Diffusing Essential Oils Around Babies
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Diffusing Essential Oils Around Babies
Essential oil diffusers are becoming more and more popular as parents look for natural ways to sooth their babies. But is diffusing essential oils around babies actually safe?
Being a parent makes decisions that were once easy a lot more difficult. Suddenly, you have an adorable little person to make decisions for.
This decision is made even more difficult as there is so much contradictory information about the use of essential oils on babies and children.
Before we bought an essential oil diffuser to use with our baby and toddler we did a lot of research. I wanted to read actual evidence and expert advice linked to studies.
We found some pretty scary articles that advocated using neat essential oils on tiny babies. 😕
We wanted to share what we learnt through our own reading to save other busy parents the trouble of researching. We also wanted to discourage unsafe practices to help keep babies safe. Please note that we’re not health professionals or expert aromatherapists but we have quoted them and linked to their sites so you can check it out for yourselves.
So, let’s take a look at what we know….
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are plant oil extracts in their natural state. They can be diffused, added to a carrier oil (like sunflower oil) for massage or applied directly to the skin, following careful instructions.
Are essential oil diffusers safe for babies?
Essential Oil Diffusers are used to vaporise essential oils (highly diluted with water). They gently release the scented vapours into the room where they can be inhaled.
But, are diffusers safe for babies?
Before deciding whether to invest in an essential oil diffuser for your baby you’ll want to see some facts about their safety.
We definitely love our essential oil diffuser but we researched until we were happy it would be safe for our boys. In the past, when our boys had congestion it meant sleepless nights for all of us as they struggled to get comfortable.
A few drops in the diffuser and their congestion improved dramatically and allowed them to fall asleep. We love it!
This is the one that we have…
Click the image for US prices and click here for UK prices.
It works brilliantly and doubles as a night light (set it to red as it doesn’t interrupt sleep). It also looks stylish set up on the sideboard!
So, let’s take a look at some of the reported risks of using a diffuser with babies…
Can diffusing essential oils be harmful?
Since, essential oils are being used by more and more people, there have been more reported incidents of poisoning (although still rare).
Many people wrongly assume that essential oils are totally safe because they are natural.
Infact, most incidents where children were poisoned by essential oils were caused by them gaining access to it and ingesting the substance. Some children were even given the oils in large doses by parents who thought it would benefit them!
Essential oils are like any other substance. They can be toxic if misused.
“All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.”
Paracelsus – 16th-century physician
It’s so important to treat essential oils as you would anything that’s potentially dangerous:
• Store them in a safe place.
• Keep out of direct sunlight and use within date (ensures the correct concentration).
• Make sure that correct instructions are followed.
Store essential oils safely and use correctly so that children don’t ingest the oil and poisoning is avoidable.
Is diffusing eucylupus oil safe around babies?
Wow! There is a lot of contradictory information on the internet for this one!
As parents we tend to be a little over-cautious when it comes to keeping our babies safe but with articles like this around it’s no wonder many parents are too scared to use eucalyptus with their children!
At thehippyhomemaker.com we’re advised that “ALL eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils should be avoided until 10+ years of age”.
www.naturallivingideas.com shares with us the “7 Scary Essential Oil Dangers Not Enough People Know About”.
“There are also certain oils that should never be used around a young child or baby, like wintergreen, eucalyptus, rosemary and peppermint. Those oils contain compounds that can actually slow breathing, or even stop it in those who have respiratory problems.”
They both claim to quote Tisserand and Young (2014) from this book which is considered to be the most evidence based book on the subject. It includes over 4000 citations!
But what do Tisserand and Young (2014) actually say about the use of Eucalyptus and other cineole-rich oils aound babies?
Robert Tisserand himself has commented on this misinformation following a refreshing article on aromaticstudies.com.
Tisserand explains that the guidelines published weren’t as clear as they could have been and goes on to explain his position on eucalyptus:
“They are safe to diffuse for children, if we are talking about two or three drops in a diffuser for a moderately small bedroom”.
But, why are people so confused about whether diffusing eucylupus oil is safe around infants?
The confusion has more than likely come from Tisserand and Young’s position on applying these oils directly to the skin. As he explains “On the other hand, applying undiluted eucalyptus oil to the face – or even to the feet – of an infant would be unwise and risky. Eucalyptus oil is also safe to use at about 1% in a chest rub for small children”.
It would be wise to apply as small amount first as you would when introducing any new substance to your baby. Tisserand states that “There are two reports of serious adverse reactions by children to non-oral eucalyptus oil – ages 4 and 6 (EOS page 274). This does not mean that all children in a certain age group are at risk from topical eucalyptus oil – on the other hand such reports, as well as the ones from nasal instillation, deserve to be considered”.
