When Stephanie Bauer's 3-year-old daughter, Sage, resisted putting on her shoes and threw a temper tantrum, Bauer took out a bottle labeled "gentle baby" oil and let her smell it.
Within a couple of minutes, Sage had calmed down.
When Sage had a nagging cold, Bauer put a blend of eucalyptus and lavender oils into a vaporizer and let the steam waft through her daughter's bedroom. She slept soundly through the night, and the next morning, her cold symptoms had subsided.
Bauer, 29, has been experimenting with the therapeutic properties of essential oils since she was a teenager, and after becoming a mom, she was impressed with how quickly her child responded to their healing properties.
Bauer, a Petaluma resident, is teaching a one-day course Saturday focusing on aromatherapy, acupressure and massage for infants and children. The class is sponsored by the Petaluma Parks and Recreation Department.
By familiarizing parents with a few basic acupressure techniques, Bauer hopes to give them useful tools for treating common childhood ailments, such as colic, nagging coughs, sore throats, sleeping problems and teething.
Bauer, who is a licensed acupressure therapist, yoga instructor and emergency medical technician, will teach parents to apply pressure at certain points on the body for specific maladies.
Acupressure originated in Asia about 5,000 years ago, and works like acupuncture except no needles are used. Instead, practitioners use finger pressure, magnets or heat.
The acupressure technique for children is slightly different than for adults, Bauer said. With an adult, it's common to apply pressure deeper into the skin than for a child.
"Sometimes just by touching the skin you can feel the pulse come in. It can take one second to five minutes," Bauer said.
Acupressure points are about the size of a quarter and are located all over the body, she said, and for children, it can be most effective to apply pressure on the soles of the feet because it's a map for the entire body.
Participants in her workshops are encouraged to bring a doll or stuffed animal for practicing acupressure. It's permissible to bring an infant who's not crawling yet as long as they won't be disruptive to other students, Bauer said.
She's taught adults acupressure and aromatherapy techniques to help bolster their immune system and also has worked with people suffering from allergies, digestive problems and even cancer.
During her workshop, Bauer will give an overview of aromatherapy, talking about the healing properties of scents such as orange, lavender and eucalyptus. One blend she recommends is called "peace and calming" and combines oils of tangerine, orange, patchouli, ylang-ylang and blue tansy.
"I've seen it work and have had such great experience with my own child," she said.
Some Eastern health practitioners, including acupuncturists, use essential oils because they believe the oils have energetic properties. "It's like using herbs. They intensify what's going on," she said.
Bauer, who has diabetes, has found oils and applying pressure helpful in her own treatment. She's worked at a summer camp for diabetic teenagers to share some of the techniques she's found useful, and will return this summer.
"I notice they're resistant at first, but by the end of the week they see results and get relief and they're excited to take home what they've learned," she said.