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Newborns, Essential Oils, and Other Natural Remedies for Baby’s Cold or Congestion
Awake at 3 AM listening to your baby try to breathe through the congestion? Wondering if you can use essential oils to help baby with cold symptoms?
Middle of the night feedings are hard enough on a good night. But when baby can’t latch because she’s stuffed up? Ugh. It’s rough.
At one week old, my second baby woke up with nasal congestion, which lasted (on and off) for a month or two. Thankfully, she wasn’t sick — it was just the dry, winter air. To this day, her little nose still gets stuffy sometimes at night.
I’m not one to medicate my kids unless it’s absolutely necessary, though, and I bet you feel the same way. (Just a hunch!)
This annoying bodily function, otherwise known as mucus, actually has a purpose (believe it or not).
When microbes and dust invade the body, they get trapped in the mucus, which then moves to the nose and throat. From there, it might be swallowed or sneezed out.
Unfortunately, this natural process can make it a little difficult to breathe…and you DO want your baby to be able to breathe.
So, how can you assist your baby’s body in moving this process along? And how do essential oils fit in?
I am not a medical professional, and this information is not intended to replace medical advice.
First, are Essential Oils Safe for Newborns?
It’s crucial to exercise caution when using essential oils as a natural remedy for babies and toddlers.
While you can safely use some oils for older babies, I do not recommend using essential oils at all on babies younger than three months.
According to researchers Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young in their book Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals (pages 48-49):
“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. A newborn is also less equipped to deal with any adverse effects than an adult because of lower metabolic capacity, i.e., enzymes present in lower concentrations. These cautions apply even more to premature babies, and here it would be prudent to avoid all use of essential oils.”
If you can’t use essential oils for a newborn baby with a cold, then how can you naturally alleviate congestion and coughs in a newborn?
Sit in a Steamy Bathroom
My favorite trick for easing a nasty cough and alleviating congestion is to sit in a bathroom with the door closed and run a hot shower. The steam helps to loosen up mucus in the lungs for a more productive cough — plus, it feels really soothing.
For a baby, I always limit this time to 5-10 minutes. For myself, I’ll sit in a steamy bathroom for up to twenty minutes.
Pro Mom Tip: If it’s winter where you live, you can also bundle up and head outdoors to breathe in the cold brisk air for a few minutes. This can help ease a coughing spell.
Run a Humidifier in the Bedroom
When the air is too dry, mucus in the nose and sinuses can’t flow properly and the sinuses won’t drain as well as they are supposed to. Running a humidifier overnight can help remedy that.
For newborns, use a cool mist humidifier, or even an ultrasonic cool mist diffuser, WITHOUT any essential oils.
This article explains why ultrasonic is the best diffuser for babies and kids.
Squirt Breastmilk in Baby’s Nose
That’s right…breastmilk contains antibacterial properties, plus it thins out the mucus to help its better. That way, you can suction it out easily.
If you’re not breastfeeding, you could also try using a nasal saline solution to thin mucus so that it’s easier to suction.
Clear Mucus With a Nasal Bulb
There are a lot of fancy nasal aspirators on the market. Nasal-oral aspirators (such as NoseFrida) work pretty well (and they’re not as gross as you might think) and even the electric aspirators are nice.
But I find myself reaching for this simple, inexpensive nasal bulb more often than anything — you can easily take it apart for cleaning, and it suctions really well.
Keep Baby’s Head Elevated
My final tip for congested newborns is to let them sleep with their heads elevated as much as possible. Your arms are a great place for that. 😉
Of course, all these methods work great for older babies and toddlers, but at three months of age you can also start diffusing essential oils.
Diffusing Essential Oils to Help Baby With Cold
So, you want to use essential oils to alleviate baby’s congestion or cough.
With children under two years old, diffusing is the best method; even when diluted, essential oils can cause skin irritation and sun sensitivity.
(When your child reaches two years old, certain oils can be diluted and applied topically, but that’s a topic for another day…)
First, Set Some Ground Rules….
Then turn off the diffuser and leave a rest period of 30-60 minutes before diffusing again.
However, he advises against routinely diffusing essential oils around babies and toddlers, unless doses are kept to a minimum.
The appropriate dosage is two to three drops per day diluted with water in an ultrasonic diffuser.
But Wait…There’s More!
Let’s recap what we’ve learned so far, and add in some extra precautions for good measure.
1. In case I haven’t said it enough times…avoid diffusing around babies under three months of age. Scroll back up for some alternative ideas.
2. Purchase ONLY good quality essential oils that are pure (haven’t been mixed with another substance).
3. Keep them out of direct sunlight and always use within date to ensure the correct concentration and quality.
4. Store in a safe place. Seems obvious, right? Sadly, many of the essential oil poisoning incidents have occurred when children gained access to a bottle and ingested the contents.
5. Be extra cautious if your child has asthma or breathing problems, and always consult with a professional first if your child has any known health concerns.
6. Always use a low dosage around children — just two or three drops diluted in water using an ultrasonic diffuser.
7. Limit diffusion to one hour at a time, and take 30-60 minute breaks in between.
8. Always keep your diffuser clean (and dry) to prevent bacteria growth.
9. Research the safety of every single oil before diffusing it around children, and carefully consider the source of your information.
Which oils are safe and effective when baby has a cold? Here are some recommendations….
Best Essential Oils for a Baby With a Cold
The following list of child safe essential oils will support your babe’s respiratory function and have her feeling better in no time.
- tea tree
- cinnamon leaf
- fir needle
- juniper berry
- sweet marjoram
- sweet orange
- eucalyptus globulus
- eucalyptus radiata
Plant Therapy also has a kid-safe blend called Germ Destroyer, which they say is just as effective as Germ Fighter, but is safe to diffuse around children.
Pro Mom Tip: Look for “KidSafe” on Plant Therapy’s label to be sure it’s safe for diffusing around kids.
It’s sooo hard when your baby can’t eat or sleep because of congestion! I totally get it.
If you’re using essential oils for a baby with cold or congestion, just make sure you’re following the age recommendations and using safe oils. Good luck!
Want to Read More?
Do you have a cold, too? Learn more about diffusing essential oils for colds and coughs.
And if you’re healthy but want to learn more, this article will explain the benefits of essential oils to improve your health.