I had to laugh because my son saw my computer and said “Yeah I constantly worry about your mental health …” which I am sure was supposed to be an insult but I kinda loved it. Because being a mom is hard. REALLY hard. It’s exhausting and a lot of the time you can feel very much alone. It’s so nice when someone asks “How are you?” and genuinely wants to know the answer. It’s a rare and beautiful thing. Regardless of what age your kids are, there are pressures and reasons to feel stressed. For some women those can be very dangerous times.
Over the years, I have collected lots of nuggets of botanical wisdom about how plants can be supportive on that journey, so I thought we could collate it all here, in this important article called Essential Oils for Mother’s Mental Health.
A mother’s journey starts way before this, maybe when she conceived, or even dreamed about conceiving…but understanding this first fact really galvanized my thinking about how important essential oils can be on our journeys to being calm, stable and effective mothers.
Cortisol is a stress hormone. We all have it and actually, it's a very helpful thing. In short term bursts, it is anti-inflammatory to the body and pools all reserves to help us run from danger.
It has a very specific sensation. It’s called “the molecule of negative expectation” because it's that feeling we all get when we suspect things are about to go wrong. Our hearts beat faster, our pupils dilate so we can take in more of our surroundings and breathing gets shallower.
Essentially, we’re talking about anxiety, aren’t we?
Well, most of us have a natural pattern to our cortisol each day (I say most because some people on the ASD spectrum don’t seem to have this, and neither do babies).
Cortisol starts off low when we awaken, then gradually peaks about 30 mins after we wake, then slowly drops through the day. People don’t realize they are inadvertently making it stronger when they have their morning coffee. So we are all fired up to take on the day, then as we get tired, it calms off, which is nice because it should mean we can get to sleep relatively easily at night.
However, if something bad happens, or we get stressed, the body makes more cortisol to help us through that - which is good, but of course, we feel anxious.
So presumably many of you will be thinking - obviously - we know this….
But the important thing to register in what I have written is that babies do not have this cycle.
Until they are about 2 years old, their cortisol mimics the pattern of their mother.
Mom gets stressed, her cortisol spikes and so baby’s follows suit.
Baby screams, mom’s cortisol gets worse…baby screams more.
The worst possible kind of spiral.
So an intervention is required because baby’s mental health is entirely dependent on mom’s mental health.
This is why soothing fragrances are so important as essential oils for mothers' mental health.
Conversely though, it is important to recognize that something that really stresses a baby, is if they cannot smell their mom. We all have our own individual scent, and babies navigate their worlds by that. You smell like mom, I like that. I’ll settle down. (Actually, for obvious reasons their favorite smell is mom’s breast). So, first, it’s important that we don’t confuse by by putting lavender diffusers on or by slaverering mom in distressing smells of a garden either.
It’s off track, so I won’t get into it here, but I talk about this much more in Is Lavender Essential Oils Safe For Babies?
So, remembering that fact about cortisol…know that we DO NOT TRY AND GET BABY CALM….It’s far more effective to calm mom.
The Most Effective Ways to Use Essential Oils for Post Partum Mothers Mental Health
- Aromatic Baths
- Roller Balls
- Body Lotions
Massage is top of the list, whether it is a full body, or just a hand, foot or facial massage.
Best case scenario is if we can get them a massage, that should ideally be with a professional therapist, but it need not be. It’s very hard taking time away from the baby, so partners, moms, sisters, friends can all be recruited.
Benefits for a new mother’s mental health and physical well being should not be understated.
Many women’s bodies swell during labor. Massaging redistributes water and encourages draining and circulation of excess fluids.
If you are breastfeeding, massage is especially helpful because it promotes the body’s manufacture of oxytocin. Oxytocin is the bonding molecule which is helpful not only to the mother child relationship, but also to the wife and husband. Oxytocin helps the uterus contract, improves circulation and milk supply. In particular, gentle breast massage (which can be done by the woman herself) helps improve lactation and to reduce pain (Anderson, 2019)
Carrot seed, rose geranium and Roman Chamomile essential oils are wonderfully supportive choices here.
A woman’s postpartum body is a temple to a million fluctuating hormones. Combining essential oils with the soothing and reassuring power of touch may elevate mood and encourage hormonal balance.
Massage is the greatest gift you can give someone who is sleep deprived…especially with frankincense essential which not only comforts and reassures but is proven (in rodent studies) to repay sleep deficit.
Postpartum Essential Oils
Rose essential oil is proven to help post natal bonding with babies. Even just a short hand and arm massage can be so nurturing and healing.
It has a soothing effect on cortisol and is hypnotic, which means it helps get you to sleep quicker and allows you to stay asleep longer, baby permitting.
The best tip anyone ever gave me was to put a sign on the door saying “Please do not knock, baby sleeping” Control your environment of who comes in and out and when, and start getting rose on you at every possible opportunity.
It is very much a female oil, having a tonic effect on the uterus, so shrinking your baby belly down. Rose supports hormonal balance which can be so shaky in those first days.
Be careful not to smother yourself in it, because the baby likes YOUR smell so if you mask it, you are going to distress them.
