas.
The hydrosols are also known as hydrolats. They are a result of distillation, and they are water-soluble microscopic droplets in essential oils.
Like essential oils, the hydrosols contain carboxylic acids which are responsible for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Some of the uses of the hydrosols include:
- They are anti-inflammatory
- Wound healing
- They are hydrating components
- Hydrosols are safe for young children and infants.
Essential oils are concentrates extracted from different parts of plants. The essential oils are obtained through distillation, and the result is pure and free of fibers, water, or extra plant mass – the result makes up the essentials of the plants. Therefore, the extract is potent and highly concentrated.
Essential oil therapy, which is also called aromatherapy refers to the medicinal use of plant aromas to promote emotional and physical well-being.
The aromatic plant extracts are useful, and you could use them to treat burns, to soothe irritated skin, stress alleviation, and to relax the mind and the body.
- Though the oils could be safe for babies as early as 3 months to relieve anxiety and the symptoms of colic, you have to understand the appropriate dilution ratios and the recommended application methods.
- Before we look at the best essential oils for babies, note the following:
- You shouldn’t use essential oils for kids below six months.
- For children aged between 6 months and 2 years, exposure to essential oils through diffusion is okay but, for short durations. Being cautious of the exposure time is important because kids are sensitive to the aroma of the products applied to the skin.
- For kids aged 2, you could apply the essential oils topically only after diluting the oils. With the weak immune systems of kids, dilution of essential oils is a necessity. Hydrosols and herbs are safer and better than concentrated essential oils.
- It is also crucial for you to ensure that essential oil you are planning to use is 100 percent pure, unadulterated and authentic.
- You should also avoid the essential oils premixed with alcohol because they cause irritations.
- Also, you should avoid synthetic essential oils because they have different oils which do not have any health benefits. They are also irritating.
- You should also ensure that oils are organic.
The best essential oils for kids and babies
With the right essential oils, you can help your kids lead happier and even healthier childhoods. The safe essential oils treat common ailments like allergies, colic, constipation, congestion, coughs, and other ailments.
Lavender oil is a popular essential oil for most adults and kids. It has sedative and calming effects, hence its effectiveness in calming a crying baby.
A massage with lavender oil relaxes a fussy baby, and it encourages sleeping. It also comes handy when dealing with insect bites since its anti-inflammatory effects will soothe the skin and reduce itchiness.
Lavender essential oil is also effective with babies struggling with colic. It relieves gassiness and other digestive issues.
You can also apply diluted lavender oil on your baby’s chest or back to soothe the spasms associated with a cough.
Diluted lavender oil also helps in bringing down fevers.
- Chamomile Essential Oil
There are two types of chamomile essential oils which vary depending on their country of origin. That is the German and Roman chamomile oils – Matricaria chamomilla and Chamaemelum nobile. Both essential oils are gentle, and they are beneficial to babies who have trouble sleeping.
It is easy for kids to sleep after inhaling chamomile because of the essential oil’s soothing properties. You may use it to treat insomnia in kids, as well as adults.
You could also mix chamomile with lavender essential oil to relieve the symptoms of colic.
If your baby is fussy or if you feel that your child is depressed or anxious, then you could use chamomile essential oil.
It also helps with diarrhea and teething.
- Distilled lemon (Citrus limon)
Distilled lemon essential oil is safe for kids and babies, and it helps as it uplifts moods. If your baby wakes up snappy and fussy, then you could use this essential oil as a post-nap wake-up call.
The distilled lemon essential oil is preferable to expressed lemon for babies because expressed lemon oil is a potential photosensitizer and it could cause skin irritation. Distilled essential oil is safer for babies, and it doesn’t cause skin irritation.
This oil extracted through the process of steam distillation of dried dill seeds and plant is safe for babies. It has several health benefits because of its antispasmodic, sedative, and calming properties. The oil also helps with the baby’s digestive function. It helps with colic too.
If your child has a weak digestive system, you should dilute the oil with water or carrier oil before you massage it on the baby’s skin.
- Eucalyptus essential oil
This is an effective home remedy for treating sniffles or stuffiness. It clears and decongests the respiratory system. You should, however, to your pediatrician before using eucalyptus oil.
But, before using this natural expectorant that relieves most respiratory issues almost immediately, you need to take precautions to ensure that you don’t put your child in harm’s way.
There are two types of eucalyptus essential oil and the essential oil used by adults being eucalyptus globulus oil. The eucalyptus globulus oils are safe for adults but, it is too strong for kids under 2 years.
Therefore, if you have to use eucalyptus essential oil for infants, you should look for eucalyptus oil radiata. You have to talk to your pediatrician before using eucalyptus to manage/ treat respiratory issues.
- Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a strong essential oil which is harsh on a baby’s fragile skin. It isn’t safe for use on babies younger than six months.
While dilution makes the oil safer, tea tree oil remains harsh for babies under 6 months. If you have to use tea tree oil on older kids make sure you test the oil before use.
It is, however, an effective and a healing essential oil thanks to its antimicrobial, disinfectant, and antifungal properties. It is suitable for treating fungal infection and, it is a great natural remedy for diaper rash.
This essential oil has calming effects, and it works in the same way as lavender essential oil to soothe babies. Like lavender oil, it makes a great nighttime solution especially if your baby gets irritated by lavender oil’s scent.
Compared to other oils from oranges, Mandarin has a sweet scent, and it is favorable as it is not phototoxic. Therefore, it doesn’t irritate the skin, even when applied directly.
Mandarin is also a great alternative to lavender for babies who are irritated by essential oils.
- Peppermint oil
It has menthol, and though soothing, it is unsafe for babies below two years. Peppermint essential oil has been shown to cause respiratory issues. Like eucalyptus oil, it shouldn’t be ingested or even sniffed through the nose or the mouth.
- Cedarwood Essential Oil
Both the cedarwood Virginian and the cedarwood Atlantic are safe for children. They smell amazing, and they are relaxing. Both soothe the skin.
Safe Essential Oil Blends
Blends for colds and congestion – frankincense essential oil, lavender essential oil and lemon essential oils. These oils are renowned for their calming and therapeutic effects. The oils are gentle and safe for babies.
Frankincense is a good alternative to eucalyptus oil, and it is efficient in clearing sinuses.
On the other hand, lemon oil is a natural disinfectant, and it is also naturally antibacterial. It also eases depression and anxiety.
- Tea tree oil and lavender
When mixed in equal parts, you can use this blend to relieve the congestion of the airways. Adding the blend to a diffuser will also get rid of mucus that is common with flu and cold.
- Tea Tree oil, lemon, geranium, and carrier oil
These oils can be applied to the skin of the baby when mixed with a carrier oil. The blend is an effective cradle cap, and it works best if your baby develops a crusty or an oily patch on the skin. You just need to apply a little oil and apply on the affected area of the scalp twice a day, until the symptoms clear up. You can comb out the build up after a few treatments.
- Roman Chamomile, Sweet Orange and carrier or baby’s bubble bath
If your baby is struggling with abdominal (intestinal or tummy) discomfort, you could massage their tummy gently, or you could run a bath with these two essential oils to relieve the discomfort.
- German chamomile, lavender, and whole milk
Adding this mixture to your baby’s bathwater and swishing it around before bathing gets rid of diaper rash. It also soothes the skin preventing the discomfort that comes with diaper rash.
Best oils for colic and constipation
These oils are gentle laxatives which relieve the discomfort in the stomach, and, they also soothe tempers.
They include dill, mandarin, rose, and Roman chamomile.
To use these oils, you should use the oils in warm presses, and you should also massage with the oils to relieve the symptoms.
For use, soak a face cloth in a basin filled with warm water with about 3 drops of your preferred essential oil. Then, lay the cloth on your baby’s tummy.
Best essential oils for teething
Babies get their first teeth at 6 months, and they have all their 20 teeth at 2.5 years. Unfortunately, teething is a tough time for babies and parents. To alleviate the distress that comes with teething, you can try these essential oils
- Chamomile for early teething thanks to its sedative effects.
- Lavender because it is nontoxic, soothing, and it is a natural antiseptic. It also relieves muscle pain.
- Ginger and Marjoram work for babies over 6 months. These oils alleviate pain, irritation, and they ease muscle pain. Marjoram increases circulation, and it alleviates muscle pain.
- Over 2 years, clove bud essential oil is effective in managing the pain.
Essential oils for toddlers
With your toddler running around in preschool, day care of at school, he or she will come across germs which cause coughing, colds or flu. They will also come home with bruises and bumps. Essential oils present a safer way of treating the cuts and calming down tantrums. All you have to do is to dilute the oils with a 0.5 percent dilution ratio.
How to Dilute Essential Oils for Babies
As mentioned above, essential oils are potent and should be diluted before use. Diluting essential oils is important especially in young children and infants.
If you have to use essential oils for babies under 3 months of age, you should dilute the oils with a safe dilution ratio of 0.5 to 1 percent. On the other hand, if diluting essential oils for adults, the safe dilution ratio is 2.5 to 10 percent.
This difference is necessary because kids have underdeveloped skin and immune systems.
Note that even when diluted, essential oils still cause skin irritation, and they increase sensitivity to the sun.
The only way to tell if the essential oil is safe on your skin or not is by performing a patch test. This test also goes by the name spot test. Follow these steps to test the oil.
- Apply a small amount of diluted essential oil on your baby’s arm or leg. Ensure the oil isn’t larger than a dime.
- Wait for about 24 hours to see if there is any form of skin reaction
- In case a reaction, seen as redness, pain to the touch, or inflammation, then you should discontinue the use of the oil.
- But, if there is no reaction, then you are safe to move forward with the use of the essential oil.
According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), there are essential oils which should be avoided just because babies are too young. Some of these essential oils include birch and wintergreen which are rich in peppermint and methyl salicylate.
How to use essential oils
First off, we have to reiterate the fact that essential oils shouldn’t be given to infants or children internally. The oils should also be kept out of children’s way/bath to prevent accidental ingestion.
Blending essential oils with a carrier
You can use carrier oils like vegetable oil, sweet almond oil, or coconut oil. The carrier oils often work as base oils for essential oils. The oils also have moisturizing qualities, and they help in nourishing the skin.
You’ll realize that peanut oil is the most common base oil and so, you should check the ingredients for potential allergens.
For the blend, dilute 0.5 percent of essential oil with the base oil and then shake it vigorously and thoroughly to blend the oils. You can use the blend to perform the patch test.
Since essential oils are effective natural room fresheners, you could try new essential oils by diffusing a small amount of every new oil. Take note of any form of irritation.
You could spritz the diluted oil around your baby’s room for that calming and relaxing scent before bedtime or naps. You should, however, avoid spritzing pillows so that your baby doesn’t ingest the oil accidentally.
Reasons why you shouldn’t use essential oils for babies under 6 months
- The oils could affect your child’s sense of smell negatively.
As infants navigate the new world after leaving the womb, what they are exposed to affects them in the long run.
Even though babies develop the sense of smell when 10 weeks old and in the womb (that is why newborns can recognize the smell of their mother’s amniotic fluid and breast milk, three days after birth. It is similar to the mother’s colostrum),
These tell you that a baby’s sense of smell is too sensitive and introducing new scents will throw your baby off their food fast!
- The oils can damage your baby’s skin
Since an infant’s skin isn’t well-formed soon after birth, introducing their skin to essential oils is going to make the skin susceptible to damages.
Essential Oils to Avoid
While some essential oils are fairly safe for use with kids and babies, there are others which are unsafe.
The unsafe essential oils for kids and babies include:
- Eucalyptus essential oils
If ingested or taken orally, it can cause seizures. This is the case with eucalyptus globulus oil. Besides babies, some adults also extremely allergic to this essential oil that they start coughing or wheezing.
- Tea tree oil
Unless highly diluted, it can cause irritation and burning on the skin, On the other hand, if swallowed, tea tree oil is poisonous, and it causes muscle tremors, nausea, as well as the inflammation of the mouth.
- Clove oil
It is safe and helpful in treating several conditions in adults but, it is unsafe for babies. If swallowed it can numb the gag reflex, and in extreme cases, your baby may aspirate on their saliva.
This essential oil is unsafe for kids especially if swallowed. Even swallowing the smallest amount of sage essential oil leaves your child with seizures.
- Hyssop essential oil
This oil is unsafe for kids and babies. It has the compound pinocamphone which makes hyssop oil toxic. It causes seizures. Individuals or children with epilepsy shouldn’t use it. It is unsafe for children under 5 years.
- Idaho Tansy essential oil
This oil isn’t used in traditional aromatherapy because of its toxicity. It is neurotic, and it can cause convulsions.
- Blue Tansy Essential Oil
Blue Tansy essential oil is toxic, and it shouldn’t be used in aromatherapy.
- Other essential oils to avoid around children include wintergreen oil, olbus oil, and clary sage essential oils.
Essential Oils to Avoid When Breastfeeding and During Post-Partum Recovery
There are numerous essential oils which offer the best support before, during and after labor. You could use helichrysum, lavender, bergamot, lemon, lime, clary sage, peppermint, basil, fennel, geranium or orange after childbirth. However, you should avoid carrot seed, blue cypress, raven, dill, hyssop, cinnamon bark, sage, wintergreen, clary sage, sage, myrrh or Idaho Tansy essential oils.
Alternatives to essential oils
Despite the fact that some essential oils bring out the best of you through your baby (a happy baby results in a happy parent), you can opt for other simple and safe remedies which can alleviate the problem at hand with little or no discomfort.
You can relieve constipation in infants through massages.
Even without oils, you can massage your baby’s tummy to help your baby through bouts of colic. You can use dry hands but use the lightest feather touch to stroke the baby’s tummy, around the navel.
Here is how you should do it:
Make two strokes upwards and two strokes across the tummy, just above the navel. Then, do two more strokes down and one stroke across your baby’s pelvis. These strokes are soothing, as long as you perform them gently.
You could use hydrosols as well.
Talking to your doctor
Though helpful, you shouldn’t use essential oils with some medications. You should, however, check with your doctor before using these therapeutic oils. Also, check with your doctor if you want to use essential oils when pregnant.