Aromatherapy is the use of plant essential oils to promote and maintain well-being.
Essential oils are organic compounds derived from various parts of flowers, resins, leaves, barks, fruit and roots.They contain natural chemical constituents, with each essential oil having unique therapeutic properties which can be used to help promote and maintain health and well-being.
The most common methods of application of essential oils include :
massage / adding to the bath / vaporisation or inhalation.
Essential oils should be used with caution when it comes to working with babies and children, as up to the age of 12, a child’s liver has not properly matured and the child’s emotional responses to different aroma’s should also be considered.
Essential oils are absorbed throughout the body through the skin and blood circulatory system via the hair follicles and sweat glands. (If you crush a clove of garlic and rub it into the soles of your feet it will be on your breath within an hour)Therefore the use of essential oils before the baby is 12 weeks old is not recommended and even after this age only specific oils are considered safe. For this reason it is always best to consult a qualified aromatherapist before using essential oils with baby massage. Also it is best at this age to avoid all aromatic oils as the aroma will overpower the smell of the mother.
For massage purposes only pure organic odourless vegetable/fruit oils are recommended.
The skin is the largest living breathing organ of the human body. The baby’s skin is highly sensitive and as such only the purest (not always the most expensive) products should be used.
For many years before the use of soaps, oils were used to cleanse the body
Oils tend to leave the skin with a ‘glow’ while soaps tend to leave it looking ‘dry’
Vegetable and fruit oils are mostly digestible and unperfumed which as well as facilitating massage and the safe dilution of essential oils, can also have therapeutic properties of their own and an ability to treat certain skin conditions.
The following vegetable oils are recommended for massaging babies:
Sunflower Seed / Grapeseed / A Light Olive Oil (best to avoid aromatic oils but can be used occasionally to soften dry skin) / Palm Oil / Fractionated Coconut (available from the chemist. Non aromatic).
Different oils are also used in different cultures for different skin types, for example olive oil is used throughout the Mediterranean, coconut oil is used throughout the Caribbean and Africa and Asia (in Bali coconut oil is mixed with grilled red onion to make skin soft – purchased from ‘specialists’), Jojoba is used in Japan and Indian mothers massage their babies with mustard oil (said to be cooling).
Whichever oil you intend to use always skin test first.
To ‘skin test’ you rub a small amount of the oil into the baby’s arm and shoulder and leave for 45 minutes to test for a reaction.
With the recommended oils this should be no more than a reddening of the skin which appears like a ‘heat rash’. In this event change to a different oil.
Always best to avoid commercial baby oils as these tend to be highly perfumed and are derived from crude petroleum and as such are ‘indigestible’.
Herbal oils differ from essential and vegetable oils in that they are produced through infusing fresh or dried herbs. By soaking the herbal plant material in a vegetable oil, say sunflower oil,for 4-6 weeks, the aromatic and therapeutic constituents of the herbal plant will infuse into the vegetable oil which is then drained and filtered off.
Herbal oils should only be used for massage if recommended by a consultant/specialist.
The two most common herbal oils are:
Arnica (Arnica montana) and Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
These are both widely used to the benefit of both mother and baby; Calendula- a healing, soothing oil which is particularly gentle on skin and can help to sooth nappy rash and used on dry skin as a moisturiser, Arnica- helps to heal bruising and can be particularly useful with older children.
Unexplained Episodes of Crying
The babies sense of smell is acute so for episodes on unexplained distress check the aroma of the room, incense and aromatic vapourisers, make up, perfume after shave and ‘acrid’ aroma’s like bleach, tobacco can all trigger a sudden outburst of tears.