Home' Nova National : January 2009 Contents A GreatStart
© NOVA JANUARY 2010
It feels a bit weird to be writing an
article about children's health when
I'm not yet a parent...but I did share
a house with my best friend and his two
young children for several years. I see many
children of all ages in my private practice
and I would certainly like to be a parent
some day soon. When I do, I imagine what
I'll want, more than anything, is for my
kids to be healthy and happy; for them
to go through life as smoothly as possible
and to grow with courage and confidence
to their full potential. In my experience,
this is what all parents essentially want.
Yet, this of course, does not always
happen-- life inevitably has its difficulties.
Every parent at some stage faces
unexpected challenges with their children,
whether it is health concerns like asthma,
eczema, allergies or food intolerances;
behavioural or learning issues such as
ADHD or hyperactivity; or even a simple
cold, fever or bout of gastro. It is inevitable.
So, how do we, as parents, give our children
the best chance to prevent, deal with or
overcome these challenges?
Ayur veda has a great focus on children
a nd offers a beautifully simple, yet
profound approach to giving our kids the
best head start possible. One of its eight
branches is known as Kaumara bhritya
and deals expressly with paediatric health
and childhood development. It teaches
that in order to provide our children with
a good foundation for a healthy body and
mind, we should begin right from the
early stages of life.
According to Ayur veda, the laying of
this foundation actually begins before we
are even conceived. It is understood that
whatever strengths and weaknesses we
possess, mental as well as physical, have the
potential to be passed on to our children.
Making sure we are as healthy as possible
before conception is therefore incredibly
important. Once in place, this foundation
not only holds a child in good stead as
they grow and develop, but establishes
the ground for their mental and physical
health a s adults.
Kester Marshall, a naturopath with a particular interest in Ayurveda, shows how this
ancient 'science of life' can help our children thrive from birth.
During the early years of life, the mind,
body, tissues and immune system are still
very sensitive and fragile and are therefore
highly susceptible to change or trauma
of any sort. How well they are nurtured
and allowed to develop to maturity will
determine to a large extent how well a
child is able to f lourish and withstand
adversity throughout life.
With this in mind, pregnancy and
the 40 day period after childbirth are
considered especially valuable times.
During pregnancy a child eats, hears and
feels everything that their mother does,
so all food and impressions should be as
loving and nourishing as possible. Warm
milk, ghee, whole grains and sweet fruit
juices between meals are recommended,
as is plenty of rest and not working or
stressing too much.
Traditionally, the 40 days after birth
(the Sutika period) is like a retreat and
is dedicated to rest, recovery, and the
bonding of mother and child. Both
mother and baby receive daily massage
with medicated oils and, again, should rest
and not ta x themselves in any way.
Breastfeeding, if possible, is highly
recommended. During this time, the
mother's health continues to be of great
importance as any physiological imbalance
she suffers from (even indigestion)
will be passed on to the child through
her milk. Ayur veda also has specific
recommendations for weaning infants
in order to optimise digestion, immune
function a nd overall health.
In traditional cultures, the
responsibilities of parenting were shared
a lot more and family support was there
in abundance, so to us the above may
sound a little idyllic! In our culture, we
tend to juggle work and parental
responsibilities and race here and there
to after school activities so that life can
get incredibly busy and over whelming.
This racing around is, in and of itself, far
more detrimental than we might think.
Especially when children are young, it
can result in feelings of insecurity, anger
or resentment and over-stimulation of
their delicate minds and nervous systems.
According to Ayurveda, this is a direct
cause of many of the behavioural problems
that children develop.
In our busy Western society, it has
become the norm to resort to time saving
measures like processed or formula food,
breakfast cereals and take away meals. It
seems we have become so busy that we
have forgotten what our children actually
need... and what do they need? Our time!
Time to prepare good food, time for
love and attention, time for play, time
for listening, time for family, home and
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