Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Coconut Oil: Nature's Baby Magic.

Welcome to the April 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Kids and Personal Care
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared stories, tips, and struggles relating to their children's personal care choices.

The number of baby care products on the store shelves today amazes me. There are so many different brands, with so many different formulations and ingredients and promises made by savvy marketing teams. How is a mama supposed to know which is best for her little one?

I decided early on that I wanted to be able to eat whatever I was putting on my baby's skin without having to call Poison Control. Our skin is our largest organ, and that means that what we put on it gets absorbed and can enter our bloodstream. Organizations like the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics  and the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep are exposing research that shows the ingredients in many skincare products are dangerous with long-term use and are affecting our health in a myriad of detrimental ways. Little baby skin is even more sensitive than our own.

Enter using edible oils, namely coconut oil, to help keep baby's skin soft and nourished. I'd be hearing a lot about the healing benefits of coconut oil, and we use it all the time for cooking and eating.  Would the oil be good for baby, too?

Coconut Oil is chock full of A's: it is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antibacterial. It has antioxidants, lauric acid (same as in breastmilk!), capric acid and caprylic acid (medium-chain fatty acids that are used by the body for all sorts of good purposes). Research continues to confirm its benefits and it is useful in treating all sorts of ailments.

First, be sure to check in with your doctor about your child's condition. Also, if you're allergic to coconut, using coconut oil wouldn't be a good idea.

A Natural Massage Oil & Moisturizer

We first started using coconut oil when we ran out of gifted organic baby massage oil. It's been a wonderful oil to use on their skin and our nightly massage has been a fun time of bonding for all four of us. A little goes a long way, and it melts easily into your hands and into baby's skin. You can learn more about baby massage, including videos, at the Motherlove Herbal website.

Try rubbing a little warmed or softened coconut oil all over baby's body right after bath, followed by a gentle massage. As a bonus, it smells so good.

We've also used it for any patches of dry skin that show up. Right around Christmas, Ruthie developed a tiny little rash under her earlobe. It may have been due to the sugar in the holiday treats I indulged in, I'm not sure. I applied coconut oil morning and night, and it soon disappeared. It can be an effective treatment for psoriasis, eczema, and dermatitis. You can add a drop of lavender essential oil or even make your own coconut oil-based lotion using this recipe from a previous Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Treating Cradle Cap

Both my girls have had on-and-off experiences with cradle cap, and the coconut oil remedy works wonderfully. I rub a small amount of the oil into their scalp, and after a while, take a soft-bristled baby brush or a fine-toothed baby comb and, taking your time, gently work it through to slough off the dead skin. Gently wash baby's head with a mild wash like Dr. Bronner's to remove excess oil.

Treating Diaper Rash

Coconut oil contains caprylic acid, which has strong anti-fungal properties. You can apply coconut oil generously to a dry bum and let them go diaper-less, use a flushable insert, or a disposable for a few hours. I'm not sure if the oil is cloth diaper-friendly, and I'd rather be safe than sorry. So far, it has worked pretty well!

An Aid for Thrush & Candida

Coconut oil both internally and topically can help treat the yeast that causes both thrush and candida. A little oil dabbed inside the baby's mouth or a little on a spoon for them to lick off, as well as mom eating it and applying it to her nipples, can be very effective. However, using coconut oil isn't necessarily a cure for yeast overgrowth, but may help keep it at bay. Other treatments should be pursued with guidance from your medical provider.

Want to learn more?

For older children and adults, it can be used from everything from treating lice to weight loss and improving thyroid function

Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama's 80 Uses for Coconut Oil article.

Benefits of Coconut Oil from Sustainable Baby Steps

The Wonders of Coconut Oil at Simple Homemade

Other Sources

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Database - see how your products stack up.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon April 10 with all the carnival links.)
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  1. What a useful carnival -- love your post and I'm excited about all these other links, too!

  2. I *love* your rule that you have to be able to eat what goes on their bodies - that cuts out a lot of worry!! And I don't know why I haven't thought of coconut oil for cradle cap - I will try that!!

  3. Brilliant post! We also use coconut oil for most of our personal care needs that are skin based. We also give it to our pets. :)

  4. I love coconut oil and have always used it for things, but not body care. It just never crossed my mind until the past year or so. I have always been very mimimalistic with care products. I used Bronners and Jojoba oil for skin, dreads, everything. I have been planning on making a switch to coconut oil as soon as I use the last of my jojoba oil (can't stand to waste it). You gals have convinced me!

    Great post.

  5. Awesome, another coconut oil fan! I had no idea it could be used for yeast — I'll have to keep that in mind next time I get an (ugh) infection. I definitely have loved it for cradle cap and hair moisturizing.

    1. Lauren - Definitely try it for the yeast! I had a yeast problem right after the girls were born and the oil cleared it right up! I applied it to my nipples and ate a few spoonfuls a day.

  6. Just ordered some refined oil (hubby can't do coconut) and if you sign up now with Vitacost you get $10 coupon! We only had to pay for shipping!

  7. We also love coconut oil! It's uses are endless, it seems! I'm glad to have learned it's good for thrush (which thankfully I haven't had yet!) and cradle cap! I will have to use some today to clear up the last bits of cradle cap on my bebe's head :-)

  8. I hadn't thought of that - we may try some coconut oil on our remaining eczema spots (and chapped lips)

  9. Loving all this information and helpful resources! Thank you so much!
    I'm a mama aswell, live in Portland, nice to meet you! Your heading is adorable and so are your twins! Wow I cant believe it! I would love to hear all about your story if you come to our Portland Bloggers Meet this Saturday! I hope you can make it! Its supposed to be a lot of fun!


