Can Essential Oils Help My Child Sleep?
When you become a parent there are two things you find yourself obsessed with. Sleep and poop. You are always wondering if both are within the normal range. Go to any new mother's group online and the number one discussed topic will be sleep. A close second is most likely the content of the baby's nappy.
After having 4 children in 5 years there was one thing I learnt. When it comes to sleep with children you need to be patient and adaptable. One day they may sleep beautifully, the next may be crap. It may even be great for a few months or even years and then be terrible.
A question I get asked a lot is "Can you give me an oil that will help my child sleep better?"
The answer is yes and no.
It all depends on why the child is not sleeping what you consider well and if your expectations are reasonable.
First of all I want to say something. I always hated the question "Is she a good baby?" There is no such thing as a bad baby! This particular question almost always means "do they sleep trough the night?". I know people mean no harm when they ask this, but it can make a new mother start to wonder if her baby is different to others. If her baby is not as "good". Mum, if your baby doesn't sleep well, they are not naughty or bad. They are a baby. Many times baby just wants to be near Mum. This is not naughty behaviour at all. This is human. This is natural.
So let's look at a few different scenarios and talk about whether essential oils can help.
The child has a cold or cough and it is affecting their sleep. They are waking frequently. Can essential oils help?
Yes, they can. You can diffuse certain essential oils and make a chest rub that will help them to breathe better plus relax them. A great oil for this purpose is cedarwood. It is a child safe oil that is wonderful for respiratory health and my absolute favourite sedating oil. I tend to make a blend of cedarwood, frankincense and lime and rub on back and chest when there is a lot of coughing. Lavender and wild orange make a beautiful synergistic blend and is great to diffuse for children when sick. If your child is over 5 years of age a steam inhalation is also great for congestion. Do not use cardamom, eucalyptus, rosemary or peppermint in a steam inhalation for children as these oils should not be placed near their face.
The child is a toddler and is fighting their morning nap and you are not quite ready for them to lose it. Will essential oils help?
Sorry, simple answer is no. Dropping the morning nap somewhere between 12 months and 24 months is normal development (every child is different) and essential oils are not going to keep them napping when their body doesn't want it.
My child is teething, miserable and can't sleep. Will essential oils help?
Yes they may. Their body wants to sleep but the pain is interfering. Take 1 drop of roman chamomile and place in 10 ml of carrier oil and massage into cheeks and jawline. Make sure you avoid the eyes. Diffuse lavender or petitgrain or dilute and apply to the feet to relax and calm the child.
My toddler/older child is having nightmares and is too scared to go to bed or wakes frequently. Can essential oils help?
Absolutely. Essential oils have a wonderful positive effect on our emotions and are great for kids with fears. Make a blend of lavender, wild orange and juniper berry and diffuse in their bedroom or dilute in a carrier and place on chest and/or bottoms of feet. Lavender is extremely calming to the mind and body. Wild orange is great for children's fears and juniper berry is thought to help with night terrors and is also brings calm to the nervous system. You can also make a "Monster Spray" with these calming oils, water and a dispersant and spray around the room before bed.
My kids wake too early. Will essential oils help them to stay in bed longer?
If they are waking at 2am, then yes by all means try some calming oils. But if they are waking at 5 or 6am, sorry most likely not. That is just their body clock which may also change with time. My kids go to bed around 7 and are up anywhere between 5 and 6 usually. 6.30 is a sleep in for us!
My newborn just doesn't settle and he wakes so frequently. Can essential oils make his sleep cycle longer?
If over the age of 3 months I would say by all means diffuse a couple of drops of lavender or place diluted on chest and see if it has an effect. But under 3 months I would say that a baby carrier would be more effective than oils (I don't tend to recommend essential oils under 3 months old). They are so new to world and all of the noises and smells and usually just want to be close to someone. All 4 of mine would sleep no more than half an hour unless on my chest. It was a little more challenging with twins! Also remember that they need to be fed very frequently in the first couple of months so will wake often for it. So hang in there Mama, you are doing a great job!
My toddler normally naps two hours in the afternoon but all of sudden will only nap for half an hour. Will essential oils help?
Yes, most likely. First try and think of what could be causing it. Are they teething? Are they suffering separation anxiety. My two year old did this. I have to lay down with her to get her to sleep and normally I can sneak out of the room once she is asleep. But every day for a week she would wake as soon as I moved to leave. If I did manage to escape she would wake crying for me about half an hour later. I knew at the time she was experiencing separation anxiety which is also part of normal development but essential oils can help us process our emotions in a positive way. So I started diffusing bergamot, cedarwood and roman chamomile at sleep time every day and it worked beautifully.
So those are just some examples of situations that can have an effect on our children's sleep. We have to keep in mind that essential oils are not going to make our bodies do anything. They work with our bodies to bring health and harmony. You can use lavender during the day and it is not going to make you sleep in the middle of the day if that is not what your body needs. In fact, you could be feeling somewhat lethargic and down and lavender will help you feel uplifted if that is what your body needs.
This is the beauty of essential oils.