“If we wear our nursing covers backwards like capes, then everyone can see we're breastfeeding superheroes.”
~ Cassi Clark, ‘Breastfeeding Is a Bitch’
“Nursing gives you superhuman powers. How else could I be doing all this when I’m usually a sleepaholic?” ~ Gwen Stefani
So your bundle of joy is here! The universe has stopped for you and your baby, and in its place is a noisy, technicolor world of stuffed animals, musical mobiles and well-meaning advice from people you barely know. You are rightly feeling superhuman – just look at the miracle you have created – but you may also be experiencing exhaustion and worry as a result of your hungry new baby’s ravenous demands (up to 12 feeds in 24 hours can place a huge strain on your mind and body).
Superhuman? Yes! Indestructible? Not so much…
The bond created between mother and baby through nursing is a critical stage in the child’s development: it protects against allergies, diseases and infections; supplies the baby with all the crucial nutrients it needs in the correct, easily digestible proportions; and gives an early boost to the baby’s intellectual development (breastfed babies score higher on IQ tests). So it’s understandable that a new mother can feel deep distress when breastfeeding doesn’t quite go as planned. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC), around 60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they intended to (the World Health Organization recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding, followed by a further 18 months of breastfeeding and complimentary foods). Problems with lactation, soreness, and concerns about nutrition and toxicity can all influence a mother to cease nursing her child before these recommended milestones.
In other words: sometimes superheroes need help too. And essential oils, when used safely, can help moms overcome some of the challenges of nursing their babies and lend a helping hand with this most magical of human bonding experiences.
There are a number of essential oils which should be avoided during the nursing period, as they may have a detrimental effect on hormone production. The following essential oils should not be used: Aniseed, Basil, Birch, Camphor, Hyssop, Mugwort, Parsley, Pennyroyal, Peppermint, Sage, Tansy, Tarragon, Thuja, Wintergreen and Wormwood.
The following essential oils are considered safe to use: Bergamot, Cedarwood, Chamomile, Citrus (small amounts), Cypress, Eucalyptus, Fennel (small amounts),
Lavender, Jasmine, Marjoram, Neroli, Patchouli, Rose, Rose Geranium, Rosemary, Sandalwood, Tea Tree and Ylang Ylang.
If you have concerns about using essential oils while nursing, be sure to speak to your physician. Do not ingest essential oils, and use low concentrations in your diffuser or massage carrier oil.
Essential oils can be used in a variety of ways during the nursing phase, from enabling restful sleep, to promoting sleep production, to soothing cracked nipples. Keep in mind that your baby’s favorite smell in the world is you – so don’t overpower his or her little world with new scents that camouflage the deliciously warm aroma of Mom! Again - use lower concentrations of essential oils than usual in your diffuser, and dilute these oils more heavily in your massage carrier oil. And always make sure your nipples are completely clean of essential oils before breastfeeding your baby.
Ready, SuperMom and SuperBaby? Then let’s nurse!
Used in moderation, Fennel essential oil is believed to help stimulate lactation. Use just a couple of drops in a carrier oil such as jojoba, and massage the breasts while avoiding the nipple area (your baby is probably not going to be crazy about fennel flavor milk).
Geranium, Lavender, Roman Chamomile and Neroli essential oils can all aid healing in cracked nipples. Try a drop of each in coconut or jojoba oil, and massage the nipples after nursing.
When your breasts are feeling heavy and sore from nursing, try adding around six drops of Geranium essential oil to your bath water.
After giving birth, many women develop mastitis, a painful enlargement of breast tissue which sometimes results from lactation. Always see your doctor first if you experience any pain in your breasts, but relief from the benign condition of mastitis can be achieved by massaging a few drops of Tea Tree oil, mixed with a carrier oil, into the painful area.
Never mind the fact that your adorable little vampire is literally sucking the nutrients out of your body as it feeds. Breastfeeding also releases the hormone prolactin, which can make you feel extremely drowsy. This is perfect for the post-feeding nap, but if you then need an invigorating aroma hug to help you go about your day, try this energizing blend of Bergamot, Lemon and Grapefruit essential oils in your diffuser.
Essential Oils and Massage
Are you looking forward to exploring more massage oil ideas once the nursing phase is over? You can discover our essential oil massage recipes here.