Aromatherapy for New Mothers
There are so many things on your mind when you have a new baby and one of the last things tends to be you. What can you use aromatherapy for at this stage of your life? How about stress, difficulty sleeping, pain…?
In my article Giving Birth with Aromatherapy, I mentioned how to help wounds heal by sitting in a sitz bath, or a bathful of water up to your hips with lavender (lavandula angustifolia) or cypress oil (cupressus sempervirens). You can still do this when you get home and it's probably better because you will hopefully be more relaxed. I'm not sure if this would work in a bidet, it depends on where your wounds are.
To aid lactation put drops of sweet fennel oil (foeniculum vulgare) into bath water (diluting them first in a carrier oil or milk). Fennel is traditionally used to increase the flow of milk. Eating fennel has the same result and that is probably why some of the free samples they give in the mother & baby packs are for fennel tea. If you don't have time for a bath, then dilute 1 drop of fennel oil to 10ml of carrier oil and massage this onto the breasts, not including the nippples. If you are taking cypress oil baths to heal your wounds, do not soak in the bath water up to your breasts if you are breastfeeding as this oil can reduce the flow of milk!
If you develop mastitis, using the same strength of 1 drop of essential oil to 10ml of carrier oil, use the following to reduce the pain and inflammation: roman chamomile (anthemis nobilis), clary sage (salvia sclarea), and peppermint (mentha piperita). The first two will have the strongest action, or combine all three together, remembering the dilution. Massage the solution into the breasts, again avoiding the nipples, or apply as a compress. To do this put maximum 5 drops of oil into 500ml warm water and agitate. Then soak a cotton cloth, or layers of gauze into the water, wring gently and apply to the breast. Another combination of oil to use for mastitis is lavender, geranium (pelargonium graveolens) and rose otto (rosa damascena). Maggie Tisserand recommends 1 drop each of lavender and geranium together with 2 drops of rose to 500ml-1 litre of warm water.
After the birth can be such a difficult time, it's not surprising with the physical and emotional strain that some mothers become depressed. Rose otto is a good all-round female oil. It balances the hormones, it helps relieve nervous tension and depression, also good for insomnia. Other oils are sandalwood (santalum album), lavender, clary sage, jasmine (jasminum officinale) and ylang ylang (cananga odorata). You could use a combination of the oils e.g. rose, clary sage and lavender. Blend with a carrier oil 1-2 drops per 5ml of carrier, or in a bath. Personally, I think one of the best ways is in an oil burner or vaporiser. Jasmine is a very strong oil, with a strong therapeutic action and, if you're not used to blending is best used not mixed with other essential oils. But don't be put off, this is a lovely oil, it treats nervous exhaustion and stress, it gives a feeling of optimism and confidence.
Many essential oils can relax, which is the first step towards getting to sleep. Ones specifically indicated for insomnia are lemon balm (melissa officinalis), chamomile (anthemis nobilis) or (chamomilia matricaria), lavender, neroli (citrus aurantium var. amara), valerian (valeriana fauriei), sandalwood, rose otto, ylang ylang. Be careful when using lavender that you do not overdo the strength because if too strong the effect will be the opposite to that intended. Valerian can be quite an effective oil for aiding sleep so do not drive after use. Use the oils either in a bath, or in an oil burner.
When you are going through a difficult emotional time, do not underestimate how effective is the power of touch. We all hold our stress and nervous tension in different parts of the body. For many of us it's the neck and shoulders, for others it's the lower back, or the scalp. If you can get your partner to massage you, you can use the oils listed above. Or you can have a professional massage from a massage therapist. And don't forget the baby. Just massaging your baby for 10 minutes can have a therapeutic effect on you. I used a carrier oil on my babies (grapeseed or sunflower), without essential oil. I just felt good that I'd spent some time soothing and relaxing them, and I would recommend you do this while the baby lets you. Once my two found out they could roll over, that was the end of our baby massage sessions!
AROMATHERAPY FOR BABIES
I tend not to use essential oils with babies unless for a specific reason. I have treated my babies a few times with essential oils. When their sinuses were blocked and they were having problems sleeping, I put a drop each of eucalyptus (eucalyptus globulus) and lavender onto a cotton cloth into their cots. I didn't use a tissue in case they ate it in their sleep! Plus I could tie the cloth around the cot bars. When they both developed impetigo as a result of severe eczema, I used patchouli in a carrier oil. This is the best oil indicated for this awful infection. Do be careful that you use maximum 1 drop of essential oil in 5ml of carrier oil, do not exceed this strength when using directly on babies and young children.
In her book Aromatherapy for Women, Maggie Tisserand devotes a whole chapter to treating children's illnesses with aromatherapy. She includes colic, toothache, earache, colds, convulsions, conjunctivitis and many others.