Children in the Community Acupuncture Clinic

A couple of weeks ago a young mom came for her appointment and sat down in
the recliner with her baby in her arms. I was simultaneously charmed
by the baby and flummoxed about what to do. I explained to my patient
(as her daughter gripped my pinkie and gazed at me with the wise
eyes) that this was complicated for me, as I very much want her to
have the treatment she needs but the space here needs to work for
everyone and if the baby cries, 7 other people are woken up. “She
was so, so good last time,” she assured me.

I gave her a treatment, using points only on the lower limbs because I didn’t want to risk any needles falling out and onto the baby. The baby
chirped a few times, sang out loud and joyful a few times, and after
about half an hour when she was working towards a possible crescendo,
I took the needles out and baby & mom headed off.

I was tense the whole time they were there, and I cannot remember another time I’ve felt that way at work. Each time the baby made a sound, I knew it meant that she wasn’t asleep. I don’t think there are good babies
or bad babies, but babies are babies and an awake baby will holla
when she wants to. This was the source of my tension.

Poke is an oasis of stillness within the treatment room, but it is very far from silent, what with buses going by and foot traffic on the sidewalk.
And people snore in here just as loudly or louder than a chirping
baby. But I’m never concerned about snoring turning into wailing.
Were my other patients also tensed and waiting for a potential
sobfest? Or was it just me in my own pocket of tension? Was someone
else, in fact, warmed and comforted by the small gurgles and giggles?

I was also glad the whole time that mom & baby were at Poke. The woman was getting effective treatment for excruciating pain. She’s one of
those folks for whom community acupuncture makes the difference
between hobbling and walking freely. I can’t refer her to any
private practitioner who might more easily accomadate the little one
because they all charge too damn much, and if I’m sounding pissed
about that today, it’s because this does frustrate me. A bare handful of needles drastically improved her quality of life for a few days, and a course of treatment could make a long-term difference for her.

I’m not some acupuncture hero. Any ‘punk could have done this. This is merely reflective of how radically useful acupuncture can be if
acupuncturists make it accessible.

I’ve been thinking long and hard about cultural attitudes in Canada about children in public spaces. I spent a few months in southern Spain in
winter-spring of 2006/7 and one of the loveliest aspects of my
experience there was young Blake affixed to my hip. Kids in Spain are
seen, heard, and included. They’re noticed, celebrated, engaged
with in restaurants, they’re playing with the dog under the table
in the bar, they’re out at shows. Moving to England in summer of
2007 was some rude culture shock for an array of reasons, the biggest
one being how
much less
interaction I got with children in Manchester. It can be tough for
parents with little ones to be out in public space, in England, and
in Canada. Kids emote out loud and that often discomfort and silent
disapproval, on buses and in cafes. This leads to isolation of kids
and moms, and in my opinion this is not only unfair and unhealthy but
also highly dangerous. Abuse requires isolation and denial in order
to exist and continue. This isn’t the only factor and of course
women and children suffer from violence in Spain and everywhere else.
But still, the question of children in community acupuncture clinics
has me thinking deeply about abuse culture this week. As a feminist I
am deeply invested in challenging and disrupting our
kid-unfriendly-culture. As someone invested in healthy communities of
course I want the communities I live and work in to include children.

I just feel deeply conflicted about how Poke fits into this. I am aware that children are fully capable of participating & thriving in quiet
environments – there are yoga classes for kids and the Vipassana
centre I go to offers childrens’ retreats which are well-attended.
These are kid-specific spaces, though. We’re still figuring out
what our Poke Policy on Kids is going to be. So far, we’ve decided
to ask people to find childcare when
they’ve got a Poke appointment
. This has
resulted in at least one badly-needed-but-cancelled appointment due
to lack of childcare, which will happen again, because even though
people who provide childcare are insultingly underpaid (misogynist,
anti-children culture strikes again!) it is still too expensive for a
lot of folks and this

Punks, parents: any thoughts? What kind of acupuncture space do you want for yourselves? Is stillness in the acupuncture room more important than fuller accessibility for families with small
How do you handle this in your clinics?

Lisa B.
Author: Lisa B.

Lisa prefers fireflies to fireworks, reverts to bluntness in stressful moments, would happily wear legwarmers year-round, and probably wants to be your friend.

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  1. do your best

    Sometimes there are no perfect solutions. I tend to approach the situation of babies, toddlers, and dogs in the treatment room on a case by case basis – gauging how full the room is, how tolerant the people are. I assume you have earplugs available as an option.

    In general though, I follow the maxim of trying to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number, and sometimes that might mean a noisy baby who might be disuptive for a room full of other patients precludes a mom from getting treated.  If someone is really in need of a treatment though, maybe there is always a way to treat them….e.g. in reception area? or with the understanding that it will be a shorter treatment? or in a separate room? (I have an interview closet with a table that I use once every several months or so.) 

    A month ago, a woman brought her 3 year old into the treatment room with her and he promptly fell asleep at her feet on the floor.

    Communichi Acupuncture Clinic, Seattle


  2. I’m pretty relaxed about the baby and kid thing.

    I think their presence adds a note of life and joy to the clinic. In my experience most moms with small babes bring them already fed, so the likelihood of them starting to cry is small. Usually other pts are charmed by them. Older kids – toddlers to 12 will either stay with their moms quiietly — some whispering a million questions – or in the reseption area where I have a good supply of children’s books. I’ve never had more then one kid at a time in the clinic, except for one mom who brings both her kids.Some moms bring their kids specifically to watch them being treated so they can see the process, know it’s harmless and helpful so they won’t be scared of it when they grow up. Gotta support that.

    Dogs are another issue. I have a dog who comes to work with me so if a pt brings their dog there’s a possibility of them gettimg rambunctious, and that gets on my nerves way more than kids. So I can treat them on a table in another room. Only one pt has ever brought her dog and that’s what we do.Pauline

  3. I treat a lot of moms and a

    I treat a lot of moms and a lot of kids these days.  I find that babies will usually fall asleep with their moms and all is well.  Many of the moms I treat will ask for the best time to come in with their babies & kids.  I always say naptime, if they can sleep outside of their own room/home.  Most moms will feed their babies and then they both drift off to sleep.  It is pretty divine.

    Honestly, I think all of the other patients cooing and asking baby questions are often more disruptive than the kids themselves. I used to get worried that the kids would cry or fuss, but once I let go of that worry I have only had sleepy quiet babes (save for the enormous farts they rip post treatments!). I really feel like when the room is relaxed, even if it isn’t silent, all is well.

     Plus, most moms are so thankful for even a 15 minute treatment that they are cool with leaving if the kiddos get too grumpy.


    Little Bird Community Acupuncture

    Washington, DC

  4. i wonder if it’s possible to

    i wonder if it’s possible to designate a morning or afternoon as a “bring your baby” treatment shift – that way people who are inclined to be less tolerant might book elsewhere and people who have babies they might want/need to bring with them feel more able to do so.  i suppose it would depend on a few factors if it were to work but it might be worth a trial week or two…