I was very fortunate today in my Masters at RMIT to learn the in depth wisdom of health for babies and children by the renowned Peter Gigante, who has been helping sick kids with TCM for over 20 years.
I find this topic personally fascinating, why do some children get more sick than others? Why do some always get ear infections? Or tummy ache or cough? Is it just constitutional or is it the diet, lifestyle, emotional and environmental surroundings?
Some fantastic points Peter brought to the the table were
- New ways of parenting aren’t always more successful. E.g. in Australia, you often see children dressed in a t-shirt and shorts in the middle or winter. My old nonna is always telling me to rug up my baby and keep her warm.
- Prevention is more important the treatment. Nurse your child as best you can, i.e. trying your best to breastfeed, have a healthy and well pregnancy, eat nourishing foods, get enough warmth, sunlight, play, cuddles etc. Allowing your child to rest and recuperate when they are ill.
- Relate to nature. Where possible, get outside and try safe natural treatment and methods. Organic and free range foods, filtered water, fresh air inside the house. Natural methods are preferred and are beneficial, they tend to do less harm.
- Preconception care & beyond. Ideally the parents are first at their optimal health, then especially the mother once conception occurs, as the wellbeing of the child is drawn from the mother. Post-partum is a special time to nourish both baby and mother, to ensure a great start to life for baby.
- Massage. The Chinese have been doing Tui Na massage on babies and children for millennia. Peter shared an interesting case study of a 5 year-old girl with encopresis. She had this for 2 and a half years and had been to many paediatricians along with much psychological and occupational therapy. With three treatments of massage and herbs, along with massage at home, her mother was able to manage this girl’s extreme case of involuntary defaecation. Massage is amazing for babies and children; it aids strong development and recuperation during illness, they respond exceptionally well.
- Emotional harmony. The child should be protected from extreme emotions such as anger and shock. Keeping them loved and protected, as I am always learning, they are only children and sometimes we expect too much of them!
- Digestion. This is a big one for children and us! As children have weak digestion, we give them easy to digest food to support and strengthen digestion to transform and transport food well. Children with weak digestion are more prone to phlegm (can be seen as mucus in stools, very dribbly when not teething, chronic snotty nose, skin problems, diarrhoea, asthma).
- Foods. Give them more bland and slightly sweet foods such as rice with a bit of chicken and vegetables or porridge with a little cooked fruit and cream/yoghurt. Rich foods with lots of salt, sugar, oil such as chocolate, juice, salty chips are very difficult to digest. Rye sourdough bread is always a good one, keep the food stodgy such as potatoes, rice, pasta or oats as the main substance.
- Snacking. We are constantly offering food all day long to children. It is best to keep it to regular mealtimes with three meals, morning tea and afternoon tea. Sometimes they will be hungrier during growth spurts which is fine. A famous proverb in China says, “If you want a healthy child, let the child experience a little hunger and know a little cold”.
- Diet. The rationale for children’s meals follows: predominately grain, associated by meats, enriched by vegetables and assisted by fruits.
- Cold & raw food. Cold drinks and raw foods should be minimal in a child’s diet. We would never give a baby cold milk! Excess cold causes phlegm and slows digestion. You can give your child small amounts of raw food, ideally seasonal. It’s winter now so pears, apples and carrots are ideal. Tropical fruits such as watermelon and cantaloupe are too cooling.
- Sunlight. Chen Wen Zhong of 1252CE observed and expressed, “Things that grow in the shade do not grow strongly”. Considering we have a Vitamin D deficiency epidemic in Australia, very much so in Melbourne, this rings true. We all need some sun and so do our kids.
- Treatment. If you have a child who is unwell and you would like an experienced Chinese Medicine practitioner who treats children successfully, I highly recommend Kathryn Taylor in the Blue Mountains, NSW or Peter Gigante in South Melbourne and Macedon Ranges, Victoria. They are both excellent and experienced practitioners.
xx Ilana Sowter Acupuncture Melbourne, @Ivanhoe