The Real Truth About Acupuncture for Babies and Children Under Age 7
It's not surprising to me that there are some misconceptions about pediatric acupuncture floating around. Some of the common ones are that pediatric acupuncture is hard and kids don't like it, but the most damaging misconception is that it's unsafe! Some acupuncturists even believe that if you needle babies or kids under age 7 you might permanently damage their acupuncture meridians.
I'm so glad that this misconception has been brought to light because it is without a doubt 100% false!
Seriously, the idea that you would hurt babies and children with acupuncture was shocking to me (and all the babies I've treated - witness super happy baby getting acupuncture)! Interestingly, I traced it back to social media but beyond that I couldn't find the real source.
You see, that belief was never a part of my TCM education.
My first pediatric professor, Lucy Hu, L.Ac., MD, was a pediatrician in China. She fearlessly needles babies and children of all ages because she knows that acupuncture can help when Western medicine isn't enough. She's has a 30 year history of successfully treating babies and children that doctors had given up on. Here's a picture of me and Lucy:
Hmmmm… Where did this idea that you can't needle babies and young children come from?
I own just about every pediatric text available so I did some research looking for such a reference and I couldn't find one anywhere (but if you know which ancient text this comes from please let me know - I'd love to see it)!
The idea of forbidden needling for babies likely originated thousands of years ago.
Let's take a moment to travel back in time to 100 AD when the Nei Jing (Inner Classics) was written. Let's imagine what acupuncture was like back then...
- Would the needles have been sterile? Heck no!
- Would they have been rather large and painful? You bet!
- Would you want to use that type of needle on the delicate skin of a baby or child? No way!
Thousands of years ago acupuncture would have been unsafe and painful to the delicate skin and immature immune systems of babies and young children.
Now, let's fast forward to the 21st century...
Modern acupuncture is safe and effective. We now have 46 gauge dark blue Seirin needles that are so fine they're about the size of a strand of hair! Today's pediatric needles are sterile, disposable and virtually painless! It's a totally different story today.
Here's the truth (and a little history) of pediatric acupuncture
While pediatric tuina was mentioned in the Nei Jing in 100 AD, it wasn't until 1031 AD that the first pediatric textbook was written which outlined a different pathophysiology for children compared to adults. It really wasn't until the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century that special herbal formulas and acupuncture protocols were introduced for children. Two texts outlined pediatric acupuncture protocols, A Collection of Pediatric Cases (You Ke Lei Cui) and Essentials for the Care & Protection of Infants (Bao Ying Cuo Yao) written in 1534 and 1556 respectively. In the 20th century there was a veritable explosion of pediatric acupuncture texts published and pediatric departments established in hospitals all over China. In 1934, pediatrics was officially recognized as a TCM specialty. Modern Chinese hospitals blend both Eastern and Western medicine and it's a common practice to treat a child with IV antibiotics as well as acupuncture and herbs. I can also tell you from my 10 years experience working with kids that acupuncture won't hurt a baby or child or damage their meridians in any way. But don't take my word for it.
Here's what modern pediatric acupuncturist masters have to say on the topic:
And here's what the babies and kids I've treated have to say about it:
That fact of the matter is acupuncture is just one of MANY modalities we can use today to treat kids, and we shouldn't let misconceptions stop us from using it on children. Children enjoy the same self-healing benefits as adults and they also experience relaxation and a sense of well-being after treatment. I know I don't have to convince you that pediatric acupuncture is safe and effective, but if you see someone who's clearly misinformed about modern pediatric acupuncture feel free to point them to this blog article. Warmly, Robin