Some of the benefits of coconut oil for babies include remedy against baby acne, reducing cradle cap, relief from diaper rash, helps in healing wounds faster, relief from sunburn, treating ringworm, good for baby massage and curing ear infections.
Coconut is one of the versatile fruits used in numerous ways. In fact, coconut is reported of 1000 ways in which it is useful. The whole tree itself is useful in one way or the other. In India, the coconut tree is regarded as a ‘Kalpa Vriksha’ meaning a tree which provides all the necessities for sustaining life. In Pacific Islands, it is known as the ‘tree of life’.
Coconut palm is believed to have originated in the Indo-Malay region and it is very popular in many South East Asian countries, Pacific Asian islands, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Africa and it reached the Americas finally during the Spanish conquest. In the US, coconut can be seen in parts of Florida and in the gulf of Mexico, one can find numerous coconut trees and in Hawaii islands. Generally, coconut tree can be widely seen in tropical and sub-tropical places with above average temperatures.
The name coconut comes from Portuguese and Spanish ‘coco’ which means head or skull. The typical markings on the coconut could have been behind the name, as the markings appear like that of a monkey’s face. Coconut tree belongs to the palm family and it is a palm fruit. Like most other palm trees, coconut tree grows vertically and spreads its palms. Under the base of the palms, coconut fruits grow and mature. A fully grown coconut can range between 20-30 cm in length and it resembles a rugby ball. There are layers of fiber that protect the coconut shell, which is the real fruit. It is shaped spherically and has a hard shell. Inside this shell is the white coconut flesh and coconut water.
Typically, young coconuts are green in color resembling a rugby ball. Cutting it open, reveals the sweet water and jelly like coconut meat. As the fruit matures and becomes yellow or brown in color, the amount of water decreases and while the jelly like meat thickens and forms solid white meat. This white meat is used for making coconut oil.
The white meat is either sun-dried or dehydrated further to make copra which is used in making coconut oil. On other hand, the fresh meat of coconut is used for producing extra virgin coconut oil and coconut milk.
Health benefits of coconut oil for babies
Here are some of the health benefits of coconut oil for babies. Coconut oil is highly beneficial for infants and toddlers in various ways. These include
Baby acne: Baby acne can be reduced considerably by applying coconut oil topically on the baby’s skin twice a day. One of the reasons for acne development is bacterial infections. The reason why applying coconut oil works is perhaps because of the presence of lauric acid in coconut oil. Lauric acid is known to have anti-microbial properties.
Cradle cap: Cradle cap is a skin rash that usually develops in 3-4 months of babies. It is comparable to dandruff in older children and adults. Though, it does not bother the baby, it can look clumsy. This can be easily removed by applying coconut oil on the baby’s scalp. After applying the oil, wait for 15-20 minutes for the flakes to soften up. You can easily remove those flakes. But, one thing that should be kept in mind is that coconut oil is very greasy and hence, you need to be careful oil about the oil stains on clothes.
Diaper Rash: Diaper rash is another usual problem that most mothers are concerned about their babies. Diaper rashes usually develops because of prolonged exposure to wetness from urine and feces. As a result even bacterial infections can also spread. This can be reduced significantly with the application of coconut oil on the rash.
Healing wounds: Coconut oil can be applied topically for healing wounds. This property has been put to use in numerous traditional medicines throughout the east for many hundreds of years. And one study has corroborated to this traditional medicinal property of coconut oil. It was found that applying coconut oil on wounds helped in healing the wounds faster.
Relieves sunburn: Due to its wound healing properties, coconut oil can be applied on sunburn areas. Liberal application of coconut oil reduced sunburn helps in reducing it significantly.
Treats Ringworm: Another traditional use of coconut oil is its treatment in ringworm. Ringworm is usually caused by fungal infection. As mentioned earlier, coconut oil is an effective anti0-microbial and this includes even fungal infections. By applying coconut oil in ringworm, it can be treated in matter of days.
Treating itchiness in chickenpox: Chickenpox is a viral infection that generally lasts for a week or 10 ten days. During this time, there are blisters that form on the skin. These blisters become irritable and itchy. Applying coconut oil on these blisters greatly reduces the itchiness and soothes the patient. This is especially true in case of infants and toddlers. Use of a combination of coconut oil along with a tablespoon of chamomile ointment and a pinch of cayenne pepper is recommended.
Baby Massage: Massage is an integral part of any baby’s healthy development of bones and muscles. It is also good because it strengthens the bond between the parent and the baby. Instead of using petroleum based oils for massage, you can actually use something that is produced naturally and coconut oil is perhaps one such oil. If you’re concerned about impurities in the oil entering through the baby’s skin, use extra virgin coconut oil. Unlike regular coconut oil which is produced from copra or dried coconut flesh, extra virgin coconut oil is made from fresh coconut flesh.
