Osteopathy For Babies, Children & Pregnancy
Osteopaths trained in the treatment of infants and children will treat babies from new born onwards. Osteopathic treatment can be invaluable for treating a wide range of health conditions in babies. The gentler,techniques, commonly known as ‘cranial osteopathy’ are especially suitable for treating young children, including newborn infants.
Birth is a very physical and sometimes stressful process on a baby’s body. At birth, much of a baby’s skeleton is not yet bone but softer cartilage, especially the plate-like bones that form the skull. These ‘plates’ are quite soft and malleable, which enables them to withstand the forces of labour and allow the head to pass through the birth canal. However, this pliability may mean that they are susceptible to strain and ‘moulding’, which is often evident after birth in babies who have asymmetrical, flattened or pointed head shapes.
A degree of moulding is normal, and it usually resolves within the first few days after birth through the normal processes of adapting to breathing in air, crying, and sucking. In some cases the moulding can persist and may need attention. Left untreated, the bony plates might remain under strain. Overstrain of tissues and compression of joints in the head, neck and upper back may then occur, resulting in further imbalances in the rest of the body, and affecting body functions such as feeding, digestion and breathing.
Problems May Occur If There Has Been:
- A difficult presentation of the baby's head during birth
- A very rapid or prolonged labour
- A breech delivery
- A baby with a relatively large head compared to the mother's pelvis
- Assisted delivery with forceps or ventouse suction
- A twin or multiple pregnancy where the space for each baby may be compromised.
- Prolonged labour after the waters have broken
An osteopath will also examine and if necessary treat the ribcage, abdomen and pelvis to help digestive and breathing problems. Osteopathy may also help with some infantile conditions of the spine trunk and limbs, such as birth injuries to the shoulder, shaping problems of the feet and legs, and clicking hips.
Signs And Symptoms That May Indicate A Need For An Osteopathic Check Up Include:
- Irritability & difficulty settling
- Excessive crying
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Feeding difficulties such as problems with attachment and sucking
- Digestive issues – colic, excessive possiting, wind or reflux
- Obvious asymmetries in head shape, bruising or swelling over the scalp or face
- Recurrent infections such as sticky eye, 'snuffly' nose, coughing, wheezing or ear infections
- Asymmetry in movement – a preference to feed from one side, only turning the head one way
- Concerns about limb joint positions clicking or asymmetry.
The osteopath can help to assess whether these are normal within a young baby, whether osteopathic care would be appropriate or if other assistance or referral is required.
Assessment And Treatment
In assessing a baby the osteopath will take a comprehensive history of the pregnancy and birth, and will carry out routine general medical examinations as well as making a specific osteopathic assessment.
Osteopaths are trained to detect strain patterns throughout the whole the body including the spine and cranium. They use their highly developed sense of touch, known as palpation, to assess the subtle movements of the baby’s whole body framework including the head. The osteopath will use equally gentle hands-on techniques to release any restrictions and to help reinstate normal movement. The aim is to stimulate the baby’s own inherent healing mechanisms, by improving circulation and nerve function, aiding a return to a more balanced state. Treatment helps the baby to grow, develop and function in as balanced, healthy and unrestricted a manner as possible.
The earlier a problem is dealt with usually the quicker it is to respond and may also prevent further difficulties arising as the baby grows. Problems arising from birth may manifest again during growth spurts, or after illness or trauma, when dema nds on the body's tissues are greater. However, as treatment always works with the forces of growth and development, these times are windows of opportunity.
Some other conditions, which may respond well to osteopathic treatment alongside other treatment methods, include behavioural and developmental problems, ADHD, genetic/familial conditions such as Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism and recurring infections such as otitis media or chest infections, for example.
Cranial osteopathic treatment is gentle, safe and effective in the treatment of babies and children.
If you would like to find out if osteopathic care is suitable for your child please contact the Dr Samantha Matthews consulting from PSSM- Melbourne, 2 Holden St Fitzroy North.
Dr Samantha Matthews -
Samantha is a member of the Australian Osteopathic Association and registered with the Osteopath Registration Board.
As an osteopath, Samantha’s passion for health and wellbeing have led her to develop a strong focus on finding the cause not just getting rid of the pain. An interest in women’s health, pregnancy and children have allowed Samantha to develop her skills in these areas.