Essential oils for babies: how to use them, and which to avoid

Packed with natural active ingredients, essential oils must, as we know, be handled with care. Because some are neurotoxic and allergenic, many parents prefer not to use them for their babies. However, aromatherapy is very effective to relieve colds, nervousness, infantile colic or even sleep problems. We discussed it with Hélène Gaillard, doctor of pharmacy, a specialist in alternative medicine.

The first things to remember about aromatherapy in babies: no essential oils should be used with babies under 3 months old. Before the age of 3, only topical application or atmospheric diffusion are allowed—never oral consumption.

Essential oils that aren’t dangerous for babies

The list of essential oils allowed for newborns is not very long, but it can help soothe some of the common pains of babies. In alphabetical order: Scentless chamomile, Roman chamomile, Cardamom, Cistus, Black spruce, Fennel, fragrant Inula, Lavender fine, true Lavender, super Lavandin, Marjoram with shells, Palmarosa, Small grain Bigarade, Ravintsara, Saro, Tea Tree and Ylang-Ylang.

Note that while the essential oil Eucalyptus radiata can be used for a baby, to the extent that all other types of Eucalyptus are prohibited, avoid the risk of confusion: do not use Eucalyptus. The same principle of precaution goes for Thyme—the majority of forms are not allowed for very young children.


Colds, sleep, nervousness, colic: essential oils that relieve babies

To start building a small kit of basics, let’s focus on these 5 essential oils, complete with several purposes: fine Lavender, Small Grain Bigarade, Ravintsara, noble Chamomile and Marjoram with shells.

To maximize their benefits, certain oils can be mixed. Here’s some effective cocktails:

To promote sleep:
For diffusion: 1 drop of fine Lavender + 1 drop of Marjoram with shells
For a massage: 1 drop of fine Lavender + 3 drops of Argan oil

To calm a nervous baby:
For diffusion: 1 drop of Roman Chamomile + 1 drop of Small Grain Bigarade

To soothe a cold or another virus:
For diffusion: 1 drop of Ravintsara + 1 drop of Tea-Tree

To fix a stuffy nose:
For diffusion: 1 drop of Noble Chamomile + 1 drop of Marjolaine + 1 drop of fragrant Inula

To boost the immune system of a frequently sick baby:
Massage the baby’s feet with a mixture of Palmarosa + Black Spruce + Marjoram with shells: 1 drop each in 10 drops of argan oil.

To appease an angry baby:
Massage the baby’s feet with 1 drop of Roman Chamomile + 3 drops of Argan oil.

If your baby has colics:
Massage the baby’s belly and its feed with 1 drop of Noble Chamomile + 1 drop of True Lavender + 1 drop of Small Grain Bigarade + 1 drop of Fennel, in 10 drops of Argan oil.


Precautions to take when massaging a baby with essential oils

Used when massaging a baby, the essential oil must be diluted: a drop of essential oil for every 3 drops of vegetable oil (or argan, sweet almond, or even olive oil.)

Before proceeding with the massage for the first time, it is essential to check that baby is not allergic by using a simple test: pour a few drops of the mixture in the crease of the elbow and wait 24 hours. If the skin does not react with redness or swelling, the mixture can be applied to another part of the body.

Except in case of colic, which requires that you massage the belly, you should always massage a baby under the feet.


Precautions to take before diffusing an essential oil in the presence of a baby

The first precaution: choose the diffuser that does not heat the oil. You should also be sure to pour in only two drops at a time. Before starting with the diffusion, it is strongly recommended to ventilate the nursery, including in winter. Finally, note that the diffusion must take place while the baby is not in the room. Ideally, wait about fifteen minutes before returning him or her to the nursery.


The essential oils that you should never use for a baby

For children and adults alike, always take care to use quality essential oils. We can find them today at all price points and even in some “Bazar” shops. It is better to buy them in organic shops or from a pharmacist, who will always give good advice.

In general, infants and children with asthma or epilepsy can not be relieved with essential oils. In addition, anyone undergoing treatment for a chronic disease should not be exposed to essential oils, at the risk of a drug interaction.

Unless advised otherwise by a medical professional, use only the authorized essential oils mentioned above. Among those to be totally avoided, include all the oils concentrated in ketones: they are stimulants of the nervous system at low dose, and neurotoxic and stupefying at high dose. The oils of Camphor, Eucalyptus, Mint, Thuja, Sage and Hypose are thus to be avoided. The oils of Angelica, Hemlock, Orange, Lemon and Bergamot should not be used: they are very allergenic.


Two books to learn more:
Je masse mon bébé avec des huiles essentielles, visual guide by Danièle Festy, published by Leduc.S.
Spécial Bébé – Le petit livre des huiles essentielles, by Guillaume Gérault and Ronald Mary, published by Albin Michel

Thank you to Hélène Gaillard (pharmaceutical doctor at the Pharmacie Homéopathique Centrale – Paris’ 16th arrondissement – and activist for children) for her precious advice.

Translation: Ashley Griffin


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