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Are Essential Oils Safe for Babies? A Doctor’s Perspective

Figuring out what’s safe or not safe for your baby isn’t always easy—especially when you get conflicting advice from other mothers. In the case of essential oils and babies, this happens a lot.

The importance of getting medical advice, in this case, cannot be overstated, as those without expertise in baby care may have differing opinions. So, are essential oils safe for babies? 

Here’s what Dr. Walker Foland, DO, has to say.

Are Essential Oils Safe for Babies?

Yes and no. “It is generally recommended to avoid using essential oils on babies younger than three months old,” states Dr. Foland, DO, a board-certified doctor of osteopathic medicine in Saginaw, Michigan.

It’s commonly known that a baby’s skin is more delicate and sensitive than ours. In the first 3 months of life–and even in older infants–skin is still developing and super thin. The skin barrier is not fully built up yet, which is why most doctors recommend waiting 3 months to use any essential oils around little ones. And even when the 3 months are up, it’s always a good idea to consult with your pediatrician before introducing any new products, including essential oils, to your baby’s routine.

Benefits of Essential Oils for Babies

There are plenty of claims online about the powers of essential oils. And yes, even using pure essential oils with little ones has some real benefits, but what are they? Dr. Taz Bhatia, MD, shares some benefits for moms on the official CedarSpringMD patient blog

Essential oils can help with issues such as:

  • Bumps and scrapes
  • Respiratory issues
  • Sore throat
  • Immune support
  • Teething
  • Focus
  • Sleep

How To Use Essential Oils on Your Baby

Once your baby is over 3 months old and you’ve discussed adding essential oils to their routine with your pediatrician, now you can get started. But how? Topical and diffusion are the most common and safe ways to use essential oils with babies. We’ll take a dive into each method.

Spot testing

Because babies are extra sensitive, it’s critical to perform a patch test before fully using essential oils. Instead of lathering a handful of essential oil mixture all over your child, you want to start with a small 1-inch square area on their skin first to see how he or she reacts. After you apply this spot test, do not wipe or wash any of the mixture off. Wait at least 24 hours and stop further use if you notice any negative side effects like redness, swelling, or a rash.

Topical

The topical application method involves diluting essential oils with carrier oil and applying it on your baby’s skin. “This should be done sparingly and in a diluted form, as their skin is sensitive,” notes Foland. Using essential oils topically helps with better absorption so your baby can receive all the benefits of the oil.

Topical dilution rate recommendation:

Undiluted oils are not safe for babies. Essential oils should always be diluted. “A general guideline for dilution is to use 1-2 drops of essential oil per 1 ounce (30 ml) of carrier oil,” says Foland. Some great topical carrier oil options include coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, or jojoba oil. 

Diffusing

When you diffuse essential oils, it’s done using a diffuser that uses water to disperse the oil into the air. Fill your diffuser up with water and add 1-2 drops of essential oil. Diffusing essential oils is a great way to set an atmosphere–whether it’s for calming or relief.

Safe Essential Oils for Babies

It’s important to only use safe and gentle baby essential oils with your little one. Essential oils can be beneficial to you and your baby, but it’s critical to know which ones are safe first. Dr. Foland suggests using lavender, chamomile, mandarin, and dill for babies.

Lavender oil

Most commonly, lavender has been known to improve melatonin levels and support sleep. But it also helps with pain, mood, and colic symptoms. Lavender oil is a great option for babies who need a little extra help falling asleep. 

How to use it:

  • Drop lavender into a diffuser in baby’s room during bedtime
  • Dilute and mix with carrier oil for a calming pre-bedtime baby massage 

Chamomile oil

Chamomile is an excellent gentle oil to use with your baby. It’s known to stimulate the immune system and provide a calming and ​​sedative effect. This is particularly great for helping reduce teething symptoms. 

How to use it:

  • Diffuse in baby’s room overnight for teething relief
  • Dilute and mix with a carrier oil to rub on the chest when baby is sick for an immunity boost

Mandarin oil

Mandarin is known for its calming and balancing properties. This essential oil is used to aid in soothing colic or calming down restless babies. Another plus? You’ll love its citrusy smell.

How to use it:

  • Dilute and mix with a carrier oil and rub on baby’s stomach, back or bottoms of feet when baby is restless or experiencing colic. 

Dill oil

Yep, you read that right. Dill isn’t just for pickles, it can help with digestive issues too! Babies can find indigestion relief from the dill essential oil. Constipation? Upset tummy? Dill is a mom’s secret tool.

How to use it:

  • Dilute and mix with a carrier oil and rub on your baby’s stomach to help soothe any indigestion.

Essential Oil for Babies FAQ

1. Can you use essential oils on a newborn?

No, you should not use any essential oils on a newborn. You need to wait until your baby is at least 3 months old before you can use any essential oils on or around them.

2. What is the best essential oil for a teething baby?

Chamomile is a great essential oil for teething babies. Its mild sedative properties can give your little one that bit of pain relief they need to feel better.

3. Are there any essential oils I should avoid using with my baby? 

Dr. Foland gives some insight into this common question. “Certain essential oils are not recommended for use on babies due to their potentially strong effects or higher risk of skin irritation. These include peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, and cinnamon. Additionally, oils containing high amounts of phenols or ketones, such as wintergreen or camphor, should be avoided.”

4. Can essential oils be harmful to my baby’s developing immune system? 

There is limited research on the effects of essential oils and a baby’s developing immune system. “However, it is important to remember that babies have more delicate and sensitive skin compared to adults, and their bodies may metabolize substances differently. Some essential oils may cause skin irritation, allergic reactions, or respiratory distress in babies. It is always advisable to exercise caution and consult with a healthcare professional before using essential oils on babies, especially in the early months,” notes Foland.

5. What essential oils help babies sleep? 

Lavender oil has been known to support sleep and improve rest. It’s especially great in a warm bath before bedtime. You can also find lavender oil in many baby bedtime products like shampoo, body wash, bubble baths, and lotion. 

Experts in this article:

Dr. Walker Foland, DO, is a board-certified doctor of osteopathic medicine at Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw, Michigan.