What oils are recommended for baby massage?
The act of massaging our babies has been shown to have so many benefits when techniques are practised correctly. The medium we use to massage our babies with is also vitally important.
Babies are born with immature systems and it takes some time for them to become accustomed to the world around them. We need to consider carefully what we apply to babies’ skin for the following reasons:
- Neonatal skin does not mature until 3 months of age so is more sensitive and permeable to certain substances.
- Our skin is our largest organ with the potential to absorb any substance applied to it.
- Due to their immature systems babies and young children are less capable of metabolizing substances and dealing with any adverse reactions.
- Babies need to smell their own mothers’ and fathers’ scent to facilitate bonding and help establish breastfeeding.
- Infants tend to put their hands and feet into their mouths.
Recommendations for oils to use on babies
- Pure, cold pressed fruit, nut, vegetable or seed oil. The term “cold pressed” means no heat has been used to extract the oil, instead pressure is used to obtain the oil form it’s source. Heat causes molecules to expand, making it more difficult to be absorbed into the skin.
- An oil that is free from pesticides (organic) is preferable to avoid the potential absorption of harmful chemicals into the bloodstream.
- Oil needs to be edible as there is the chance that it may be ingested by baby. However, just because an oil is edible doesn’t make it suitable for massage, see below
- NOT olive oil: olive oil is too thick to be absorbed by the skin, so despite it being edible it’s not the best choice. Oil sitting on the surface of the skin prevents the skin from “breathing” and can lead to rashes and eczema.
- NOT coconut oil: being the “flavor of the month” I am regularly asked if coconut oil can be used in baby massage. I’ve always been reluctant to recommend coconut oil and recent information from IMIS has clarified that coconut oil, virgin or rectified, is not the best choice for the following reasons:
“The reason virgin coconut oil is not recommended is because of its strong
natural fragrance. It is preferable that the baby is able to smell the ‘signature scent’ of the parent during massage rather than the oil. The reference to ‘signature scent’ means, whatever Mum and Dad usually smell like…. Odour is such an important aspect of bonding.” *
“Because of these aspects, I would suggest if coconut oil is going to be used, it is not used regularly before 12 months of age. This will help to ensure that parent and baby have already had time to develop a strong and substantial bond.” *
Also, virgin coconut oil solidifies at 24°C, so it often needs to be warmed
prior to use making it less convenient.
Fractionated coconut oil has no fragrance; however, this is definitely not
recommended for massage. To fractionate the oil, it is heated to high temperatures.
“Fractionated coconut oil is not a natural product in the sense that it is made by a complex industrial process that chemically breaks coconut oil
down and then reconstitutes some of the fatty acids into a new triglyceride (oil). It also doesn’t make up any substantive proportion of the original natural coconut oil.” *
So technically fractionated coconut oil is not a natural product and is not a good choice for baby massage.
* Infant Massage Information Service, Australia
6. NO essential oils or fragrances
Whilst essential oils are obviously a huge part of my life and work, when it comes to babies the best advice is to do without. Synthetic fragrances have a high incidence of adverse reactions, not just in babies. Yes, essential oils are natural but they are also very concentrated and are a big safety risk when it comes to babies and young children.
We encounter fragrances everywhere these days. Newborns already have a lot to navigate in their environment, so there is no need to add to this. Essential oils are best used only if absolutely needed. It is highly recommended to consult a qualified aromatherapist when using essential oils around children under 12 months of age.
7. What about NUT allergies?
Peanut oil is definitely not recommended for use on babies. If there is a family history of nut or seed allergies you may be concerned about using a nut or seed oil, such as almond or sesame. Allergies are usually related to the nut protein which would not be found in a refined almond or sesame oil. However, to be on the safe side you may prefer to use an alternative such as apricot kernel oil or jojoba oil. Jojoba is generally best mixed with another base oil.
It is also recommended to do a patch test if there is a concern for allergies. To do a patch test, place a drop of the oil in the elbow crease and behind the knee in the morning. Observe those areas throughout the day. If is no irritation or redness, the product should be safe to use. If there is any reaction, remove with warm, soapy water and seek medical attention if concerned.
– cold pressed
– organic (or at least pesticide free)
– fruit, nut, veg, seed or plant based
– edible product
DO NOT USE:
– essential oils
– olive oil
– sunflower oil
– peanut oil
– mustard oil
– virgin coconut oil under 12 months
– fractionated coconut oil at any age
– sweet almond oil
– apricot kernel oil
– sesame oil
Please contact me if you’re interested in learning more about baby massage.