Why might babies and children need osteopathy?
Paediatric and cranial osteopathy is a gentle way to help babies and children who my suffer strain patterns from their time in the womb, during delivery or in their initial years. Even babies who experienced an uncomplicated delivery may have strains. To make the delivery process possible, the baby's head is designed to adapt (mould) with overlapping of the soft bones of the skull, which is why many babies are born with oddly shaped heads.
The head shape will start to change as your baby breathes with its lungs, suckles and cries. But if the baby retains strains, this may lead to discomfort and stress. Excessive crying, difficulties feeding, vomiting, difficulties winding, constipation, asymmetrical head or body movements or signs of distress may be signs of discomfort and digestive tract problems. It may indicate compression of areas of the head where the nerves which supply these areas exit.
What will happen to your baby / child?
After I have asked you questions about your pregnancy and the baby's delivery, I'll observe your baby before gently holding them.
I will then check baby's general health and development to ensure they are growing and developing nicely. This will include checking their hips, muscle tone, reactions, head and neck movements and natural reflexes.
I will hold your baby's head gently in order to identify and release strains and tension, particularly in the base of the skull where the 10th and 12th cranial nerves exit – they supply the tongue and digestive tract and may be responsible for difficulties suckling, nausea, vomiting and distress.
How might cranial osteopathy help?
By assessing the physical state of infants and children, an osteopath can determine if there are physical reasons for any delay in reaching a developmental milestone. For example, stiffness in the spine and pelvis or hypermobility (lax ligaments) can make it difficult for a baby to learn to crawl and tongue or respiratory (breathing) problems can make it hard for a baby to feed effectively and comfortable.
If there is any remaining moulding of the head, your baby may end up sleeping and feeding on one side and this asymmetry can get worse as the baby grows, until 'flat head syndrome' or 'plagiocephaly' results. Osteopaths are able to assess the whole body, and to advise on causes and management of plagiocephaly. The earlier this is begun, the less likelihood there is of the head distortion becoming severe.
There are various structural strains and problems that cause a baby to be uncomfortable and will cause them to show signs of this such as:
Being unhappy or irritable
Having difficulty falling and staying asleep
Inability to wind, regular vomiting and other signs of digestive discomfort
Difficulty latching or sucking or preferring to feed on one side
It is possible that some of these symptoms may be due to discomfort in the head, spine or pelvis and can be helped by osteopathy.
Osteopathy cannot cure infections, which are caused by bacteria. However, if your baby or child is regularly suffering ear infections or blockages, we may be able to help establish issues which are leading to repeated infections. The Eustachian tubes and hearing apparatus may be compressed if there is pressure around the temporal bone, especially following a forceps delivery.
Hopefully you will not notice any severe difficulties in your baby's breathing. However the difficulties some babies have in feeding can be linked to mouth-breathing. This makes it hard for them to breathe and suckle at the same time. If you notice your baby is gulping for air or having difficulty winding, it may be that bubbles of air are becoming trapped in their digestive tract which is causing abdominal discomfort. Osteopathy may help to release blockages which may be preventing your baby from breathing freely through their nose.
Is it safe?
The osteopathic examination and treatment of infants are performed very gently, and under skilled hands is very safe. Parents often report that their baby seems more relaxed or sleepy following a treatment. Occasionally they may be more restless or unsettled afterwards.
As with osteopathy for adults, paediatric osteopathy combines holistic healthcare (looking at the body as a whole unit including nutrition and emotional wellbeing as well as physical health) with a knowledge of orthodox medicine. This means osteopaths work safely, using our understanding of anatomy and physiology to make safe, informed decisions and offer you the best advice. This includes referral to a medical practitioner if we feel you need to see a GP or specialist.
For children, the benefits of Osteopathy are much more profound as they are still developing physically, mentally and emotionally.
Osteopathy is a whole system of healthcare; addressing mechanics, nutrition, lifestyle and health beliefs early in life.
Correcting any strains early in life can change your childs'progression.
If you have any concerns, why not book a check-up? I will gladly answer your questions, help your baby back to comfort and offer you peace of mind.
For more information about how cranial osteopathy can help adults see: