Essential oils, you’ve either heard all about them or you’ve been coasting by shelves of these little bottles in the bath section wondering if you wandered into the craft section by mistake. For those of you with a more sensitive nose, you’ll be familiar with the soothing scents of sandalwood, lavender and camomile. In fact, you might even have it on your list of Mother’s Day must-haves. We’re all about aromatherapy and things that smell nice, like candles or flowers (they look pretty too!) but did you know essential oils are something babies can benefit from too? We looked into the essentials of essential oils and here’s what we found…
What are essential oils?
Essential oils have a long history of cosmetic use (and for good reason, they smell amazing!). They’re usually extracted through steam distillation and cold pressing and are said to be more effective than dry herbs since oils can diffuse into cell membranes that much quicker. Some common application methods include diffusion using a humidifier, inhalation and rubbed or massaged into your skin during a well-deserved spa sesh. There are plenty of essential oils on the market, but only pure essential oil is said to have health benefits. Essential oils with synthetic additives are mainly used for aromatherapy and definitely not the kind you should use on your baby.
Some milder oils that are suitable for babies include:
- Lavender: one of the most gentle and versatile oils. Apply on baby’s feet before bedtime for a good night’s sleep; add some to laundry when washing sheets and blankets, or use it to soothe insect bites and minor tummy aches.
- Chamomile: this oil has a calming scent that is especially great for nap times and in helping to soothe teething symptoms.
- Orange: a sweet and uplifting scent to soothe cranky babies post-nap.
- Frankincense: diffuse this oil with lavender for a calming ambiance.
- Tea Tree (Melaleuca): this oil is useful for reducing baby rash. This is a stronger oil so only apply it to babies over six months of age after speaking to your doctor.
- Eucalyptus Radiata: this refreshing scent helps relieve respiratory symptoms.
How do I use them safely?
Apply it directly to skin
Pure essential oils (the only kind you want to use on your little ones) are highly concentrated and definitely not suitable for ingesting. Avoid applying essential oils to sensitive areas such as the eyes, ears and mucous membranes. Don’t add oils to the bath as your little one might get an accidental gulp of bathwater or get it into their eyes during playful splashing. Before you apply the oils directly to the skin, keep in mind that every baby reacts to different essential oils differently. So when trying a new essential oil, first dilute it heavily with water and do a patch test (starting with yourself!) on the baby’s arm or leg to test for a sensitive skin reaction. If you are a regular user of essential oils, your baby will probably get used to them easier.
Blend with a carrier oil
Some essential oils for children are pre-blended with carrier oils. Or else, you can blend your essential oils yourself with carrier oils such as vegetable oil or coconut oil. These mix well with essential oils and are also moisturising. A safe dilution for babies would be about one drop essential oil to one tablespoon carrier oil.
There are different types of diffusers but one of the best types to use for essential oils is an ultrasonic diffuser which vaporises and disperses oil using electronic frequencies. It’s quiet, and best of all, doesn’t emit heat. Use the diffuser to humidify and infuse the air next to spaces like your child’s crib and play areas. Start with 2-3 drops and gradually increase it as your baby gets used to the scent.
As an alternative to diffusing, you can also spray diluted essential oil (with distilled or boiled water) to freshen the air in your baby’s room.
Important: if you or your child have a pre-existing medical condition or are taking regular medication, check with your doctor before you use ANY essential oils.
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