Ayurveda, the science of life, is both systematized knowledge and practical wisdom. An art of healthy living that encompasses all phases of life, body, mind, and spirit. It is an old body of knowledge and understanding incorporating a sophisticated system of medicine as well as guidelines for a healthy way of living. The Kaumarbhritya is the discipline of Ayurveda that specializes in pediatrics and binds Ayurveda and kids.
Like all sciences, it includes both a practical and a theoretical aspect. Ayurveda funds its medical beliefs on the premise that there are three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha, and that disease originate from an imbalance in the three energies.
A Word of Caution
Ayurvedic remedies can also cause side effects. If you notice any adverse reaction, don’t wait but immediately consult your physician. I also recommend a consultation with a licensed Ayurveda expert about more severe conditions. As for conventional western drugs, safety precautions are important in treatments with the Ayurvedic medicines. Always inform your child’s primary healthcare provider before you plan to undertake any Ayurvedic treatment, especially for serious conditions. Be aware that certain medications can adversely react with herbs leading to medical complications.
There are many ways for administering herbs to children to affect them beneficially. As long as they interact with the body chemistry in one way or another, they will exert their influence. The most obvious way is introducing the herbs in child’s daily diet. Many of the Ayurvedic herbs recommended in this article are in traditional blends, and most of them are available from specialist herbal suppliers.
Ayurvedic Care Of The Newborn
Daily massage with the right oils improves the complexion and promotes growth and strength. In babies with Vata, Pitta and Kapha single constitutions, sesame oil, coconut oil and mustard oil are used respectively.
When the baby starts to crawl, its back and legs are massaged twice daily. Massage at night will relieve exhaustion and help the baby to sleep soundly. A drop or two of sesame oil dropped into the ears, and the mastoid region daily keeps the area free of irritation and infection
According to the Ayurvedic tradition, the babies must have regular baths with lukewarm water medicated with decoctions of herbs such as pippali, and udumbara (Ficus racemosa) and aromatic herbs such as sandalwood.
Tie dried in bunches and suspended them from beams or door frames in the room. Use herbs that normally have antimicrobial properties such as mustard, kushta (Saussurea lappa), and asafoetida (Ferula asafoetida). Turmeric is an effective insect repellent. Hang it to dispel mosquitoes and other disease-carrying organisms.
The health of the baby relies heavily on the mother, so it is vital that she looks after her health first. Indulge yourself with an oil massage immediately after delivery. Drinking a decoction of Vata balancing herbs like Dashmula together with Pippali, Citrak (Plumbago zeylanica) and Ginger for the first 3–5 days helps to purify the blood.
It is also important for the mother to have a healthy digestion. If her digestive fire is too high, she needs to have plenty of nourishing and cooling foods. If her digestive power is weak, she needs to take ghee with medicines that stimulate secretion of digestive enzymes.
For a healthy digestion avoid:
- Drinking too much cold water which lowers agni.
- Overeating and eating between meals (this confuses digestive fire).
- Eating when stressed, angry or too late at night.
- Suppression of natural urges, for example, not eating when hungry, are seen to damage digestive power.
- Incorrect sleep pattern such as sleeping in the day, not sleeping well at night, working at night can all affect digestion.
Factors that influence breast milk
Diet, nutrition, the level of activity, climate, psychological and environmental factors, and any ill health, both during pregnancy and after, can affect the quality of the mother’s breast milk and thus the health and well-being of her baby. More specifically these include:
- Too hot, too cold, too little, too much food
- Stale, fermented, heavy, unbalanced, incompatible, overcooked foods
- Foods that do not suit the mother’s constitution
- Salty, sour and pungent food
- Over or under-activity, tiredness
- Sorrow, anger, anxiety, worry and other psychological disturbances
- Obesity, underweight
- Ill health and disease, fever
- Exertion, working in hot sun, warm weather, insufficient or excessive sleep, sleep in the afternoon
- Suppression of natural urges, e.g. micturition, defecation, sneezing
- Trauma to the breast, breast abscess, infection of the breast
Some babies tend to dribble a lot when teething; others develop rashes on the face, become irritable, clingy and restless, go off their food or have trouble sleeping, others tend to put anything they can in their mouths to bite on.
- Ghee medicated with Vacha, Musta (Cyperus rotundus) and sweet-tasting herbs such as Bala, licorice, and Shatavari promote easy eruption of teeth.
- Massage the gums with powder of Amalaki or Pippali with honey.
- For fevers associated with teething a decoction of Kiratatikta (Swertia chiretta), Guduchi, sandalwood (Santalum album), ginger, Amalaki, and Musta is traditionally used.
A Crying Baby
All babies cry; it is their only way to express their needs, but some babies cry more than others. A breastfed baby may cry more than a bottle-fed baby. This is because breast milk tends to pass through the stomach more quickly, meaning the baby is hungry frequently through the day and night.
It is easier for parents to comfort a crying baby if they know what the trouble is, but what is hardest for most parents is when the baby cries and nothing seem to make a jot of difference. Some babies respond better to noise and fast motion as in a car or pram, rather than quiet and gentle rocking in a cot. Many babies stop crying if they are given attention, and this may work better than repeated efforts to relax them into sleep. The anxiety and tension of parents frazzled by hours of walking a baby up and down to lull them to a quiet sleep may have contradictory results once it is picked up by the baby.
Try calming your infant with a warm herbal bath containing infusions of relaxing herbs such as chamomile, catnip (Nepeta cataria), cowslip (Primula Vera), hops (Humulus Lupulus), lavender, lemon balm and lime flowers (Tilia Europaea) added to bath water.
A sesame oil body massage before a bath can be very beneficial. Massage of the head, feet or abdomen, can be deeply relaxing and reassuring.
Bed wetting that occurs in a child older than 4 or 5 years who has already developed bladder control is frequently related to stress. It could be jealousy of a new baby, anxiety about moving house, changing school, trouble with schoolwork, teachers, peers, upset over family discord or anything else that causes stress, over-excitement, insecurity or unhappiness.
A child who wets the bed will need plenty of reassurance from parents rather than a reprimand for something they cannot help and probably find humiliating. Fear of others outside the family being aware of the problem and the social isolation this could mean a stress in itself, which can exacerbate the problem.
Once a child is over four years and still wetting the bed regularly there may be underlying causes that require addressing. These include structural abnormality, diabetes, chronic urinary infection, dietary deficiency (particularly of calcium and magnesium), overuse of refined foods and sugar, over-sensitivity to food additives or chemicals in drinking water or food allergy.
Some children tend to wet the bed more if they get cold, so parents need to ensure they are well covered at night in bed and put extra night clothes on them if they habitually kick off the bedcovers in their sleep.
Use herbs to balance Vata, to strengthen the nervous system and the urinary tract.
- Shilajit is a traditional remedy. For children younger than five years, a quarter of a gram is given twice daily, mixed with milk on an empty stomach. For children up to age 15, half a gram is given twice daily. A much-used Ayurvedic formula containing shilajit is Chandraprabha. Children of about five years are given half a tablet in the morning and another half in the evening on an empty stomach with half a cup of milk. Children over ten years of age can take one full tablet, twice daily with milk.
- Sesame seeds (1tsp) are given to children to chew at night. It’s for their calcium content but also because sesame is a first remedy used to balance Vata.
- A warm sesame oil massage at night followed by a warm bath can be effective in promoting healthy sleep