I am breast feeding my newborn and am wondering if my use of essential oils is safe for her? Can I use them on my breasts when they get sore?
You may wish to make a cup of your favorite aromatic tea and get seated comfortably. This is a long answer!
First, I must emphasize that essential oils are potent and have very powerful effects on body, mind, emotions + spirit. I strongly recommend that you engage the services of a qualified aromatherapy practitioner, a Certified Aromatherapy Health Therapist. When dealing with the use of essential oils in relation to breast feeding and newborn infants ‘to err on the side of caution’ is more rule than the exception.
Without knowing your health history and lifestyle, and the health of your baby, I cannot make specific recommendations. I can however, share some information that you may find of interest.
The human sense of smell is quite sharp.
Although the smell-identification ability increases during childhood. Even newborn infants are highly sensitive to some important smells. Research shows that newborn babies locate their mothers’ nipples by smell (Social Issues Research Centre, December 2006).
I would keep this fact in mind when determining your breast care routine. Aroma or fragrance based products have the potential to interfere with this mother-newborn phenomenon.
It’s a fact that nursing your baby can take its toll on your breasts and nipples! Many women experience sore, swollen breasts or cracked nipples at some stage. I certainly did!
Most often the cause is improper positioning of the baby at the breast. And sometimes just the slightest correction to the positioning will make all the difference. The incorrect use of a breast pump can also cause issues.
Increase your knowledge and understanding of breast feeding by speaking to a La Leche League leader. Or a Lactation Consultant in your area. Did you know that applying your own breast milk on the nipple and areola, and allowing to air dry can help speed healing? And it has its own unique aroma, perfect for baby!
In The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (2003), Salvatore Battaglia suggests a massage oil blend of
- sweet almond oil (40mL),
- calendula-infused oil (5mL)
- and wheat-germ oil (5mL) for sore inflamed breasts and cracked nipples.
Note that there are no essential oils in this blend.
They are using the therapeutic constituents of the carrier oils. Cleansing the blend from the nipple, areola. And the breast area where your baby likes to hold before nursing is recommended.
I know that even in a “perfect world” nursing moms need and deserve some extra care.
There are many safe ways to use essential oils.
Some suggestions include: inhalation if you do not have respiratory concerns (see September 2009 Ask the Aromatherapist).
Topically using a 2.5% dilution of essential oil in vegetable or nut-based carrier oils, that is, 15 drops essential oil in 30mL of carrier oil.
In a bath, use 12 to 15 drops with 30mL of carrier oil and one cup of epsom salts or 3/4 cup epsom salts with 1/4 powdered milk.
Prepare a foot soak of 8 drops of essential oil in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, with 1/4 epsom salts dissolved in a big basin of warm water.
And, warm compresses made with 6 to 8 drops of essential oil dispersed in 2 cups of warm water.
To introduce aromatherapy to your little one, place 2 drops of an essential oil on a tissue and keep it nearby when you are feeding her. Essential oils commonly recommended for children are Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Mandarin (Citrus reticulata), Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), and Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens).
Your baby will come to associate the aroma with love and comfort. Use this scent on a tissue in her room at night to help her sleep. When you leave baby with a sitter the aroma will help comfort and reassure her. Make sure you love the aroma too! Baby will sense your response as well!
While I’m on the subject of these essential oils, I would like to share a personal story about breast feeding and the use of Geranium.
My daughter had very sore breasts when nursing my grandson who was from birth, a voracious eater. She loves the aroma of Geranium so we put together a 2.5% blend of Geranium and fractionated coconut oil – that is 15 drops of essential oil in 30mL of carrier oil. Fractionated coconut oil tends not to soil clothing.
She would apply a warm moist facecloth on each breast after feeding her son, allow them to air dry, and then apply the oil blend on both breasts, avoiding the tip of the nipples. She would gently wash any remaining oil from her breast before the next feeding.
It was enormously helpful to her and ultimately my grandson. With the recent arrival of my granddaughter, also a voracious eater, I anticipate that I’ll soon receive a request for a Geranium blend!
I hope that this has provided you with the information you need to make an informed decision. I wish you the best of health and heaps of happiness as a nursing mom. Congratulations!
This response is for educational purposes only and is NOT intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition.
ALWAYS consult your health care provider should you have any health concerns and be sure to let your health care provider know if you are using a complementary treatment or therapy.
The Jacqueline Fairbrass School of Complementary Therapies promotes the safe and effective use of essential oils and does endorse the internal use of essential oils (Please see our July 2009 Ask the Aromatherapist)
Barbara Power, Certified Aromatherapist