Can I Use Essential Oils While Breastfeeding?

Mom nursing her infant

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The postpartum period is intense, physically and emotionally. Your body is in a slow recovery from the major toll that birth takes, and along with moments of bliss and wonder at your new little human, you might also feel anxious or blue. Essential oils may help you feel relaxed during this time. But, you may be wondering whether it is safe to use essential oils while you are breastfeeding your baby.

Some types of essential oils are OK to use while breastfeeding, but some are not. There are also a few important rules to follow if you plan to use essential oils around your infant, such as only using pure essential oils and always diluting the oils.

Let's get into the details about how to safely use essential oils while breastfeeding.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are distilled or expressed plant oils. They can be extracted from different plant parts, such as a flower, root, or rind. The process of extracting the essential oil from the plant produced a concentrated potent aroma. People use essential oils as a form of aromatherapy—the scent makes them feel a certain way, such as relaxed or rejuvenated.

Is It Safe to Use Essential Oils While Breastfeeding?

Certain essential oils are safe to use while breastfeeding, while others need to be avoided. Most importantly, always discuss the use of any kind of essential oil with your healthcare provider before using it.

Chamomile, eucalyptus, jasmine, lavender, and tea tree oil are a few essential oils that are considered safe to use. Some examples of essential oils that are not okay to use while breastfeeding includes aniseed, birch, parsley, sage, or wormwood.

You must always dilute essential oils when you are using them around an infant. You also need to make sure that the oil does not come into contact with your baby's mouth. Neither you nor your child should ingest the oils—they are for aromatherapy only.

For this reason, ensure that you wash your hands after using essential oils and wipe any oil completely off of your skin. "If you are using essential oils for healing cracked nipples, you need to make sure you wipe the breast off completely before nursing," notes Katie Clark, a certified lactation educator and breastfeeding specialist, an IBCLC candidate, and creator of The Breastfeeding Mama. If you don't think you can do this, you might want to avoid using the oils directly on your nipples.

Every breastfeeding journey is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about using essential oils while breastfeeding.

Benefits of Essential Oils While Breastfeeding

There are a few key benefits to using essential oils while breastfeeding.

Heals Nipples

Breastfeeding can be downright painful at the start. Peppermint oil has been found to be effective in healing cracked and sore nipples. Although anecdotally peppermint oil is known for lowering milk supply, studies have not found this to be true.

Promotes Sleep and Relaxation

As sleep-deprived as you may be in the early months after giving birth, it can be hard to relax enough to get the rest you really need. Essential oils such as lavender can help you wind down and sleep better.

Relieves Anxiety

Many people feel anxious after bringing their baby home. You might worry about whether your baby is getting enough food or growing well, and you might wake up in the middle of the night just to check that they are breathing. Research has shown essential oils to be effective in lowering anxiety during the postpartum period. But, if your worrying is interfering with your ability to function or it feels like a lot, reach out to your healthcare provider.

Safety Precautions

There are some important safety precautions to follow when using essential oils while breastfeeding.

Dilute the Oils

Essential oils are quite potent, and they are best used when diluted with a carrier oil such as vegetable oil. It is recommended to dilute at 4%, but pregnant people are advised to dilute at 1 or 2%. While there is no exact recommendation for breastfeeding parents, it would be prudent to continue with the pregnancy recommendation.

Topical Use Only

Essential oils are not safe to consume. You should only use them topically, and you also have to make sure that your baby does not ingest any. "Even relatively safe oils like tea tree oil can be toxic to humans if they’re ingested," notes Marie Burke, a lactation consultant at O’Flynn Medical. "It can be very easy for some residue of this oil to remain on a mother's nipple or around the breast, meaning that a child could swallow it."

Wash your hands and wipe off any oil that gets on your skin during the process of using it. If you put the oil on your breasts, it's especially important to clean it off completely before nursing.

Make Sure the Oils Are Approved for Breastfeeding

Some essential oils can be dangerous for infants, so it is very important to check each new oil you use. "You also want to make sure you aren't using essential oils that could have
a negative impact on milk supply," notes Clark.

Since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate essential oils, the best thing to do is check with your healthcare provider or pediatrician. When in doubt, do not use the oil.

Stick With Pure Essential Oils

Pure essential oils contain only the plant extract and nothing else. Avoid synthetic essential oils or oils with any added ingredients. These are not as effective and they cannot be considered safe to use while breastfeeding.

Stop if There's an Averse Reaction

Your baby should not be exposed to any essential oils if they are 3 months old or younger (or 3 months past their original due date for premature babies). If you do use essential oils around your baby once they are older, ensure that the oils have fully absorbed into your skin or you've completely wiped them off.

Monitor your infant if you use essential oils, including any time you try a new scent. If they seem uncomfortable or have a rash, stop using the oil. You should also watch yourself for any reactions such as nausea or headache.

A Word From Verywell

Some types of essential oils can be safe to use while breastfeeding. But, other types should be avoided. It is important to check with your healthcare provider before using any new type of essential oil to ensure that it is safe. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil.

Take care to ensure that no oils come into contact with your baby's mouth or skin. It is not safe for infants to consume any amount of essential oils. Stop using any type of essential oil if either you or your baby have an averse reaction such as headache, nausea, or rash.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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