Top tips for using essential oils with babies and children
When it comes to your children, you ALWAYS put their safety first, right? In using essential oils with children, this ethos is no different. We all know that essential oils are both wonderful and natural, and they can be an absolutely fabulous way to help keep our wellbeing and health in balance; at Base Formula we are all so passionate about how amazing essential oils are! So, we know that you can’t wait to use them on your families and share the amazingness around… We hear you!
Thoughtful essential oil treatmentHowever, in order to use essential oils safely, it is important to remember their power! The reason that they are so amazing is because they can be so powerful. Like any other medicine, essential oils chemically alter the body, though in a completely natural way. The reason that we are beginning this article with this reminder, is that it is important to remember to be logical, informed and thoughtful when treating your children. Remember the reason you turned to natural healthcare – it empowers you to take control of your own health. It’s no different with your family; you are in control and you can research the best way to use the different oils safely. With that in mind, here’s some advice on using essential oils with babies and children, to get you started…
Aromatherapy for children - In the pressThere’s been a lot of talk in the news recently about some Aromatherapy brands advising the use of essential oils for neat application to skin, as well as ingestion. This is a problem – even for adults – but it is especially problematic when brands are advising treatment of children with these methods. The Federation of Holistic Therapists released a statement on the very subject in 2016, saying that they did not endorse such methods, and we are in complete agreement. It is extremely important that you stay safe and follow reputable advice.
Top 5 tips for treating babies, infants and childrenFirstly, make sure you always follow these basic safety guidelines:
- Keep all essential oil bottles and aromatherapy products out of the reach of children – you don’t want them picking them up and playing with them.
- Always dilute your oils first - and follow our dilution rules: you must always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil such as Grapeseed oil or Extra Virgin Coconut Butter (Coconut Butter is our preference for kids because it is nutrient rich).
- Do not use essential oils on children’s faces or in or around their nose, they can be a bit too potent at a young age.
- Start slowly and build up to regular use – introduce essential oils to children in a more diluted format and gradually build up the use to our recommended dilution rates. For babies, start really diluted and with with small quantities of oils, and gradually increase this as they grow older!
- Introduce one essential oil at a time and test sensitivity with each one. You can do this via a patch test with your diluted essential oil – try it just in the elbow crease or behind the ear. This is a great way to check out sensitivities before applying to your child’s skin in larger quantities – any allergies should show in around 30-40 minutes after exposure.
Ways to use essential oils with babies and childrenAs with adults, there are several methods for using essential oils with little ones. We suggest that you start with inhalation-based techniques and build-up to using them in the bath or for massage.
Essential oil dilution rates for babies and children (total drops):
- 1 drop in 15ml of carrier for babies over 3 months old, up to 12 months
- 2 drops in 15ml for infants aged from 1 year up to age 5
- 3 drops in 15ml for children between 6 and 12 years old
- Up to 6 drops in 15ml for older children
The best method for essential oil inhalation for children is to pop drops of essential oil onto a cotton pad and leave it on a warm radiator to diffuse gently into the room. Use the quantities as shown above (no dilution is necessary as it is on a cotton pad and will not touch the skin).
Add the above amounts of essential oil to 15ml of water in a candle burner or aromatherapy diffuser.
Create a spritz where appropriate – e.g. to help baby sleep at night, to keep them cool in summer or to ward off insects. For this, pour up 100ml of water into a spray bottle and add: 6 drops of essential oil for babies, 12 drops for infants, 18 drops for children and up to 36 drops for older children. You may consider also using hydrolats such as Lavender or Chamomile. instead of water.
Add the recommended amount of essential oil into your chosen carrier. The carrier will ensure that the oils disperse evenly through the water, rather than just floating on the surface. You use fragrance free bath bases such Base Formula’s SLS free Bath & Shower Gel, or Bath Oil, or simply add the oils to a cup of full fat milk.
Massage is a lovely way to comfort and bond with your child. Studies show that babies who receive regular massage are healthier, less anxious and sleep better than those who don’t receive massage. To make your massage blend, add the recommended quantities of essential oil to 15ml of carrier oil such as Grapeseed oil or Extra Virgin Coconut Butter (in melted/liquid form). Baby massage can start from the age of 2 months, but it is advisable to avoid massaging them a week or 2 before and after vaccinations.
Which essential oils are safe for each age range?There are some oils that are considered safe to use with babies and children of certain ages (see below) – though remember to patch test each oil first to check for sensitivity. It’s certainly not the case that all essential oils are safe for children, so it is important to do your research – there are safety notes on our website for each essential oil which can help guide you, so remember to read up on those too. For example, it is best to avoid all possible toxic and irritant oils.
