Diffusing Essential Oils Around Babies & Toddlers | is it safe? | 2020 research
A guide to diffusing essential oils around babies and toddlers
Is diffusing essential oils around babies and toddlers safe?
Diffusing essential oils has grown in popularity over the years and it’s not surprising given that they have many beneficial properties.
Unfortunately, there is so much misinformation surrounding essential oils that it can be difficult to decide whether diffusing essential oils around babies and toddlers is actually safe.
So, I want to share with you some research that has been done over the last decade that looked at diffusing around babies and toddlers.
This post is based on research that is published in “Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals” by leading experts Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young.
Any post on this site may contain affiliate links.
Is it safe to diffuse around newborns?
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians recommends not using essential oils around babies until they’re 3 months old.
When speaking specifically about diffusing around babies Tisserand recommends using ultrasonic diffusers for a maximum of 60 minutes at a time (with rest periods of 30-60 minutes where the diffuser is turned off).
You can choose a diffuser that you can set to automatically shut off after 60 minutes.
Routine diffusing around babies and children is not advised unless doses are kept to a minimum i.e a few drops per day.
In general the dilution for diffusing essential oils around babies in an ultrasonic diffuser is:
- 0-3 months = plain tap water only.
- 3+ months = 1-3 drops of oil per 200ml water.
- Adults = 3-5 drops per 200ml water.
N.B. there are essential oils that should never be diffused around babies and children…I’ve listed some common EOs below).
Tips for safe diffusing around babies and toddlers:
It is possible to diffuse some essential oils around babies and toddlers (see our safe list below) but there are some key things to consider that will help keep your family safe and well:
1. Storage. Store the diffuser and oils out of reach and in bottles with single-drop dispensers.
2. Dosage. Remember that essential oils are natural but potent. Read instructions for use around 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 look for 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.
Choosing a diffuser for baby room
Essential oil diffusers are used to vaporize essential oils. They gently release the scented vapors into the room where they can be inhaled.
There are a few different ways to diffuse essential oils:
- Evaporative: often a candle which heats up the essential oil causing it to evaporate.
- Fan: the essential oils are placed on an absorbent pad and blown by a fan to release the scent.
- Ultrasonic: uses electronic frequencies to create vibrations that break up the molecules for distribution.
- Nebulizing: these waterless diffusers use cold air to force undiluted oil molecules into an atomizer which breaks them down into fine particles.
Although nebulizers are thought to be the best way to diffuse oils for therapeutic purposes I personally prefer to use an ultrasonic diffuser when children are present as it diffuses more gently and EOs are diluted with water.
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.
What we do… We diffuse a drop or two of lavender during our bedtime routine to relax our baby and toddler. It really seems to help calm them and also acts as a great night-light while we read our stories (red is the best color for bedtime lighting as it doesn’t interfere with sleep quality).
During the winter months if our babies have congestion we use our ultrasonic diffuser with a drop of eucalyptus.
Keep reading to find out why people are so confused about the safety of diffusing eucalyptus around babies and toddlers.
Are some oils unsafe to diffuse around babies and infants?
Yes, there are essential oils that should NOT be diffused around babies (you can find some listed below).
There are many other essential oils that CAN be diffused safely around babies.
Let’s take a look at some commonly used essential oils…
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.
Tisserand’s book (the one I mentioned above) has been misquoted so many times in reference to Eucalyptus oil.
If you’ve already diffused eucalyptus around baby and are in a panic because you’ve read something like this…
“ALL eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils should be avoided until 10+ years of age”.
“7 Scary Essential Oil Dangers Not Enough People Know About”.
…then please don’t panic!
Both articles claim to quote Tisserand and Young’s (2014) book which is considered to be the most evidence based book on the subject.
But what do Tisserand and Young (2014) actually say about diffusing eucalyptus and other cineole-rich oils around babies?
Robert Tisserand himself has since commented that his guidelines 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”.
* By ‘they’ he is referring to Eucalyptus Radiata and Eucalyptus Globulus.
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.”.
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.
However, if reading about these safety concerns is enough to put you off you could try an alternative like Fir Needle.
You can read our full post here about diffusing Eucaltptus Oil Around Babies and Toddlers.
Is diffusing Tea Tree oil safe around babies?
Tea tree or Melaleuca alternifolia is an essential oil with natural antimicrobial, antifungal, and disinfectant properties.
Tea tree is stronger than oils like Lavender so although it can be diffused it is harsh on the skin and should be avoided totally on babies younger than 6 months old and carefully patch-tested on older infants.
Is diffusing Lavender Oil Safe Around Babies?
Lavender Oil is commonly used around babies. You will hear some people (often in forums) claiming that it is a hormone disruptor.
A new report by Tisserand with better testing claims 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 is 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…
Take a look at our favorites below:
Diffusing Essential Oils Around Babies For Sleep and Relaxation:
I’ve put together a post about using essential oils to help calm toddlers here.
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. Should be avoided by pregnant or lactating women.
Essential Oils to Diffuse for Baby Cold and Congestion:
I have a full post here for essential oils for 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.
Diffusing Essential Oils Around Babies For Colic:
Lavender (Lavandula Augustifolia) – A study has found this essential oil to reduce symptoms of colic.
Diffusing Essential Oils Around Babies 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!
Take a look at our essential oil baby blends here.
Which essential oils should NOT be diffused around babies?
Despite many essential oils being safe for diffusing around babies and toddlers, there are some 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.
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.