The most important concern when using aromatherapy and essential oils with babies and children is safety. Choose only suitably gentle oils to use in low concentrations. Babies and children have immature body systems and organs, which means they could have difficulty in eliminating the more powerful oils. They also tend to be far more responsive to any remedy as they weigh much less than an adult, so the dosage should always be lower. Essential oils can be safe and effective for children's ailments, but never use an oil unless you have checked it is suitable and, of course, never give it by mouth. Ensure your essential oils are kept out of a child's reach, and if in doubt, consult a qualified aromatherapist.
One of the first senses to develop in newborn babies is a sense of smell. Within a week a child can identify its mother by scent alone and every new smell will become part of its store of memories. When an infant's sense of smell is linked to that of touch, notable the loving touch of a parent, the benefits can be enormous. Research has shown that touch and massage have a marked effect on children's growth, both emotionally and physically.
A gentle touch
When your child is in a new situation, starting nursery for example, put a little oil on a handkerchief for your infant to smell. This will provide reassurance and a comforting reminder of you. Oils can also be used to treat conditions such as eczema but care must be taken when using them.
Baby massage is a wonderful way to relax babies, and has been shown to help sleeping patterns and improve development. Combining this with essential oils gives a lovely sensory experience for both baby and mother that strengthens their bond.
Another way in which essential oils can help babies and children is by boosting their immune function and relieving the symptoms of colds or sinus problems. Some children seen to catch every cold bug going, spending the first few years of their lives struggling with blocked noses and coughs. As adults, we know how uncomfortable that feels. While some of the essential oils traditionally used for respiratory problems, such as eucalyptus globulus, are too strong to be used directly on children, they can be used for inhalation. A supervised steam inhalation is excellent for older children, but simply vaporising the oil in a baby's room for a few minutes before putting them to bed will aid breathing and ease a stuffy nose. For safety, choose an electric fragrancer and place it somewhere well out of reach. Turn it off before leaving the baby to sleep.
Earache is a common childhood problem. While essential oils should never be put into the ear, a blend containing roman chamomile and lavender can be massaged around the external ear and jaw area to ease discomfort. Rub the same blend into the cheek to soothe teething pain.
For colic and stomach aches, mandarin is very effective. Children love its fruity aroma, which has the added benefit of cheering a miserable child. It can be mixed in a vegetable carrier with roman chamomile - another digestive soother - and applied gently over the tummy. Constipation also responds well to this oil - massage in a clockwise direction over the lower abdomen.
Ginger is a traditional remedy for travel sickness. Try to persuade the sufferer to drink a cup of ginger tea before the journey. Prepare it by steeping a 5mm slice of ginger root in boiling water, then add a thick slice of a favourite citrus fruit and allow to cool a little. Inhaling ginger essential oil just before and whenever necessary during the trip is also effective.
Suitable Essential Oils for Children
Children respond well to aromatherapy and regular use of essential oils can boost a child's immune system and so prevent illness and infection. For babies under two years old try:
- Widely regarded as the children's oil, this is very low in toxicity, safe and gentle for use with children. It is also very versatile, and can be used to treat a wide range of conditions including colic, restlessness, teething and skin complaints.
- This versatile essential oils is especially suitable for children, who will frequently catch coughs and colds and suffer the symptoms of headache, tummy aches and earaches. It is also a powerful antiseptic - apply to scabs to prevent scarring.
Oils suitable for children over two years old:
- Combines well with neroli to crate a calming massage oil.
- Tea tree
- Fights infections. Mix 10 drops each of lavender an tea tree oils in a cup of water to bathe cuts and grazes.
- Blend this oil with geranium for an aromatic massage
- Blend in a dilution of five srops each with tea tree, chamomile and lavender oils mixed with 50ml of rose water, to reduce chickenpox itching for children over age five.
Using Aromatherapy with Children
The benefits of aromatherapy are extensive during childhood, so why not introduce essential oils into your child's routine early in life?
Aromatherapy for Teenagers
After the age of 13, teenagers can safely use oils in the same dilutions as adults. Encourage them to use essential oils to help them relax during this stressful period.
Bergamot, sandalwood and clary sage are great emotion balancers and can be used in a vaporiser or bath, or inhaled from the bottle. The teenage years are notorious for skin issues, so make products containing acne-busting oils such as mandarin.
Oil for Baths
Oils in the bath release their magic in two ways: they are absorbed through the skin and also inhaled.
Oils for Baths
Lavender treats coughs and colds and helps children to get to sleep.
Chamomile also helps with children's sleeping problems, or it can be used to treat allergies, including eczema.
Eucalyptus and lavender (safe only if you child is more than two years old) are very helpful for bringing down high temperatures.
While you're in the bathroom, you can use aromatherapy to prevent headlice. A 1-2 drops of either geranium, lavender or tea tree to the rinse water.
Using Oils Safely
Here are some important guidelines for using essential oils with children.
- Don't massage babies during the first 6 weeks after birth or for a week after they have been vaccinated.
- Never use undiluted oils.
- Store your blends in a dark glass bottle. Blended oils last 12 weeks, while undiluted oils last for 1-2 years.
- Don't let oils come into contact with the eyes. If they do, wash out with a carrier oil, not with water.
- Until your child is at least two years old, use only chamomile and lavender oils.
A Guide to Safe Dilutions for Babies to Teenagers
For Baby Massage
6 weeks to 12 months - 1 drop
6 weeks to 2 months - 1 drop essential oil to 15ml carrier oil
Up to 5 years - 2 drops
1 to 12 months - 1 drop essential oil to 10ml carrier oil
5 to 7 years - 3 drops
Up to 5 years - 2 drops essential oil to 10ml carrier oil
7 to 12 years - 4 drops
5 to 12 years - 2-3 drops essential oil to 10ml carrier oil
After the age of 12 - 15 drops
After the age of 12 - 10 drops essential oil to 35ml carrier oil