Body and Soul: Natural Baby Care

Sweet, Safe Smells for your Little Ones


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Natural Baby Care Recipes:

When we think of caring for babies, the most immediate association for many people is the scent — baby powder or freshly laundered baby clothes. The scent of popular baby products reminds us of the love we have for our children.

I’m sure you’ve heard many people say, “I love the scent of a baby.” What do babies smell like? They smell like all that we do to nurture them, or what we neglect to do. They smell like the fresh little folks they are before the buildup of an often-toxic lifestyle accumulates in their bodies.

Developing a Sweet-Smelling Home

In polite society, we rarely admit that we actually can detect the scent of another. When we do, it is often a negative association. In fact, we smell each other all the time, processing many scent clues from our environment in a few short seconds. Scent certainly plays a large part in the hygiene we afford ourselves, our homes and our children. Become aware of the “odor print” in your home, and the scents you are introducing into your child’s life. Wouldn’t it be nicer to smell lavender or tea tree in a diaper pail instead of the harsh chemicals usually used to soak diapers? You can develop your own sentimental scents for your children every day, right in your home. The next time you peel an orange, lemon, grapefruit or lime, squeeze the peel and let a child see and smell the pure essential oils that flow out of the ruptured cells in the peel. You even can make your own kitchen spice potpourri to keep the fragrance circulating throughout your kitchen for months.

Baby's First Hair Conditioning

If you want to give your baby’s hair a gentle conditioning treatment, I recommend using 2 tablespoons of calendula-infused oil about once a month. (Weleda makes a good one) For a baby older than 3 months, you can use a combination of 2 tablespoons of jojoba oil and 1 drop of tea tree or lavender essential oil, applied once a month. Do not, however, use any essential oils on a baby younger than 3 months.

Clear up Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is a crusty secretion that forms on babies’ heads. Softening this with a calendula-infused oil, shampooing with a mild jojoba or castile-based shampoo, and then combing it out with a fine tooth comb is effective. For babies older than 3 months, try using a combination of 1 drop of sandalwood essential oil added to 1 teaspoon of a base oil such as sweet almond or jojoba. This oil also can be lightly massaged into the hair and scalp before shampooing.

Freshen Diapers Naturally

Cloth diapers are economical, better for babies, ecological and comfortable. Diapering wisdom nowadays says forget pins and plastic pants: Velcro, diaper covers and all-in-one diapers make cloth diapers the convenient and economical choice for parents today.

Basic Diaper Soak

Add 1/2 cup herbal vinegar, or 3 to 5 drops lemon, lavender or tea tree essential oil to a pail of diaper soak water. Note: Do not add bleach to vinegar-soaked diapers in the wash. The combination produces toxic gasses.

Freshen Up the Growing Up

Of course, we would all like to make everything for our babies as fresh and as pure as possible, which can mean making it at home. This isn’t always possible and sometimes not at all practical. There are good suppliers of ready-made products available to you through local health-food stores, and by mail order. Become familiar with natural ingredients and look for products with the simplest and most natural ingredients. Invest in a good herbal cosmetics book to introduce you to the ingredients and processes fine natural products contain.

What to Look For

Look for balms and creams made with beeswax, pure base oils, and the best herbs and essential oils. While balm is very thick and meant to protect the skin, cream is less thick and formulated to penetrate the skin. Balms (also called salves) work best for healing burns, cuts, scrapes, diaper rash, skin infections and a host of other external complaints. I keep jars of balm close at hand in the kitchen, garage, workshop, by the fireplace and in the medicine chest. Ointments are similar to balms, but they contain less beeswax, making for a softer product that penetrates and protects the skin.

A great sourcebook of methods for making herbal baby products at home is Naturally Healthy Babies and Children by Aviva Jill Romm. This book would make an excellent shower gift combined with a selection of dried herbs, herb plants and/or some of the basic ingredients a mom could use to create some herbal allies before the baby is born.

Warning: keep diffusers away from children

If using an aromatherapy diffuser around children or pets, please devise a safe place to put it, such as a special shelf mounted in a childproof place. I’ve heard too many stories about the dangers of leaving diffusers within reach of children. In one case history I was consulted about, a 2-year-old drank essential oil from a diffuser left unattended for just a few minutes in an older sibling’s room. A diffuser is glass, electrical and full of powerful pure, undiluted essential oils.

Natural Room Disinfectant

Add 6 drops pure essential oil (lavender, lemon, eucalyptus or tea tree) to 2 gallons of soapy water (castile or oil-based soaps work well) and mix well. Use a sponge or wet cloth to clean and disinfect the walls, furniture and other exposed surfaces of your child’s room.

All-Around Essential Oil Blend

Combine 5 drops (or parts) lavender essential oil, 5 drops (or parts) Roman chamomile essential oil and 1 to 2 drops (or parts) rose otto essential oil in a small, dark glass bottle and label well.

Massage oil: Dilute a few drops in a cup of almond oil.
Light room diffuser: Add 2 to 3 drops to a simmering pot of water.
Occasional fragrant bath: Dilute 2 to 3 drops in oil or milk and add to bathwater.
Aromatic water: Add 1 drop to a 4-ounce spray bottle of spring water.

Herbal Bath Bag For Baby

Put 2 tablespoons fresh or dried mild herbs, such as chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, peppermint or spearmint, into a cloth bag or an old sock and tie a knot in the top. Toss this into the baby’s tub containing warm water and it will act like a very large tea bag. After bathing your baby (you don’t have to remove the bag first), put the spent herbs into the compost pile or use to mulch your houseplants or outdoor container plants.

Always be aware of safety whenever bathing a baby: Keep objects out of reach of small hands, make sure water is not too hot and exercise special caution when bathing baby in a slippery tub.

An herbalist for 15 years, Colleen K. Dodt is the author of The Essential Oils Book and Natural Baby Care, from which this article is excerpted. She owns Herbal Endeavours, Ltd. in Rochester Hills, Michigan.


Several companies offer quality natural baby products you can purchase. Here are a few of our favorites:

• California Baby
3349 S. La Cienega Place
Los Angeles, CA 90016
(877) 576-2825 

• Muti Oils
118 Elm St.
Montclair, NJ 07042
(877) 688-4645 

• Earth Mama Angel Baby
9866 S.E. Empire Court
Clackamas, OR 97015
(503) 607-0607 

• Bee Naturals
P.O. Box 99
Clarksville, MO 63336
(877) 499-3897 

• Weleda
1 Closter Road
Palisades, NY 10964
(800) 241-1030 

• Baby Bouquet
3500 W. Moore Ave. Ste. H
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(866) 469-2229 

• Burt’s Bees
P.O. Box 13489
Durham, NC 27709
(800) 849-7112