Aromatherapy for Better Parenting

Take a deep breath—you’re a parent. The same advice also applies to you if you are a grandparent, doting aunt or uncle, babysitter, nanny or manny: deep, slow breaths. Caring for the younger generation, regardless of your specific genetic affiliation, is not for the easily winded. And truly, the experience may often leave you breathless, from both sheer exhaustion as well as sheer exhilaration.


What you may not know is that our sense of scent deeply influences the experience of parenting. Early study into the human brain established that our olfactory capacity was held in reflexive structures which linked aroma to deep memory. Contemporary research has demonstrated that newborns can identify their mothers purely on the basis of smell, before the baby’s eyes have opened or focused.


On an unconscious level, our sense of smell is tirelessly sending us messages. Incorporating essential oils into your daily routine is an easy, natural way to consciously use olfactory cues to affect your own mood, energy and attitude.



Don’t be fooled by cheap fragranced products.  Real aromatherapy products are made with essential oils. Essential oils are botanical extracts made from plants (leaves, flowers, bark, seeds). Synthetic or artificial fragrances are made from nasty petrochemicals for a tiny fraction of the cost required to make essential oils.


Essential oils interact with our bodies on a subtle neurological level, while synthetic fragrances are potentially irritating and toxic. Read the label on every product. If the label simple says “fragrance”, this means artificial fragrance, and it’s not aromatherapy.
Choose organic and sustainable. Remember that not all plants are raised in organic and sustainable ways. For instance, cinnamon essential oil is by definition made from the spicy-smelling bark of the cinnamon plant, but if the plant was raised using agricultural chemicals, some of those chemicals may be transferred to the extracted oil, then to you. Ew.


Carefully choose your experience. Essential oils are potent. They often are too potent to apply to the skin in concentrated form, and should be avoided in general by pregnant women (if you are expecting a baby or breastfeeding, always check with your health provider before using any product). Do not apply essential oils directly to the skin of a child.


With these caveats, essential oils in diluted form can be powerful but gentle therapy for you and your household. Try these techniques:


  • SPRAY : Add a few (3 – 5 ) drops of essential oils to a small, travel-size spray bottle containing purified water. Blend your own custom-combinations of oils for layered effects. Mist around your general area, especially when parenting gets, um, aromatic (like right after a diaper-change).


  • COMPRESS: Add a few drops of essential oils to a clean, folded white cloth. Keep it in your pocket or handbag, and take a deep whiff as needed. Place these instant sachets in drawers and cupboards to keep linens fresh—and skip the synthetic fabric scents.


  • IN THE BATH: Enjoy essential oils in an aromatherapy diffuser when you shower, and in a warm tub.



Each essential oil possesses specific qualities. Essential oils have long histories, dating back to ancient Greece and Egypt. Many folk remedies integrate the use of essential oils in traditions which have been passed on for centuries. Check out these general guidelines, then experiment and see what works for you:


  • PEPPERMINT: Sharp, spicy. Try it when your kid (or you) needs to study, concentrate or memorize. The “mint” relates to the word “menthe”, meaning mind, and Peppermint has been demonstrated to aid in recall. Peppermint also is linked to reducing the perception of pain. If someone gets an owie, try inhaling a bit of Peppermint.


  • CITRUS (Lemon, Lime, Orange, Grapefruit): Stimulating and energizing. Universally regarded as a mood-elevator. When baby-blues or other gloom clouds gather, surround yourself with the smell of sunshine. Lemongrass, though not technically a citrus, produces similar effects.


  • LAVENDER: Soothing, calming, peaceful.  This is perhaps the most popular and most familiar essential oil. Lavender’s name relates to the Latin for bath (as in lavatory), and has been used for centuries across continents to cleanse and calm. Floral, yet earthy and not too sweet. When baby is fussy, place a cloth scented with Lavender on your shoulder as you hold the child.


  • CINNAMON: Instant cozy. Imparts a warming glow, like the bright windows of a snug house on a cold, snowy night or the smell of cookies in the oven. When you or your child need a sense of comfort, breathe in Cinnamon for a snuggly feeling. Especially good for making up after a fight.


  • EUCALYPTUS: Yes, this lush, menthol aroma is the one we associate with cough-drops. Refreshing when you are congested with a cold-bug or allergies, many aromatherapists also believe that the aroma of Eucalyptus is good for metaphorically “clearing the air” when there is tension or conflict.

Credit: Peter Friis, CEO and Founder, ESSIO aromatherapy for the shower


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