Osteopathic Care for Babies & Children
An osteopathic evaluation and gentle treatment in the first week of life is a wonderful way to proactively care for children. Many of the common issues in newborns are structural in nature.
Babies are designed for safe passage through the birth canal. Birth is a dance between the mother and baby as the head molds for a safe passage. Mothers benefit from osteopathic care prior to conception and during pregnancy. A freely moving pelvis can aid the baby’s journey. Natural childbirth aids the healthy development of baby’s immune system, as well as prepares the rib cage and chest to breathe and clear out fluid as the baby passes through the birthcanal.
Ideally, with the first breath and the establishment of respiratory breathing and nursing at the breast, the head reassembles into a symmetrical shape. Sometimes however, it can be a difficult event for mother and baby. This is why we suggest newborns and mothers have osteopathic care shortly after birth. At times for the safety of the baby or mother, a C-section is required. The effect on the baby varies depending on whether the C-section was planned or follows a long labor. Whatever the means of birth, positioning in the womb, especially in the case of a large baby or multiple babies, an exceptionally long or precipitous labor, or an extended time stuck in the birth canal can affect the relationship of the many bones in the head, the position of the ears, eyes, and neck and spine can affect delicate nerve structures.
Babies ideally should be able to establish effective breastfeeding in the first 24 hours of life. However, if the hypoglossal nerve (the 12th cranial nerve) is compressed, the baby may not be able to nurse efficiently. A traumatic birth can result in colic, excessive spitting up, reflux or a crooked head or neck (torticollis). Babies will often show their discomfort by irritability, being difficult to calm, poor sleep, excessive spitting up, or difficulty feeding. All of these issues can have their cause in structural disturbances. Early treatment to free up these areas of restriction can prevent more serious issues later in life and makes for happier babies and parents. Toddlers and older children will often request a treatment when they feel discomfort, intuitively knowing that osteopathic treatment can help.
The brain does a tremendous amount of growth in the first two years of life. The skull provides the housing for the brain and developing nervous system. Mild distortions in the structure of the skull can affect a developing child’s nervous system.
Older children with learning or behavior difficulties often have a history of birth trauma or significant head injuries. They may not have completed the early developmental steps of belly crawling, crawling on hands and knees, etc. that aid in the integration of the two sides of the brain. These children also benefit from osteopathic manipulative treatment.
Osteopathic treatment cannot alter an underlying genetic condition such as Down Syndrome or a birth injury resulting in a cerebral palsy, but can improve the child’s ability to achieve their optimal potential.
Cranial osteopathy is a safe, gentle form of manipulative treatment for infants and children. Many babies visibly relax during treatment, others fuss or squirm which can help release restricted areas, then take a long nap later. Depending on the birth experience, some babies need a single treatment with close follow-up as they grow and develop. Other infants benefit from weekly treatments for four to eight weeks. For more complicated issues, more frequent treatment is needed.