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are essential oils safe for babies?

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

at kai organics (and as a mom), we say no. here's why.

before having kids, we were a big fan of essential oils. walk into our apartment and you'll be greeted by the whiff of my favourite blend of lavender, ylang ylang and chamomile. then i got pregnant (nothing like a baby to make you google every single thing!) and out went our diffusers and every single bottle of essential oil.

being an over-zealous first time mom, i read the fine print on the label of every single thing i bought for my baby. i noticed that the all-natural body lotion that i had purchased for my little one has essential oils listed on it. if i shouldn't be using essential oils while pregnant, should i be using it on my newborn? so i started googling more.

what are essential oils?

essential oils are the distilled volatile aromatic constituents of the plant that are highly concentrated. to give you a sense of what that means, one drop of roman chamomile essential oil is equivalent to 35 cups of tea. that's alot.

besides lending fragrance to a product naturally, essential oils have been touted to have many therapeutic benefits.

are they safe for babies?

most of the research on essential oil today is related on topical use for adults. given the limited evidence on the safety and efficacy of essential oils, major medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians currently do not have any recommendations for using them with children.

here some guidelines out there:

  • the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians do not recommend using essential oils at all on babies younger than 3 months

  • Dr. Anna Esparham, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician trained in aromatherapy at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., does not recommend diffusing essential oils around infants under 6 months old or using diluted essential oils topically on children under 3 years of age

  • the Aromahead Institute does not recommend using essential oils for children under the age of 5

on the other hand, aromatherapy experts like Tisserand and Young, and the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy offer essential dilution guidelines for topical use on babies & kids, including newborns.

"Great caution is necessary for infants. Since neonatal skin does not mature until three months of age, it is more sensitive and more permeable to essential oils."

- essential oil safety by robert tisserand & rodney young

so, what's the verdict?

babies skin is highly sensitive & delicate and their immune, respiratory and central nervous system have yet fully developed. in addition, my experience from talking to aromatherapists and writing in to several product companies is that not everyone abides by the dilution factor. i've come across baby skincare products containing essential at 2% dilution which is more suitable for children above 2 years old. unfortunately, the dilution factor is almost never listed or declared on the product. hence, as a mom, i chose to refrain from using any essential oils around kai and his big sister (who just turned two).

avoiding essential oils has been harder than i thought, especially when i'm trying to go the natural route. it eliminates so many natural baby & kids skincare options. and especially when my kids are down with the flu, i must admit i've been tempted on many fronts to try a baby chest rub or a diffuser blend (given the wonderful benefits that these MLM companies like doTerra or Young Living tout with such evangelical zeal) to help them breathe & sleep better.

no matter what you decide, we recommend checking with your pediatrician and doing your independent research. ultimately, you will be the best person to decide what is best for you and your family.


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