Creative Years childcare center in Frederick asked me if I would teach their infant and toddler care givers massage techniques for the children in their classes. They are interested in learning methods that will help soothe and comfort, and I was glad to be asked and also happy to hear of their interest. This article is a very short version of the handout given to both the care givers and parents and will focus upon the main concern for infants and toddlers, digestion and one basic Shonishin technique.
Shonishin is the Japanese form of acupuncture for infants and children. Shonishin does not involve using acupuncture needles, but rather massage and acupressure type of techniques using the whole hand, fingertips, q-tips, and very soft toothbrushes. Infants and children usually respond quickly and more dramatically. These techniques can also be used with teenagers and adults. Adults usually require more time and persistence since these techniques are more gentle and adults usually have a longer history with the health concern.
Eating is one our first experiences, so I’ll begin here. In general, people digest food best by eating slowly, comfortably and happily. A stress free environment is important for proper digestion, and for developing a healthy relationship with food. Children also seem to do best with easily assimilated food offered at regular times throughout the day.
The most widely known technique for addressing digestive upset such as constipation, diarrhea, alternating constipation and diarrhea, intestinal spasms, cramping and bloating is abdominal massage: Begin in a clockwise direction making small circles around the umbilicus, gradually making wider circles until reaching the edges of the ribs and top of the hip and pubic bones. Abdominal massage is very calming and can be done when baby is feeling good too. Moving in a clockwise direction is important because at the outer circle we are following the ascending colon, which goes up the right side of the abdomen, then across the transverse colon at the top near the ribs, and down the left side over the descending colon. We are just helping the natural movement of the digestive system.
When people have consistent digestive upset I usually suggest doing a food allergy test through food elimination. When children are having difficulty with certain foods, darkness may appear under the eyes while the rest of the face is pale, and they may also appear dull and fatigued. It is very hard on their entire system to continually eat foods that produce inflammation and difficult digestion. Try eliminating one typical allergen producing food group at a time such as wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs or nuts. Eliminate the food from the diet for at least four weeks in order to get a real assessment since people with food sensitivities experience inflammation in the system which can sometimes take quite some time to work through. After the food is eliminated from the diet for about four weeks, reintroduce the food to find out if the same digestive upset occurs. Try another food group if necessary.
Digestive upset while nursing: Mother tries the elimination diet instead. In addition to the above mentioned food groups, also include acid forming foods such as citrus, coffee, chocolate, meat, tomatoes and tomato sauce, etc.
If certain foods are avoided during infancy and childhood, then as a child grows, they may grow out of these food sensitivities and they may be less likely to continue having digestive upset. Please feel free to call or write with any questions or concerns.