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Lavender Oil, Revisited

Lavender Oil, Revisited

By Amalah


I am 29 weeks pregnant with my first child (a boy) and have recently started reading your advice columns. As I am now staying at home in preparation for the birth of our son and I have been (over) analyzing every product that we will be using on our little boy. I plan to cloth diaper (plan to use the BumGenius Elemental all in ones) and have currently picked the Earth Mama Angel Baby Bottom Balm for diaper cream. However, after seeing your posts on lavender oil and its effect on baby boys, I am now completely freaked out and don’t know what diaper cream to use. Do you have any suggestions for diaper creams for cloth diapers? I didn’t see anything in your product recommendations, but I apologize if I missed it. Thank you in advance for your help – your columns have been a calming lifesaver for a stressed out pregnant lady 🙂

So once I put the finishing touches on this post, I’m going to add it as an addendum to the earlier one you mention. Which was written not long after the alarm bells were first raised about whether or not lavender oil’s estrogen-mimicking properties could have an effect on boys. Namely, whether it could lead to breast development in adolescence. At the time, we (okay, ME) were all still pretty rattled by the whole BPA/endochrine-disrupter scare — something I’d initially pooh-poohed as weird paranoid hippie crap, only to have science finally admit that uh…yeah. Probably wanna get BPA out of bottles. And cups. And toys. And cans and jars and ALL OF THINGS YOU’VE BEEN USING ALL THIS TIME.

So when the lavender oil articles picked up media steam, I was very quick to go NOPE NOPE NOPE and toss a couple bottles of baby shampoo in the trash. Because why risk it? Look how long it took for anyone to finally admit the truth about BPA and phytates and parabens, let alone to start removing them from products!

But in this case, further science and study have NOT backed up the earlier alarms, which were based only based on three case studies. Like, literally three kids. And the details on those cases are pretty sparse, as far as I’ve been able to assess. No specific product was named (are we talking pure essential lavender oil or a diluted commercial product?), no other links (like diet, underlying disorders, genetics, etc.) seem to have been considered or investigated or ruled definitively out. If anything, it seems lavender oil was just kind of a guess, and the case studies recommend further study.

In the years since, the science simply hasn’t supported that hypothesis. Every site that mentions any sort of warning is still only linking to or referring to that initial “study,” which just frankly, isn’t enough evidence at all. Now I’m DEFINITELY not the sort who sees the words “organic” or “natural” and immediately thinks “healthy” and “safe.” Quite the opposite, in fact, since those words get slapped on all sorts of snake oil garbage that can be quite dangerous to babies. But in this particular case, I’m pretty comfortable with dismissing the fears that a couple drops of lavender oil properly diluted in a diaper rash cream (or shampoo or body lotion or soap) will cause breast growth later on. The clinical evidence just isn’t there, while anecdotally, literally millions of boys and men have grown up just fine after their parents used this ancient and incredibly common oil for skin care, sleep soothing, calming during a cold or illness, etc.

For a common-sense guide to essential oils and babies (including which ones can cause skin irritations and why/how to dilute) see here.  But rest assured your diaper cream choice is a safe one.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Livia

    January 18, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    I highly highly recommend coconut oil for diaper cream. We cloth diapered our daughter and switched to disposables at about 18 months and it’s been great with both. It’s convenient too, unlike some other oils, because it’s a solid at room temp. I fill a small mason jar every couple of months and keep it on the change table. I use Heartland Gold expeller pressed coconut oil and it’s been great. Cheaper than actual diaper cream too 🙂 

  • Marguerite

    January 18, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    We have loved LOVED the Grovia Magic Stick on our sometimes cloth diapered babies! No diaper rashes to speak of, no effect on the diapers’ absorbency, no need to stick your fingers in a tub of greasy cream. Love!

  • Autumn

    January 18, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Adding another shout out to the Grovia Magic stick!  Smells great, works like a glue stick (we call it butt stick in these parts), and handles 98% of rashes/irritations which come our way.  We needed the big guns when we had antibiotic related rashes

    Here’s to a happy baby with a rash free behind!

  • Traci

    January 19, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Sadly, coconut oil didn’t work well for us. We use Burt’s bees which has the highest amount of the most effective ingredient-zinc oxide. I know everyone says stay away from that with cloth diapers but I had no problem with using it with my cotton prefolds. It doesn’t transfer much to the prefolds and what did washed out just fine. For the record, we do a cold rinse with vinegar and then hot wash with Charlie’s soap. Not sure if that makes a difference. I’ve heard others had no problem with Burt’s and cloth too.

  • Traci

    January 19, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Meant to say, I’ve heard nothing but praise for the grovia stick, but I worry about cross-contamination. Having worked in childcare and taken classes with public health nurses, I just couldn’t bring myself to use the stick, although the ease of use was very tempting!

    • Holly

      January 19, 2016 at 12:05 pm

      One stick per butt! They even have a “Name” spot on the tube. I’ve used the same GroVia stick for almost 3 years off and on, on my youngest’s butt. Never a re-infection issue, or cross-contamination issue. And I’m a scientist 🙂 That stick is AMAZING.

    • Eva

      January 22, 2016 at 12:07 am

      We also call it butt stick. And there’s a butt stick song during changes. Also we love it. We did our youngest’s stick up with fancy tape on the stick and cap to keep them separate. 

  • Traci

    January 19, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Holly, that’s great to hear! I was thinking of re-infection when I said cross-contamination. I really hope no one would use one stick on multiple bums 🙂 I do think if your child gets a yeast infection or has a stomach bug/diarrhea or something like that you would need to buy a new stick. I honestly haven’t heard of anyone having problems with the grovia stick, but, personally, I just couldn’t get over the same surface touching the bum over and over again. We all have our own levels of comfort and that just goes past mine.

  • Emily

    January 19, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    We love Grandma El’s but have had good success with GroVia Magic Stick too.

  • Bethany

    January 20, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Our pediatrician says air is one of the best treatments for diaper rash. Whatever cream or stick you use, it’ll work better if you let baby’s bum dry off for a bit.

    Also, for diarrhea-related diaper rash, our pediatrician suggested dabbing it with Mylanta, since it’s basically an acid burn. It worked great for my then-seven-month-old and the two weeks of diarrhea from the netherworld.