Q&A: Oils for baby massage
Q: Could you please confirm if it's ok to massage babies with fractionated coconut oil or whether it should be avoided due to possibility of nut allergy?
A: Baby massage can be of great benefit to both the baby and the parents. It is a lovely way to bond with your baby and research has shown that babies who have regular massages are healthier, sleep better and are less anxious than babies who do not receive massage.
In accordance with The International Association of Infant Massage (UK) we recommend using plant-based oils with no artificial fragrances.
The base oils that are most commonly used include Fractionated Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Sweet Almond Oil and Grapeseed Oil.
Any edible oil has the potential to cause an allergic reaction – just as any food could do - however according to Dr. G Lack, Consultant Paediatric Allergist at St. Mary’s Hospital it is rare for fractionated coconut oil to cause an allergic reaction and if a reaction does occur it is usually mild. We would always advise that you perform a small patch test prior to using any oil for the first time.
It is also recommended that you choose an oil that is low in oleic acid. Oleic acid can make some layers of your baby's skin more permeable. This permeability helps oil and water be absorbed into your baby's skin to improve moisture levels, however moisture can move both ways, so if your baby's skin is already dry the oleic acid could actually lead to moisture loss and increased dryness. For your information coconut oil contains only 5% oleic acid.
Opinion varies as to whether you should use essential oils in your base massage oil. Some experts say that you can use essential oils from around 2 months old (but avoid it for week or 2 before and after vaccinations). They recommend that the only oils that should be used are Roman Chamomile, Neroli, Lavender, Mandarin or Rose. ALL OTHER ESSENTIAL OILS SHOULD BE AVOIDED.
If you do wish to use essential oils in your base oil we would advise you to consult a qualified aromatherapist who specialises in treating babies and their individual specific needs. It may also be of benefit to enrol on a baby massage course as this will equip you with correct techniques to use with infants.
The Base Formula Aromatherapy Team