It’s worth clarifying that instillation is when a substance is inserted into the nose using a pipette or inhaler. Instillation has nothing to do with room diffusers.
We’ve been using the recommended 2-3 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil in our diffuser for our babies when they have colds. We actually find that it’s the only thing that helps…especially at bedtime!
However, if even reading about these safety concerns (even if quoting incorrectly) is enough to put you off you could try a milder alternative like this…
Is diffusing Lavender Oil safe around babies?
Lavender Oil is commonly used with babies. You will hear some people (often in forums) claiming that it is a hormone disruptor. A new report with better testing proved that the initial study was incorrect.
“Lavender oil does not mimic estrogen nor does it enhance the body’s own estrogens. It is therefore not a ‘hormone disruptor’, cannot cause breast growth in young boys (or girls of any age).” Tisserand
Bear in mind that it takes 3lbs (1.4kg) of lavender plant to make a 15ml bottle of lavender essential oil! It’s extremely concentrated so you should only be using a drop of two in your diffuser, especially around children.
Essential oils that CAN BE diffused around babies…
Not all essential oils should be diffused around babies or young children but there are loads that you can use with a baby around.
Note that the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians recommends not using essential oils around babies until they’re 3 months old. This is because your newborn’s skin and respirarory system is new and just getting used to the world!
As an alternative you could still diffuse plain water (from the tap). This is especially helpful if you have central heating or air conditioning as it will help to humidify the environment and prevent a baby getting a dry mouth and nose.
Essential oils for sleep and relaxation:
Chamomile both German (Matricaria Chamomilla) and Roman (Chamaemelum Nobile) are known for their relaxing properties. A lovely oil to defuse before bedtime.
Lavender (Lavandula Augustifolia) is perfect for relaxation and bedtime.
Mandarin (Citrus Reticulata) has similar effects as Lavender so ia also great for bedtimes.
Sweet Marjoram (Origanum Majorana) is thought to relax and prepare for sleep.
Essential oils for congestion:
Eucalyptus (Eucalpytus radiata) is great for the winter months when colds are common. It can help congestion which can be especially useful before laying babies down to sleep. Use Eucalyptus Globula or Eucalyptus Radiata on children.
Fir needle (Abies Sibirica) A good alternative to Eucalyptus oil.
Essential oils for colic:
Lavender (Lavandula Augustifolia) – A study has found this essential oil to reduce symptoms of colic.
Essential oils for mood:
Distilled Lemon (Citrus Limon). This zesty oil can help boost your babies mood and energy. Handy, if you want to wake a sleepy baby after a nap or when you’d rather they didn’t fall asleep!
Which essential oils should not be diffused around babies?
Despite many essential oils being safe for diffusing around babies and toddlers, there a few that shouldn’t be used:
Anise (Star) Illicium Verum
Birch (Sweet) Betula Lenta
Cardamon Elettaria Cardamomum
Fennel Foeniculum Vulgare
Marjoram (Spanish) Thymus Mastichina
Peppermint. It can cause breathing irregularities.
Wintergreen Gaultheria Fragrantissima, Gaultheria Procumbens.
To be honest I find it easier to choose oils from the safe list that to read all the evidence against using the others. I’d advise you to stick to gentle, commonly used essential oils in your diffuser.
So, are oil diffusers safe for babies?
I hope we’ve helped you to decide how essential oils can work for your family. We think that they’re safe if used correctly. They’re much like any other item you’d use with a baby…safe if used correctly.
Safe Diffusing Around Babies Summary…
Let’s have a quick recap on how to use an essential oil diffuser safely around babies.
1. Storage. Store the diffuser and oils out of reach and in bottles with sindle-drop dispensers.
2. Dosage. Remember that essential oils are really strong. Read instructions for use with children carefully. In a diffuser use between 1-3 drops (check the labels and don’t use adult doses).
3. Quality. Buy a good quality diffuser and essential oils that are pure (not diluted).
4. Ventilation. Use the diffuser in a well ventilated room with windows open if necessary.
5. Timer. Don’t leave it on overnight. For most effectiveness use for 30-45 minutes at a time.
This is the diffuser that we use. It has a built in timer so we don’t need to worry about forgetting to turn it off!
6. Instructions. Read the instructions carefully before use. Take note of how much water should be used with the oil.
7. Keep it clean. Clean your diffuser to prevent bacteria growth. We dry ours after use too for this reason.