I think the nicest gift you can give someone who has had a baby is some rose toiletries. Forget babygrows…she’ll have lots of those. Support her hormones. Rose in the bath is so healing and supportive. An aromapendant with a drop of it on. A body lotion she can wear after her bath…there is a great deal to be said for being reminded that you are a mom, but first and foremost you are a woman.
Melissa is an odd one because it has been used for centuries by new moms, but any scientific evidence is for the whole herb rather than the essential oil. On one hand I would encourage you to believe me that it is also the essential oil. On the other, I would say buying the extract will be so much cheaper.
The essential oil is so uplifting, calming and steadying. It does make you feel so much more assured of what you are doing and clear in your thinking.
Evidence shows that lemon balm extracts (Lemon Balm is Melissa officinalis, so it's the same plant) not only helps to alleviate those horrible after pains, but also prevents baby blues.
Inhaling Melissa is so uplifting. If life is feeling dark, then Melissa feels like sunshine in a bottle.
I think the most important thing that patchouli does is help you feel inside your body.
My middle child was born with the cord around his neck and so his birth was quite traumatic. Then I found pieces of his amniotic sac had been left behind, so I had to go back for a Dust and Clean (D & C really means Dilation and Curettage, but mine is so much better!)
I was really odd when I got home. It was as if I was watching my life go y me like a film and I was not in it. It’s happened to be a few more times since and I have come to associate it with being shocked out of my skin.
Patchouli slows the breath and brings you back into your body, which sounds so out there, but I cannot convey how good it feels to feel back to your old self again.
The most balancing of the balancers from Balance Ville.
So soothing and calming. Particularly lovely if you feel very unattractive. Ylang ylang is sweet, indulgent and euphoric.
With the others, we have been concentrating on balancing the hormones, but here, this is all about the sleep, or lack of it.
If you are crabby and struggling because you have a wakeful baby, a couple of drops of frankincense can be so helpful. I’d put them into a rollerball with a teaspoon of carrier and just keep massaging them into your neck.
Frankincense is soothing, reassuring, fortifying…just keep sloughing it on. I call it scaffolding for the waning spirit!
So we have talked about new moms, but what about Mother’s mental Health if you have toddlers? That’s a whole different ball game, isn’t it? My middle child had a very specific set of skills…he’d either be having a tantrum or disappearing up the chimney!!!
There’s an advert for our childhood acetaminophen on TV and it says “We’ll have your kids back to themselves in no time…Yes, sorry about that..!” Which could have been written about Andy. I was consistently on edge, waiting for the next explosion.
You should know the song now. I always say chamomiles sing que sera sera, whatever will be, will be!
And you know what it’s like when you have a terror on the loose and your mother in law offhandedly doles out meaningful advice “You just need to relax a bit more…” which immediately makes you ball a fist ready to punch her….
Chamomile just takes you out of the situation. It’s like this beautiful sigh of fresh countryside air (Without the cows**t). It’s a soft releasing breeze through your mind, easing things, slowing things and often, making you giggle.
It’s such a special medicine.
Just put a couple of drops on a tissue and breathe them in. Have some on your pillow when you lie down. A great trick i to put some on your breat pad and stick it in your bra. Your breast starts to get slightly scented, so bby starts to associate you with the fragrance and is lovely and calm when they feed.
Clearly chamomile tea is made from chamomile flowers. Drink the tea…and actually the loveliest thing to do is plant the tea bag afterwards….the flowers are charming, the bees will love you and you’ll have free tea in the future. All great lessons for tiny humans.
Don’t be distracted by shiny things…a bath in lavender essential oil is one of the simplest and most effect ways to retail your sanity.
Do you have a child that just won’t stop crying? If the doctor has done all their checks and they are happy there is nothing wrong, then myrtle can be a savior.
Some kids are just criers. I was one of them. I genuinely think I cried every day till I was thirty. I’m still very easily set off.
Myrtle is like a lovely hug. It’s like the aromatic version of a pacifier. Clearly don’t let them put it in their mouth, but a nice foot rub will often settle them down…also, it works wonderfully blended with some spearmint, which is also very soothing.
Not only is being a mom stressful, it’s also expensive. It’s one of life’s cruel truths that tiny people want expensive things and you probably can’t afford to work enough hours to get them because childcare is so crippling.
If money worries are crippling you, I cannot recommend inhaling or bathing in geranium. It’s like the world just disappears off your shoulders.
Mothers Mental Health Support for Grown Up Children
More and more I hear of grandmothers raising their grandchildren, because of family substance abuse issues. The fear about your child and the sheer stamina needed to bridge the age gap between you and the kids is incredible. I applaud you all. I have so much respect for you. Can I recommend either rose absolute or geranium to you as a means of support through these long days.
Worries about children who can’t afford to make ends meet speaks to geranium too, and some chamomile.
Parents Who are Estranged from Their Children
Using essential oils for mothers' mental health is a gentle and easy way to offer support. Let’s be honest we have all been conditioned that we should always put everyone else before ourselves and no-one is worse at it than moms. Self care is so simple when you are using essential oils for mothers mental health and so very effective.