Are Essential Oils Safe For Baby?

Essential oils are everywhere – it seems like every day I read on social media about how great they are. And moms often want to know if specific oils can increase their breastmilk supply, or make their babies less fussy.

Essential oils are the distillation or extraction of oils from plants. They can be used for a number of purposes, one of which is for health and wellness. But just because these oils are derived from the natural world doesn’t necessarily make them safe for use on your baby.

Several factors influence the safety of essential oils, including the quality of the manufacturing process, the chemical composition of the oil itself, and how the oil will be used. For example, if an oil is a known skin irritant but you’re going to use it in a massage oil, you may want to think again. Some essential oils are known skin or mucous membrane irritants, while other can cause sensitivity to the sun. Knowing exactly which oil you’re using, and all of it’s properties, will help you make safe choices for your baby.

Additionally dosages will differ, and will often depend on the age of the person for whom the oil is meant. Babies and young children can be more sensitive to essential oils than adults and some essential oils should be completely avoided for them.

Because there isn’t enough research about the use of essential oils during pregnancy, most experts recommend avoiding using them during the first 3 months of pregnancy due to the possibility transfer to the fetus causing harm. The following essential oils should be avoided altogether during pregnancy: wormwood, rue, oak moss, Lavandula stoechas, camphor, parsley seed, sage, and hyssop.

Some moms may hear that certain essential oils can help with breastmilk production or breast problems. While there is some anecdotal evidence that essential oils can help, there is no scientific evidence as to safety. Experts believe that topical application is unlikely to have an adverse effect on baby unless the oil is applied to the breast, areola or nipple (where baby might ingest it). If a mother uses an essential oil on the breast, she should wash before feeding.

Babies have sensitive skin, and their body’s systems are all immature – so babies won’t react the same way to essential oil as adults. So using caution with essential oils is, well, essential.

Tips for using essential oils safely with your family include:

  • Keep in mind that herbal products are not regulated, and the potency and purity can vary from product to product.
  • Herbs – and essential oils – can have interactions with other herbs and with medications.
  • If using an essential oil on baby’s skin, always use a ‘carrier oil’ and do a patch test to be sure baby doesn’t have an allergic reaction.
  • Know what an allergic reaction might look like so you can seek help if your child has one.
  • Work with an aromatherapist, naturopath or holistic practitioner to determine the best essential oils for your own baby.

Use of essential oils shouldn’t be a replacement for a visit to the healthcare provider if your baby is sick. Do your research and get to know which oils are recommended for which purposes so you can make informed decisions.

Written by Michelle, childbirth instructor, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice.  All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.

What is a Galactagogue?

Breastmilk production is designed to work in perfect concert with your baby’s needs. If you are feeding your baby ‘on cue,’ or whenever he shows signs of hunger rather than based on a predetermined schedule, your body will make just the right amount of milk to satisfy him.

One of the most common reasons for supplementation and weaning, however, is thinking that you don’t have enough milk. Whether you simply perceive your supply to be low or your body is truly not making enough milk, what can be done?

Galactagogues – substances that are thought to increase milk supply – are often recommended for moms with supply issues. There are different categories of galactagogues – and many choices in each category depending on your individual needs.

Milk-Making Foods

You’ve probably seen recipes for lactation cookies or smoothies that take advantage of the lactogenic properties of particular foods. Lactogenic foods are typically easy to add to your diet, and don’t have many side effects. So they are a good first try to help increase your supply. Consider adding oats, quinoa, hops, brewer’s yeast, almonds, garlic, and sesame seeds to your regular meals. Remember, though, there’s no ‘dose’ for these foods – what works for one mom may not work for another.


Fenugreek is the most common herb used for increasing milk supply, and it’s sometimes paired with blessed thistle. But other herbs may be better for your particular situation. Other common herbal galactagogues include marshmallow root, goat’s rue, alfalfa, fennel, raspberry leaf, moringa / malunggay, and shatavari. Do you research and be sure you are taking the right amount to make a difference. Herbs, like medications, do have side effects and precautions, so work with an herbalist or naturopath to be sure you’re using the herbs safely.

Prescription medications

Metoclopramide (Reglan) and domperidone (Motilium) are the two medications most often prescribed for milk supply problems. You’ll need to work closely with your doctor, your baby’s doctor, and a lactation consultant if you are using one of these options. But for some moms, medications make a huge difference in milk production.

How to decide what’s right for you

No galactagogue will work if milk isn’t being removed from the breast often. Milk removal is the key to milk production. When milk isn’t removed often enough, your body sends out chemical signals to slow production. But when the breast is emptied and refilled regularly, production increases. Nursing your baby more often, or adding pumping to your daily routine, may be necessary along with the galactagogues. A visit with a lactation consultant may be warranted – he or she can help you decide if your supply is really low, if your baby is able to transfer milk, and how to go about improving your breastfeeding experience.

Have you purposely added any lactogenic foods to your breastfeeding diet?

Written by Michelle, Lamaze instructor, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.