Best Essential Oils for Babies, Toddlers & Children
When choosing the best essential oils for babies, toddlers and children it is not an easy journey as initially many wonderful essential oils cannot be introduced to the world of the newborn.
This article will start off in many ways being a heavy read but will finish with safe recommendations for the young ones in your family. I would not recommend skipping to the end however! As the first responders to your extremely precious youngster’s health you owe it to yourself and them to increase your knowledge as to how essential oils and synergistic blends may be a natural way to help. Please also understand that guidelines presented do not factor in the individual tolerance of your baby, toddler or child. The information presented is cautious but general.
Individuals who use therapeutic essential oils need to have an understanding of the safety and correct use involved with essential oils as adverse effects can range from minor to permanent injury and even death in the extreme. When we bring babies and toddlers into the mix we as their guardians and caregivers have a responsibility to educate ourselves and do the right thing. We want to do the right thing no doubt.
Tony Burfield with over 30 years of experience in the production, adulteration, analysis and applications of essential oils has this to say: “Although many essential oils are potentially hazardous materials, if handled in the appropriate manner, the risks involved in their use can be very small.” (1) This statement goes hand in hand with Paracelsus’ famous quote “Poison is everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.”
Babies have thinner, extremely delicate skin and underdeveloped immune systems so extreme care with all essential oils is needed and in fact most should not be used in any dose until they are older. We will provide some general principles below but even so all babies are individual and tests should be carried out if diffusing essential oils or gently massaging essential oil blends diluted in carrier oils into your baby.
As the baby becomes a toddler and graduates into infancy the dose is usually increased slightly and some essential oils not safe for babies may also be introduced to toddlers. However, when you consider general Aromatherapy practice for essential oil to carrier oil ratio is 1 to 3% for adults you can see we are acknowledging how potent essential oils are.
Essential Oil Safety Considerations -Babies to Adults
Generally one must weigh up :-
Essential Oil Purity:
No adulteration or synthetics allowed.
Chemical Composition of the Essential Oil:
Are the phenols or aldehydes too high so as to risk skin irritation?
Are the monoterpenoids of a level to cause respiratory distress?
The list goes on and a general understanding of essential oil chemistry is necessary not only if blending synergies but also for single oils too.
Dosage and Dilution in Relation to Mode of Absorption:
Essential oils are lipophilic in nature which means skin irritation may occur if the dose is too high. Skin absorption must correlate with the correct dose. Dermal absorption through the soles of the feet (unless damaged) is the safest mode.
Inflamed or damaged skin will be more prone to dermal reactions and permeability is increased also.
Our precious young typically will not have essential oil to carrier oil blends in the range of 1 to 3% as per adults. Usually skin and massage blends present with under 1% total essential oil. Some oils such as Wintergreen (methyl salicylate), Peppermint (menthol), Eucalyptus (1,8 cineole), Sage (alpha-Thujone), Camphor and camphor chemotype oils (camphor), methyl chavicol basil, hyssop (pinocamphone) and anise types (trans-Anethole) should be kept away from babies no matter what.
Overall approach with regards to dilutions for children are:
Age Whole body Local use
Up to 3 months 0.1% (not recommended) 0.2%
3-24 months 0.25% 0.5%
2-6 years 1.0% 2.0%
How often you apply depends a on the condition and the age of the child, a general
principle would be 3-4 times during the waking hours.
Essential Oils and Babies
Due to their potency avoid essential oils around babies up to 3 months except for (under rare conditions) possibly lavender essential oil at a maximum of 0.2 % essential oil to carrier oil (jojoba oil or fractionated coconut oil). After the age of 3 months Roman chamomile, frankincense (carterii), dill, blue yarrow and sweet orange essential oil may also be considered also at this ratio. This ratio is 1-2 drops of your essential oil per 30ml of your carrier oil. Therefore, in summary, with observation and considered reservation a 0.2% essential oil to carrier oil blend containing any of the above mentioned essential oils may be initially tested on the sole of baby’s feet after they reach a true post birth age of 3 months. It is best to wait until your baby is post 3 months old relative to due date to introduce essential oils if possible. The 0.2% ratio is relevant to local use only (ie. soles of feet) If a whole body “massage” was considered it would be halved to 0.1%. (2) Also, some food for thought is using hydrosols as they are extremely safe. If your baby responds well you may go up to 0.5% dilution for local use.
All the below recipes follow this dilution and are for 3+ months babies:
Typical useful diluted carrier oil blends for babies 3 to 6 months. If baby responds well you may consider doubling the essential oil quantities.
1. Calming the baby: Dilute lavender Mt Blanc and Roman chamomile essential oil in your carrier base and apply to the soles of the little one’s feet. Also apply on your chest if you are cuddling them to promote relaxation. Place a drop of both essential oils on a tissue and place next to the cot also. Replace as needed.
2. Digestive support for your baby: Dilute lavender Mt Blanc and sweet orange essential oils in carrier oil and rub baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction for 30 seconds to 60 seconds for digestive support. Initially every 15 minutes until their tummy is settled then every 30 minutes.
3. Nappy rash: Dilute lavender Mt Blanc and tea tree essential oils in fractionated coconut oil to soothe the skin. Apply while changing their nappy at the right time! You will need a bottle and atomiser to apply this soothing potion.
4. Respiratory support for your baby: Dilute tea tree, lavender Mt Blanc and frankincense (carterii) in your carrier oil of choice and apply to the chest, back and feet several times an hour.
Possible inclusions if needed after baby is 3+ months or equivalent if a premature baby:
Dill seed oil, German chamomile oil and Blue yarrow essential oils. Please read below to see why you may want to try these additions.
Once you baby is 3+ months or equivalent and up to 2 years of age any potions (essential oil in carrier oil) that you blend using the essential oils that are OK to use you may increase the potency from 0.2% to 0.5% for local use or 5 drops per 30ml of carrier.
When your child is finally 2+ (yes I know time flies, enjoy every moment) perhaps 1% graduating up to 2% of essential oil blend to carrier oil ratio could be considered until they are in school.
All children are unique however and when respecting essential oils and how powerful they are this fact needs to be respected. Watch for all adverse reactions with skin or breathing.
Now on with our lists of what essential oils are safe for babies and most importantly why you may want to use them (however use your own discretion as we do not offer medical advice):
Essential Oils Safe for Babies-Usually 3+ months if used correctly and possible reasons to use:
Lavender (Lavendula officinalis/augustifolia) One of the most versatile essential oils-calming, soothing, stress reducing for both skin and mind.
Tea tree (Melaleuca-1-terpinen-4-ol type) Wide ranging skin use, well known respiratory uses, and immune stimulant.
Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) Integumentary benefits and known to facilitate digestive issues.
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) One of the most versatile essential oils of all. Extremely powerful with skin and mind benefits.
Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) As above. Extremely versatile. One for the medicine cupboard-Eases skin, digestive and mind/ brain conditions.
Dill Seed (Anethum graveolens) A skin and digestive wonder.
German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) A cousin of Roman chamomile with similar uses.
Blue Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)- Historically used for skin itching, swelling and localised insect bites as well as associated pain relief. When you delve deeper however it aids so much more: head and sinus congestion, immune support, an amazing digestive support including colic as well as being balancing and uplifting.
As they get older you may add more and more essential oils to your arsenal as first responder and care giver. Get to know your essential oils chemistry and their benefits and limitations and stick to the dilution considerations.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your experiences if you wish.
- Burfield, T. (2004). Opinion Document to NAHA: A Brief Safety Guidance on Essential Oils. NAHA
Tisserand, R. and Young, R. (2014) Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Edition, London Elsevier