    1. Hi Olga! So good to "meet" you, too! I will be there this Saturday and I can't wait to finally meet everyone! See you there :)

  10. I was *just* asking on my FB page about how people treated cradle cap on their babies. I am a little nervous about coconut oil on my son because I had made a wipe solution with water, baby soap (that doesn't bother him), coconut oil, and lavender. It broke him out. I suspect the lavender was to blame, but what if it was the coconut?

    And so do you use coconut oil in place of soap? Or you do the massage and call it clean from there and then just bathe with water? I'm fascinated and think I need to reduce our soap usage even MORE than I already do!

    1. Hm, it might have been the lavender, but I would definitely try a little patch of skin with just the coconut oil to make sure he isn't sensitive. I would also see what kind of coconut oil you have - ideally, you'd have organic virgin oil. Some refined oils use chemicals to draw out the oil. Even still, some people are sensitive to coconut.

      I haven't used it as soap, but I decided that I like to gently wash the oil out of their hair because it gets pretty greasy and their heads seemed to be a bit clammy. I just get a warm washcloth and gently rub their heads, and that seems to do the trick. I have heard of oil-cleansing, but I don't know much about it!

      Good luck! :)

  11. I also meant to say...

    HO-LEE COW, those babies are ADORABLE!

    1. he he, thank you! I think they're pretty dang cute myself!

  12. I think this is your first carnival - so glad you joined in! This is an awesome post :) We love coconut oil around here and I feel like I'm always learning of new things to use it for! Glad to know that you get a good deal on Vitacost ... I hadn't even thought to order it there!

    1. Hey Gretchen! It's my second - I did homemade lotion back in December and then promptly missed every deadline after ;) I learned about it from your blog and it's been so much fun! Definitely check out Vitacost. I haven't found a better price anywhere else.

  13. Wow! So much great information and links. :) Thanks!

  14. Wow. Great ideas and info. I recently bought some coconut oil and other than rubbing it into dry skin, I didn't really know what I could use it for. Thanks for the ideas!

  15. I'm also a great fan of coconut oil. It is so easy to apply and absorbs well leaving skin smooth and supple without feeling greasy. It does not bother clothe nappies either (though I always soak them for at least half a day before washing). I had no idea of its many other uses though that you've described - what a diverse oil!

    1. Thanks, Ursula, I'm so glad to know you haven't had a problem w/the cloth diapers!

  16. Joel developed eczema for the first time in 5yrs a few weeks ago (he is SO like his big brother). Creams were stinging him so I decided to try coconut oil...it cleared up in just a couple days!

  17. usha chethanSeptember 11, 2012

    an excellent post about our kalpavruksha "coconut" oil.......will always be greatful to you for your great work....its awesome!

  18. excellent post, thank you.
    i live in dubai and coconut oil is a well known wonder used by all asians for their hair and skin. i use it to cure my baby's scalp and it is fantastic.
    and you're right, it smells so yummy :-)

    regards from sunny dubai

  19. very informative, thank you. just as an fyi - I learned this a few weeks ago myself - flour works wonders on diaper rash too. she ahad a rash that we couldn't manage to control for more than a week and it was very painful for her. first I browned the flour. I apply a bit of olive oil on my daughter's diaper area first, then put the flour and voila. rash is gone in a day.

  20. Good article. However, the research cited at the start is more like an op-ed piece; I was hoping for a link to peer-reviewed, scientific research. The problem with quickly judging "chemicals" (a misnomer in the "natural" and "organic" commercial markets - by chem 101 definition, water is a chemical) is that this type of criticism usually has no scientific backing. Sure, you can absorb certain compounds through your skin; you also breath carcinogenic vehicle exhaust every time you are on or near a public roadway with even moderate traffic and literally risk genesis of carcinoma every time you are exposed to direct sunlight. The question is whether or not what you think you are absorbing has any consequence inside whatever vessels or tissues that it may or may not perfuse. Is there a cell surface receptor for that compound in the body? Probably not; does it break down into a free-radical forming compound? There is literally no way to know without extensive scientific research. Perhaps the best thing to say is "I don't know what it does, therefore I stay away from it."

  21. These tend to run bigger than others so if you're not ready to move up to the next size they help. I've had a few leakage issues though but that wouldn't deter me from giving this five stars. They move well too, when they get wet they don't become overly bulky.
    honest company

  22. OMG I just combed a METRIC TON of cradle cap out of my twinnies hair using this coconut oil method. It was one of those weird experiences that's one part satisfying and one part revolting. I love coconut oil and I can't wait to hopefully see their cleared up little scalps tomorrow! We use it for any skin irritation, diaper rash, sun burn, razor burn, etc.

  23. OMG I just combed a METRIC TON of cradle cap out of my twinnies hair using this coconut oil method. It was one of those weird experiences that's one part satisfying and one part revolting. I love coconut oil and I can't wait to hopefully see their cleared up little scalps tomorrow! We use it for any skin irritation, diaper rash, sun burn, razor burn, etc.

  24. Be careful using coconut oil on hair! I feel sooo bad. I used organic evco on my 20 mo. old's hair and it left it a thinned, frayed, broken mess. I had no idea this was possible, but apparently a lot of people experience this. Coconut oil is a protein and can dry and break hair. I did find articles and blogs supporting this evidence and my hair dresser was aware of it as well. The only answer it to cut the cracking, splitting hair before it splits all the way up. I never knew evco could do this. I always read about all the wonderful benefits. However, after this happened, upon extra research I found the articles and blogs to support the dsmaging affects of too much protein in the hair. I feel just awful. I thought I was doing something good for her. Her hair had just started getting some length and thickness to it, now it's so thin and damaged and likely needs a major cut to fix the damage. I know it will grow back, but it still breaks my heart that I did this to her. :( Even her dad noticed it and he doesn't notice the little things, so this was a big deal


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