Hello sweet mamas! It’s February and it’s our month for fragrances. Last year at this time, I gave you the “all about town” for New York’s best lines of colognes and perfumes for the entire family (see archives, Feb 2004). So this year, I want to talk about aromatherapy! There is nothing quicker that evokes comfort and memories for me like wonderful smells. A warm apple pie cooking, the potpourri tucked in my childhood drawers in satin sachets, mmhh. Now I am a mama and every night after the bath, the boys and I are doused with the Dr. Hauschka lavender bath oil (www.drhauschka.com) Why? Because it is another loving cue that the day is over and it is time to let the body relax and rest.
Something in the Air
First, a word of caution. Essential oils should not, I repeat, not be applied directly to a baby’s skin under 18 months old. This is the rule of thumb. A small drop could be applied to a blanket or a teddy bear, but not to the skin. There are many companies, such as Dr. Hauschka, who make diluted oils that are sensitive enough for baby care. But if we are talking about essential oils versus diluted, an essential oil could be put into a burner that would fill the room with aromatherapy for your little ones. I had a great conversation with Malia from Aromatix @ 1169 2nd Avenue, New York, 10021, ph, 212-838-9196 (www.aromatixnyc.com). They have a wonderful electrical burner for sale, Essential Air, with a timer that runs every 25 minutes for 5 minutes. This product will fill your home with an array of products, including their line of Neal’s Yard blended oils. When the two-year old is screaming for more Playdoh while the baby is crying from teething, burn their Relaxation blended oil. When the screaming subsides and the little angels finally put their heads upon their pillows, you and papa can get out the Passion blended oil – ooh la la! For postnatal mamas wanting to get rid of stretch marks, massaging Aromatix’s Neroli oil with a massage oil into your belly works magic on your tummy, mmmmhhh. Neroli oil is distilled from the blossoms of the bitter orange tree and also has wonderful effects with insomnia, anxiety and depression. Sounds like the perfect post-partum oil to me!
Lavender to the Rescue
Around mamas and babies, Dr. Hauschka’s Lavender bath oil is practically as essential as a pacifier. Babies grow calmer from lavender. Every night, Brody (he is almost 5 months, can you believe it?) takes his tub or sponge bath, and then while he’s snuggling into his pajama outfit, mama puts a few finger-tip drops of lavender on the outside of his clothes. Then I swaddle him into the blankie I knitted him, and we have one more swig on the old bottle. Then we dance around the room to a little Josh Groban or Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook and it’s off to sleepy land. I swear he loves the whole ritual just as much as I do. The lavender smell seems to make him just purr like a kitty. In fact, his nickname in our house is “Gatito”, which means little cat in Spanish (or “Gringo Gatito, which means white boy kitty).
The word on the street, W. 19th to be exact, is ARCADIA
You can find the Dr. Hauschka line at another wonderful store in New York City, Arcadia. Arcadia is located at 261 W.19th Street, ph: 212-243-5358. The owner of this store is Jay Gurewitsch, who is passionate about his store and his products. He spent a generous amount of his time explaining to me (to you, dear mamas) all about the authenticity of essential oils. Come to find out in our interview, the United States and the FDA do not regulate these products, which is why the price differences seem so random. You won’t find a label that will say, “certified organic oil” in the U.S. It seems the U.K. market is where these products get certified by their Soil Association. So find out where a store is buying their oils, and know the average pricing on authentic essential oils is $22-$23, not $5 or $50. The other important thing you should know is that a true essential oil will irritate the skin upon direct contact, which is why these oils are mixed with base or massage oils. But as Jay told me, you can add essential oils to the bath to dilute or even your cooking oils, such as olive or almond. To make sure Jay is bringing you the real McCoy, he gets his products from Natural Health Remedies in the U.K., where the oils are certified organic (www.nhr.kz) Bravo Jay, you are a wonderful resource that I want my mamas to meet.
Shh, Little Baby Don’t You Cry
The largest U.S. offerings of aromatherapy for babies that I could find for you dear mamas is online at www.earthbaby.com or www.erbaviva.com Take a peek! If you scroll down on the homepage of Earthbaby, there is a link to their Aromatherapy product lines. The aromatherapy line they carry is California Baby ™. Their four products can be added to a diffuser that the site sells, the bath, or massage oil for baby. The products are Calming and Bedtime, Overtired, or Cranky, Resistance Builder and Colds and Flus. The Colds and Flus and Resistance Builders are probably best dispensed from a diffuser, so while your little one sleeps, he can get the benefits of such essentials a eucalyptus, fir, and tea tree. Overtired and Cranky is of course filled with chamomile, the other magical oil for babies. I have used the oil in a diffuser for its calming effects and diluted tea in my baby bottles when their tummies act up. On the Erbaviva site, they have fantastic aromatherapy products and essential oils in creams and massage oils for calming and skincare. Erbaviva can also be purchased at a Sephora location right here in Manhattan.
A story from the attic
There are other less scientific methods of aromatherapy. I feel a story being pulled down from the attic. In being mamas we all draw from the memories of our childhoods and our own families of origin, and this story of yummy smells and aromatherapy has its origins in the hearth of my dear sister Pammy’s house. She married early, acquired three cats, and then had kids while I was still sowing my oats. Pammy decorated her house just like Mom had every holiday with wonderful crafts and sparkling messages of hope and celebration. But mostly what I remember were the smells of pumpkin pies and cinnamon rolls. These weren’t smells from her ovens – Pammy burned Yankee candles all year (www.yankeecandles.com) I would hurry in from trains and planes from the U.S. and abroad, and I would tease her about what an old “marm” she had become. But in my heart, I was so grateful that she had given me a place to call home till I made my own. Now that this old Bohemian gal has settled into being a mama of her own, I decorate my house each holiday and burn Yankee candles in-between my oils. In the air are the smells of a prayer of my own for my kids. That they will remember the smells of the heart, from Mama and Papa and maybe someday, each other. Thank you sis.
Love to you all,