Are Essential Oils Safe During Breastfeeding?

Essential oils have become a hot topic and many moms swear by them for everything from stress relief to headaches to indigestion. During breastfeeding, the use of fennel oil and basil oil to boost milk supply has also been popular. But is it safe? Does it work?

To date, there are no studies on the safety of topical or internal use of essential oils during breastfeeding, but the Infantrisk Center (the national clearinghouse for info on meds during breastfeeding and pregnancy) recommends the following when using oils during breastfeeding:
Topical use only, no internal use
Avoid direct application to the nipple and wash off the breast before feeding to avoid oil contacting the infant (if they absorb too much you can’t “take it back”)
Use caution regarding interactions with prescription drugs
Do not apply to infant’s mouth or ears

Typically fennel and basil are diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the breasts (applying “neat”, or undiluted, can cause skin irritation in a new mom). Fennel should be avoided by moms with diabetes or epilepsy and shouldn’t be used by anyone for more than 10 days.

Some moms have reported some increased production, but with no studies it’s hard to know if it really works. Studies of teas containing fennel and other ingredients have shown a positive effect, but it’s unknown if it was the fennel or something else in the tea. It’s also unknown if tea and essential oil would have the same effect.

If you are concerned about your milk supply, make sure to work with an IBCLC (Board Certified Lactation Consultant).  You can reach an IBCLC any day of the week at the KP Breastfeeding Center at 770-429-1005.

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