Cranial Osteopathy For Babies
When I was a student of osteopathy the treatment of babies seemed both terrifying and mysterious to me. Terrifying because I would have to handle a tiny baby, and mysterious because I could not really see that my tutors were ‘doing’ much during the treatment yet still they got good results.
Once out of college I was soon confronted with baby patients and decided to intern at a midwife practise to learn more. This was a valuable experience that led to many years of collaboration with the midwives. Treating expectant mothers and infants has since been a passion. I wish all parents would get their babies checked and treated by an osteopath within the first few months after birth.
It is not always easy to know as a layperson when seeing an osteopath is needed. There are some signs and symptoms listed below that you can look out for. Also bear in mind that very fast or prolonged births, use of forceps or vacuum extraction, caesarean birth and premature births all warrant a visit to the osteopath, since they can have a strong impact on the immature skeleton of a baby.
DOES MY BABY NEED TO GET TREATED?
Even though most babies benefit from a check-up and tune-up at the osteopath, here is a list of symptoms and behaviours that respond well to cranial treatment:
• Side preference when turning the head (Torticollis), especially as this can lead to: (see next point)
• Flat-head syndromes (Plagiocephaly)
• Discomfort during bowel movements
• Feeding/latching problems
• Blocked tear ducts
• Consistently crossed eyes
Also be aware of unusual behaviour. Babies do cry and sometimes for apparently no reason, but on the whole they should be pretty content.
• They should be comfortable to sleep in most positions: side, back and front.
• They should be able to relax while they are being fed
• They should not move and grunt the whole time they are sleeping
• They should not display excessive physical tension
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
In order to be able to squeeze their big heads out of their mums the bones of a baby’s head have not fused yet.
Some babies’ heads look very deformed at birth. The head needs to be able to adapt to the birth canal. Soon after birth the shape should return to normal.
At birth, many of the bones of the skull are still in several pieces. They are joined together by soft cartilage that can easily deform. Many important nerves run out of the skull into the neck via these cartilage. If they are twisted or distorted the nerves can become irritated and so does your baby. Symptoms as the ones listed above can develop.
HOW OSTEOPATHY CAN HELP
An osteopath will assess the condition of the base of the skull and the neck as well as the rest of the spine and pelvis to see if there are any strains that are causing your baby discomfort.
Another aspect of the treatment is educating parents on how to do certain things and what to avoid to feel more confident when taking care of their babies.
For the most part parents, especially first-time parents, worry too much and of course their anxiety and stress can have an affect on the babies’ behaviour. In fact, I have often seen that young babies are more relaxed with their dads.
The mums will complain and fear the time their husbands are not home. In these cases, it is obvious that the mother’s stress is translated onto the baby. So, it is best to relax and just do your best.
A NOTE ABOUT SCOLIOSIS
If cranial asymmetries are left untreated in babies there is a higher chance of your child developing scoliosis later.
If you have scoliosis you are more likely to get back pain later in life as the musculature is developed unevenly.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME FOR TREATMENT?
A check-up in the first month is valuable as the problems that may have resulted from birth can be assessed. I will also give parents advice on how to hold, carry and put their babies to bed to minimize the chance of physical issues.
If your baby is already experiencing the kinds of problems we discussed above then bring them in any time.
WHAT TO BRING TO AN APPOINTMENT
Milk, pacifiers and toys may be required in order to keep our little patient happy and entertained. Some babies have bad memories of vaccinations and be reluctant to be treated when they first come in, so distractions are valuable.
Dress your baby in clothes that are easily removed and bring a cloth for spit-up and your nappy chance bag.
Since part of the assessment is a detailed case history the baby needs to be accompanied by ideally mum or dad (at least for the first appointment) so I can get an account of the pregnancy, birth, and daily routine.
I hope this could answer some of your questions about cranial osteopathy for babies. If you want to ask me about a specific issue then don’t hesitate to contact the clinic.
For queries and appointments please contact:
+852 2530 3315
About the osteopath:
Julia Santos graduated from the British School of Osteopathy in 2009.
Her post-graduate studies in naturopathy and osteopathy in the cranial field as well as her work in multidisciplinary practices and midwife clinics in Germany and Hong Kong have bestowed on her a profound knowledge in natural health and infant care.
Julia is currently expecting her second child herself.