Hardens baby’s soft spot: A baby’s soft spot is also called the fontanelle. This region is called so because it is literally very soft in babies. In fact, when compared with adults, the soft spot has more number of bones which fuse together to become one bone. The whole process usually takes about 19 months. Applying coconut oil helps in strengthening these bones.
Cure for ear infections: Ear infections are very much common in infants. These infections are mainly caused by bacteria and fungi. One of the reasons for ear infections to occur is due to the baby’s lying down position and the proximity of milk dripping from the baby’s mouth and sliding into the ear. To avoid this, one needs to let the baby have a belch (burp) after feeding. If you find that your baby has ear infections, just put one drop of warm coconut oil at 98°F or 37°C in the ear. This reduces infections and also clears all the wax by dissolving it.
Can cure pneumonia: According to one study, children aged between 3 months to 5 years, suffering from community acquired pneumonia, were given coconut oil. The children recovered much faster than those who were not given coconut oil.
Coconut oil for pregnant women and lactating mothers: Pregnant women and lactating mothers are advised by coconut oil proponents to consume coconut oil because of its richness in lauric acid and capric acid. A diet rich in coconut oil is helpful in increasing the levels of lauric acid and capric acid in breast milk and also for a healthy womb environment.
The fat found in coconut oil is medium chain fatty acids, which are quite different from animal fats which are mainly long chain fatty acids. Long chain fatty acids take lot of time to be converted into energy and hence are stored in fat cells as fat. But, medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil are known to be the best kind of fatty acids, since they can be converted into energy very easily. In lactating mothers, there is a need for fats in their diets because the fats have to be delivered to the baby. Thus, including coconut oil in the diet is better for those mothers who don’t want to put in those extra pounds after delivery.
Can help in reducing stretch marks: Regularly massaging with coconut oil can help in reducing stretch marks and can also reduce the itchiness during pregnancy as well.
Coconut and its medicinal applications
For thousands of years, coconut has not only been a source of food, but it has been used for its medicinal properties as well. From the islands of the Pacific, Philippines and in India, coconut had a significant role in traditional medicines.
Coconut oil and misconceptions
From the 1950s, through 1960s, 70s, 80s and even in 90s to a great extent, the notion of saturated fats behind the cause of coronary heart disease has been very much prevalent. This notion, in turn, affected coconut oil. Coconut oil is high in saturated fats. Thus, coconut oil had come under huge firing from medical science for being high in saturated fats which can increase coronary heart disease.
But the truth is quite different. Not all saturated fats are bad for the heart. In fact, coconut oil, though it has a high amount of saturated fats, yet these fats do not cause coronary heart disease but are healthy. The saturated fats in coconut oil actually reduce bad cholesterol and increase the levels of good cholesterol in the body. In the 90s, research from various studies on Asian islanders whose diet included fats from coconut oil had the least risk of coronary heart disease, mortality or morbidity and lower levels of bad cholesterol. Apart from this, studies have also shown that Pacific islanders who migrated to countries such as Australia and New Zealand and changed their traditional diet patterns to western diet patterns which include changing from coconut oil to other types of fats were noted to have increased their overall cholesterol levels, particularly the bad cholesterol. (Mary G . Enig, 1996).
Coconut oil varieties
Coconut oil mainly comes in 5 types. These include pure coconut oil, refined coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, organic coconut oil and organic virgin coconut oil.
Pure Coconut Oil: Pure coconut oil is prepared from dried coconut meat also known as copra. The flesh is crushed and milled to obtain the oil. This coconut oil does not contain any additives and hence, it is considered pure coconut oil.
Refined Coconut Oil: This variety of coconut oil is refined, bleached and deodorized by mechanical and chemical processes to make it colorless and odorless.
Virgin Coconut Oil: Virgin coconut oil is obtained from coconut milk rather than dried coconut flesh or copra. The oil extracted in this way is not heated at all and it tastes and smells very good. As it is not heated, the antioxidants are preserved as well.
Organic Coconut Oil: Organic coconut oil is obtained from coconut palms that are raised using natural manures and no chemical fertilizers. Apart from this, no chemicals are used in the process of oil extraction as well.
Organic Virgin Coconut Oil: Organic virgin coconut oil is also produced from organically grown coconuts. And also no chemicals are used in processing it.
Risks associated with coconut oil
The risk of allergy associated with coconut is very rare. There are just a few cases of coconut related allergy. Nevertheless, the symptoms of coconut allergy include coughing, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, etc.
In case of severe coconut allergy, the symptoms can include inability to breathe, swelling of the face, hives, rapid increase in heart beat and lightheadedness. These symptoms can be dangerous and sometimes can be fatal, hence immediate medical attention is required.