Diffusing Essential Oils Around Babies
Diffusing Essential Oils Around Babies and Toddlers
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 and toddlers 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, some even advocated consuming them!😕
We wanted to share what we learnt through our own reading to save other busy parents hours of reading.
Most importantly we wanted to help keep babies safe by discouraging some of the unsafe practices that we kept reading about.
We have quoted the experts and linked to their sites so you can check them out for yourselves…
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 (of adults), following careful instructions.
I’ve written a more general post about using essential oils on and around babies and toddlers…you can read it here. It covers how to add to bath water and lotion)
Any post on this site may contain affiliate links. If you use them, they cost you nothing extra but we make a small commission. Thanks.
Are essential oil diffusers safe for babies and toddlers?
Essential Oil Diffusers are used to vaporise essential oils. They gently release the scented vapours into the room where they can be inhaled.
But, are diffusers safe for babies and toddlers?
Before deciding whether to invest in an essential oil diffuser for your baby you’ll want some information about whether it’s safe to diffuse around babies and toddlers.
Are Ultrasonic Diffusers Safe Around Babies and Toddlers
Click the image for US prices and click here for UK prices.
Ultrasonic diffusers release a fine mist of water mixed with a few drops of the essential oil or oils that you add to the bowl in the diffuser.
You only use around 3-5 drops of oil in a large amount of water so it’s extremely diluted. If you’re using it in a large space or a well ventilated area then it’ll be even more dilute.
Expert Robert Tisserand recommends using ultrasonic diffusers for a maximum of 60 minutes at a time around babies and toddlers. He advises leaving a rest period of 30-60 minutes where the diffuser is turned off.
Routine diffusion isn’t advised around babies and children unless doses are kept to a minimum i.e a few drops per day.
What we do…
We diffuse just a drop or two of lavender during our bedtime routine to relax our baby and toddler. It really seems to help and acts as a great night-light while we read our stories (red is the best colour for bedtime lighting).
Ultrasonic diffusers also release moisture into the air so they act as humidifiers. Handy, if you live in a dry climate or have air conditioning or central heating.
During the winter months when our babies have congestion we use our ultrasonic diffuser with a drop of eucalyptus at bedtime. We’ve found that it works really well and means that our snuffly nosed babies can actually sleep (and so we can we!)
Keep reading to find out why I think people are so confused about the safety of diffusing eucalyptus around babies and toddlers.
Are Nebulizer Diffusers Safe Around Babies and Toddlers
Another method of diffusion is a Nebulizer diffuser. These diffusers are often made of wood and glass and are absolutely beautiful.
They actually diffuse pure essential oils into the air as you don’t add any water. It is the best way to diffuse oils for therapeutic purposes although personally I prefer to use an ultrasonic when children are present as the concentration of oil is less.
Having said that, I can’t find anything that actually says they’re unsafe so as far as I can tell it’s down to personal choice.
An ultrasonic diffuser will emit a few drops of oil in 2 or 3 hours whereas this type of nebulizer diffuser will emit that amount in around 10 minutes, depending on diffuser settings.
It’s advised that adults use nebulizer diffusers for only a few 10 minute cycles each day.
If I was going to use a nebulizer diffuser around babies or toddlers I would reduce the amount of oil, the length of time it was diffusing and make sure that the room is well ventilated (as I would with an ultrasonic).
Now, let’s take a look at some of the reported risks of using a diffuser around babies and toddlers…
Is diffusing oils around newborns safe
It’s worth noting that the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians recommends not using essential oils around babies until they’re 3 months old. This is because a newborn’s skin and respiratory system is new and just getting used to the world.
As an alternative you could still diffuse plain water (from the tap) in an ultrasonic diffuser.
This is especially helpful if you have central heating or air conditioning as it will help to add moisture to the environment and prevent a baby getting a dry mouth and nose.
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 these incidents are still rare).
Some people wrongly assume that essential oils are totally safe because they are natural…but natural doesn’t mean that we can use them without caution.
Infact, most incidents where children were poisoned by essential oils were caused by them gaining access to it and ingesting the substance. Sadly, 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 and quality).
• 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 eucalyptus oil safe around babies?
There is a lot of contradictory information on the internet about whether diffusing eucalyptus around babies and toddlers is actually safe.
As parents we tend to be a little over-cautious when it comes to keeping our babies safe but with articles like the one below around it’s no wonder that many parents are too scared to use eucalyptus with their babies and children or panic if they already have!
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 diffusing eucalyptus and other cineole-rich oils around 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 eucalyptus 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 (Essential Oil Safety 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 them to sleep when they have a cold.
However, if even reading about these regularly mis-quoted safety concerns 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 by Tisserand with better testing claimed 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 or two in your diffuser around children.
Is diffusing Peppermint Oil safe around babies?
In a word…no. Tisserand advises against diffusing Peppermint Oil around babies and toddlers because it can cause breathing difficulties.
After age 3 it can be diffused or applied topically at up to 0.5% (that’s around 2 drops per tablespoon).
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 safely with a baby around.
Take a look at our favourites below:
Essential oils for sleep and relaxation:
Click on the images to few prices.
Chamomile both German (Matricaria Chamomilla) and Roman (Chamaemelum Nobile) are known for their relaxing properties. A lovely oil to diffuse before bedtime.
Lavender (Lavandula Augustifolia) is perfect for relaxation and bedtime.
Mandarin (Citrus Reticulata) has similar effects as Lavender so is also great at bedtime.
Sweet Marjoram (Origanum Majorana) is thought to relax and prepare for sleep.
Essential oils for congestion:
I have a full post hear on dealing with congestion!
Eucalyptus (Eucalpytus radiata) is great for the winter months when colds are common. It can help with congestion which can be especially useful before laying babies down to sleep.
Tisserand recommends Eucalyptus Globula or Eucalyptus Radiata around 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 rather than to read all the evidence against using the others.
It’s best to be cautious and stick to low-doses of gentle, commonly used essential oils in your diffuser.
Summary: are oil diffusers safe for babies?
I hope that we’ve helped you to decide how essential oils can work for your family. We think that they’re much like any other item you’d use with a baby…safe if used with caution.
Safe Diffusing Around Babies Summary…
Let’s have a quick recap on how to use an essential oil diffuser safely around babies and toddlers.
1. Storage. Store the diffuser and oils out of reach and in bottles with single-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 or mixed with other substances).
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.