Aromatherapy, when I first heard the phrase, holding a newborn on my lap, sounded like something that people who had time to brush their teeth should worry about, not me. The only “therapy” I thought I needed then was a solid night’s sleep (or at least four hours”¦is that too much to ask??), not some fancy little bottles I didn’t have time to learn how to use! But a been-there-done-that mom convinced me to give aromatherapy oils a whirl (or a whiff) and let me tell you””our sense of smell is much more powerful than we tend to give it credit for! I can honestly credit my nose for becoming a much more mellow mommy. So before you turn your nose up at essential oils, let me tell you why the right scents are indeed exactly what you need right now””for you and your baby.
1. Because when you’re tired, aromatherapy can perk you up in a way that a coffee percolator can’t. Try peppermint to revive your senses. Eucalyptus has a similar impact. For an immediate wake up call, apply diluted oil directly to your palms and breathe it in (just wash off before touching your baby afterwards).
2. Because when you’re over-tired, aromatherapy can help ease you into a restful sleep. You know how you cackle to yourself whenever someone suggests to you, “Sleep when your baby sleeps” because you have so many things running through your mind these days that falling asleep is a Herculean feat? Aromatherapy can make that elusive nap a possibility. Lavender and chamomile in particular are well-known sleepytime favorites. Try running a bath with a few drops of one of these essential oils, or add to a small piece of fabric like wool, and place inside your pillow.
3. Because your baby could use some help falling asleep, too. There’s a reason why so many baby baths and bedtime lotions are infused with lavender. Try adding a drop to fabric and tossing in the dryer when you are laundering baby’s pajamas. Lullaby and good night, everyone!
4. Because aromatherapy can help chase away the new mommy blues. A combination of hormones, exhaustion and “what did I get myself into?” can create a real damper on your mood, and sometimes the right scent can be the little adjustment you need to feel more calm and upbeat. Perhaps one way the new daddy can say “thank you” is with a massage using geranium, sweet basil or ylang ylang essential oils””these scents are known pick-me-ups. (If your blues are more serious than feeling occasionally glum, though, ladies””please check with your doctor! Post-partum depression is a serious and very prevalent problem and I wish I could say scents will help with that, but they likely won’t.)
5. Because babies love massages, too. Infant massage is a practice you can learn from your hospital, doula or parent-educator, and if done correctly, you might find yourself with the mellowest baby on the block! You can use a very small amount (diluted or ¼ the amount of an adult dose) in a diffuser to set the stage to create an even more relaxing and meaningful experience. Never apply an essential oil directly to a newborn’s skin! Safe scents for babies include lavender, chamomile and rose.
Jorie Mark is Vitacost.com’s Director of Marketing Communications and mom to three kids, ages 3 to 10.