Are you considering the benefits of essential oil for breastfeeding? Caring for your little one is an exciting but often exhausting experience. One of the things that can help you to de-stress is essential oils.
But, while essential oils are great to help you relax, you have to know how to use it safely. You wouldn’t want to harm your child. Here is how you can use essential oil for maximum benefits during breastfeeding.
What are Essential Oils?
Firstly, it’s important to know what essential oils are. They are compounds that are extracted from plants. After a chemical process is carried out to extract the essence of the plant, it’s mixed with carrier oils. The finished product contains the aroma and flavor of the plant and carries health benefits.
Essential oils have many benefits. They vary according to the plant used. Some oils help boost energy, others are good for your digestive and nervous system. But mostly, they help you relax through aromatherapy.
How to Choose and Use Essential Oils Safely
Are essential oils safe for breastfeeding mothers? There are many types of oils that are safe for babies. And, if you use them correctly, they will not have any bad effects on you or your child. Here are some things to keep in mind to choose and use essential oils safely.
- Know what works for you and what don’t
There are many kinds of essential oils, and different people have different preferences. Make sure that you use what works best for you. If one essential oil isn’t effective, change for another.
You can ask for tips and recommendations on the internet. There are Facebook groups and forums where pregnant and nursing women share about essential oils, their use, and benefits. Join them and don’t be scared to ask!
- Avoid oils that affect your milk supply
Certain essential oils, even if they’re safe to use, might affect your milk supply. For example, many women have said that using sage and peppermint reduces their milk supply. However, not everyone has the same experience. So, it really depends on each person.
If you already have a lot of milk supply, you may try taking the risk. But if you’re having difficulty nursing, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Choose essential oils that are galactagogue instead. Galactagogues are substances that can boost milk supply.
- Stay away from oils that use solvents
You have to avoid essential oils that involved solvents in their extraction process, especially during pregnancy and nursing. Solvents like butane or hexane may leave traces of them in the oils. This is especially dangerous for babies.
- Do not use essential oils with certain medications
Some women take medications for complications during pregnancy or delivery, such as heparin or warfarin. Essential oils can create side effects if used along with certain medications. Even if they are safe if used separately, taking them together might cause unwanted issues.
- Use essential oils correctly
You must also make sure that you use essential oils in a way that won’t harm your children. Firstly, certain oils such as lavender aren’t safe for children. Not only that, but it’s also better to avoid ingesting the oils at all because it’s not safe for your baby. But there are also some ingestible brands of essential oils, so always check the product first.
When using essential oils, use only essential and carrier oils made of pure and organic materials. Dilute 1% of the essential oil in safe carrier oils like coconut oil or hemp seed. You can apply essential oils on your breast to relax your muscles and boost milk supply. However, you must wipe off any remaining oil before breastfeeding. This is so that your baby will not ingest the oil. It’s also safer to use a personal inhaler so that your baby isn’t exposed to the oil.
- Consult medical professionals
Essential oils will have different effects on different women. The effects depend on the type of oil as well as the mother’s and the baby’s health condition. To avoid any potential problems, make sure that you consult medical professionals before using essential oils. These can be your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant.
How to Apply Essential Oil
There are several ways to apply essential oil while breastfeeding. You can try some of these methods:
- Apply it on your breasts
Applying a mix of essential and carrier oils on your breasts can help increase your milk supply. Putting diluted essential oil on your skin is good, as the oil will be absorbed into your skin.
For this, you only need about a teaspoon of carrier oil like olive or coconut oil. Mix it well with a drop of galactagogic essential oil such as basil or fennel seed oil. Then, apply it on your breasts while massaging them tenderly in small circular motions. Avoid the nipple area so that your baby won’t ingest any remaining oil.
- Apply it on pulse points
Ever heard of pulse points? Pulse or acupuncture points correspond to certain body parts. So, you can also apply essential oil on your ankles, which are pulse points related to your breasts. Another place to use it is on the outside of your ears.
- Diffuse the oil
Diffusing essential oil is great to help both you and your child relax and sleep well. Steam inhalation is good if applied for a short period of time. Use between one to four drops of relaxing essential oils in your diffuser before you nap or go to bed. One hour per day is enough as doing it for too long may be dangerous for your baby.
What if you do not have a diffuser? You can use a ceramic bowl filled with hot water. Drop essential oil to the water. Then, place the bowl in your bedroom, but make sure it’s far enough from your baby.
Essential Oil for Breastfeeding and the Benefits
Having said that, there are many benefits that you can reap from using essential oil. Here are some essential oils that have been proven to benefit breastfeeding women.
- Fennel seed
Fennel seed is a well-known galactagogue. Meaning, it can stimulate breast milk production. There are fennel seed essential oils that are safe to ingest. You can infuse them into your food or beverages.
However, not all brands are safe to ingest. Other than ingesting fennel seed oil, you can also mix it with a carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil. Then, apply one or two drops on your breasts. Avoid your nipples and to make sure that no trace is left, clean your nipples before feeding your baby.
While fennel is good for nursing mothers, it’s not good for pregnant women. So, only take it when you’re breastfeeding.
Basil is another potent galactagogue. Not only that, but it also eases muscle and joint pains, cramps, and skin irritation. It is also often used for its relaxing benefits.
To apply basil essential oil, you can do the same thing as the fennel oil application. Mix one or two drops with a carrier oil and rub it on your breasts. To reduce back muscle pains, you can also use apply it to the affected areas.
Dill is another type of essential oil that is known to be an effective galactagogue. However, it has a milder effect than basil and fennel. So, first-timers can start with dill to see if essential oils can effectively increase your milk supply. Alternatively, you might want to blend dill with basil and fennel.
Peppermint is the opposite of galactagogues; it lessens rather than amplifies milk production. Yet, there are women who suffer from overproduction of breast milk supply. For these nursing mothers, a drop of peppermint can help reduce the pain. Other effects of peppermint include promoting healthier digestion and relaxing tense muscles. However, use peppermint sparingly and with caution, as it might stop breast milk production at all.
The benefits of good old lavender are widely recognized by essential oil aficionados. Lavender is a staple for aromatherapy, as it has a range of wonderful uses. They also include benefits for postpartum and nursing periods.
One of the advantages of lavender is helping you loosen up and enjoy premium-quality rest. Sleep deprivation and hefty stress levels are common culprits for the lack of milk supply in many women. Taking lavender essential oil can help your body relax and produce more hormones that improve milk production.
When you feel distressed or are going to sleep, apply lavender on your wrists, inhale it, and take deep breaths. Just one drop of lavender oil is enough to help you relax.
Breastfeeding can make your breasts feel extremely tender and sore. That’s why frankincense is recommended for many nursing women. It has anti-inflammatory effects and can ease bruises, cuts, pains, and other injuries. It also nourishes your breast skin and reduces stress. Overall, frankincense is a suitable essential oil for breastfeeding mothers, as well as those who experience postpartum stress.