Please note: we advise to only begin using essential oils on children above the age of 3 months because infants younger than this have much more sensitive skin which is still tender and maturing.
Age: Babies – 3-6 Months:
- Chamomile (Roman and German) – relaxing, sensitive skin, calming, soothing
- Lavender – relaxing, calming, anti-viral, antiseptic, good for almost anything
- Yarrow (Blue) – balancing, soothing, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic
Age: Babies – 6-12 Months:
- Bergamot* - relaxing, calming, reduces nervous anxiety, uplifting, treats urinary tract infections, digestive problems
- Dill – soothes nerves, digestive problems, wound healing
- Mandarin* - hypnotic, sedative, digestive upsets, tonic
- Neroli* - sensitive skin, stress, shock, sedative, anti-spasmodic, calming
- Rosewood – balancing, uplifting, relieves fatigue, comforting
- Sandalwood – relaxing, balancing, respiratory, inflamed skin
- Sweet Orange* - cheery, refreshing, digestive, insomnia, immunity
- Tangerine* - sedative, oily skin, relaxing, uplifting, digestive, anti-spasmodic
- Tea Tree – cleansing, anti-viral, anti-septic, stimulates immunity, invigorating
Age: Infants – 1 to 2 years:
- Geranium – skin balance, mood swings, relaxing, hormonally balancing
- Grapefruit* - oily/blemished skin, uplifting, digestive, immunity boosting
- Palmarosa – helps skin and scarring, calming, digestive, fights infection
- Rose Otto – soothing, balancing, emotionally calming, counters sadness, moisturising for skin
- Myrtle – sedative, soothing, calming, cheering, respiratory problems, urinary tract infections,
Age: Infants – 2 to 5 years:
- Citronella*- repels insects, uplifting
- Lime* - invigorating, antiseptic, uplifting, stimulates immunity, respiratory, aids circulation
- Lemongrass* - tonic, reduces aggression, antiseptic, stimulates immunity, aching muscles, nervousness
- Frankincense – calming, skincare, panic-busting, respiratory – coughs, colds, asthma
- Ylang Ylang – stress and nervousness, insomnia, hair issues and shine, sadness
- Patchouli – skincare, inflammation, confidence, grounding, calming, repels insects
Age: Child – 6-12 Years
- Fennel – courage, strength, water retention, digestive, stimulates immunity, detoxifying
- Juniperberry – anger and confusion, urinary, water balance, inflammation, negative thoughts
- Spearmint – stimulating, aids concentration, relieves fatigue, digestive, respiratory, muscular
- Vetivert – grounding, soothing, fatigue, stress, anxiety, anger, hysteria, insomnia, hormones
*citrus oils can be phototoxic, totally avoid sun exposure after use.
Blending advice: use your intuition!Where you can only use one drop of oil, because your child is too young to use more, you can only use a single essential oil. However, as they get older, we encourage you to only introduce one oil at a time. Once you have used a few different oils and have learned which ones your baby or child loves (the ones they love will be the ones they need – notice when their preferences change as this might link into something that is happening at that particular time), you can start to get creative and use more than one oil in your blends!
As a parent, you will be used to operating on gut feeling and instinct; blending is no different. Follow what feels right to you and get creative with mixing the oils together (taking care not to exceed the total amount of recommended drops). For example, at age 6 you may want to create an aromatherapy blend with 2 different essential oils – so for e.g. you could use 2 drops Lavender with 1 drop Geranium in 15ml of carrier for a lovely soothing and mood balancing blend! The choice is yours and you can decide what’s right for your individual bundle of joy! You know them best after all.
Still not sure? Here's our Top 5 essential oils to use with kidsChamomile is one of the best essential oils to use with younger children and is often called the ‘children’s essential oil’. It can be particularly helpful for sleep problems, irritability, tummy upsets and teething.
Lavender essential oil essential oil is also excellent for calming, soothing and aiding sleep. It can also be used in a warm antiseptic wash to swab cuts, wounds and grazes and in a cold compress to soothe bruises, burns, insect bites and stings.
Myrtle is also very gentle and popular for use with children. It’s particularly useful for chest massage to help with coughs and other chest complaints. It can also be used in an aromatherapy diffuser or on a cotton pad in the bedroom to soothe night-time coughing and help them sleep.
Mandarin or Tangerine is a favourite with children and parents. It is a cheery, uplifting and soothing. It can help to soothe digestive upsets and promote sleep.
Tea Tree is excellent for use in a diffuser to stimulate the immune system and fight off bugs / infections. It can be helpful in preventing and treating headlice and also be used in antiseptic washes for minor cuts and grazes etc.
Guest Blogger & Consultant Aromatherapist