When is osteopathy for babies a good idea?
Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
If your baby often cries with discomfort and
wakes up many times at
night, a pediatric osteopath may help. But what good is osteopathy for
it improve sleep? What's a consult like? Is it safe? Our guest expert D.O.
Carole Chevalier answers all our questions.
Many parents with excessively crying babies have been SO relieved after
just one cranial massage.
Since birth, they have had a healthy child but
one who never seems to be content. Crying, screaming, seemingly in
pain, never finding a
truly comfortable position, ...
Let's find out what can cause this and how to relieve.
What is osteopathy for babies like?
Cranial osteopathy is a set of utterly gentle and painless
techniques to release existing tensions in the skull, spine and pelvis.
At birth, the bones of the skull are not welded together yet, allowing a
certain degree of malleability. This actually facilitates birth.
But sometimes (often?) it’s not all that smooth …
… delivery is too long (> 12h), too fast (<2h), baby gets stuck
because the cord is wrapped around the neck ...
When that happens, the bones of the skull can become overlapped in some
places. This creates discomfort for your baby, a feeling that is
like wearing a hat that’s extremely tight.
The role of the osteopath is to relieve these tensions by applying
gentle pressure. This pressure is done so subtly and softly that there
is no painful sensation at all, far from it.
The most typical issues this leads to are:
- asymmetries in the infant skull (plagiocephaly)
- asymmetries in other parts of the body (curvature of the spine,
- digestive disorders (reflux, colic, constipation ...)
- sleep disorders
- screaming and excessive crying
- ear nose throat (ENT) dysfunction (tear duct obstruction, nasal
congestion, snoring ...).
Which issues typically cause sleeping problems?
The compression – since birth – of the skull or pelvis can make baby
nervous and irritable in the weeks on months to come. These are
She will constantly try to find a comfortable position, one in which
she feels less pain. This can be trying to stretch back into a « banana
» position, always turning her head to the same side, throw her head
back or lean her head against the bars of the crib.
She will have difficulty falling asleep and will often wake up crying
after regular short stretches.
What is a typical consult like?
In a pediatric osteopathy consultation, the osteopath will first ask
you about the progress of pregnancy, childbirth, medical history and
behavioral habits of your child.
Then he or she will conduct a thorough palpatory examination of the
entire body. He/she will then gently release the tensions of the skull,
pelvis, spine, and digestive system.
More often than not, babies fall asleep during treatment, that’s how
soft and relaxing it all is. At the end of the session, many of them usually
feel very relaxed but tired.
A session typically lasts about 45 minutes, and a maximum of 2 to 3 sessions
are needed to relieve the tensions caused at birth.
When is osteopathy for babies not a good idea ?
First and foremost, only consult a specialized (pediatric) and certified osteopath. Unless you're 100% certain of your therapist's reliability and experience, don't go.
The used techniques are always gentle and harmless.
There is only one
rare contra-indication, namely craniosynostosis. This is a genetic
leading to an early closure of skull sutures. No well-trained osteopath
would treat a baby with craniosynostosis but of course you need to be
aware of this as a parent.
Also, for comfort it’s best to postpone a session of osteopathy
when your little one is ill with a fever, ear infection, a cold, … After
vaccination, it will be better to wait at least 48 hours before seeing
Is it safe?
It is, but only when done well by a certified and well-trained
Only osteopaths who completed an official certification training are
allowed to practice and to use the title of D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic
Medicine). In many countries this training is very close to or parallel
to that of their M.D. colleagues.
Unfortunately though, there are insufficiently trained persons who
claim to be D.O. …
Therefore, always consult your country’s osteopathy
professional association – you’ll find that easily online.
Remember too that not all osteopaths are trained to practice
pediatrics. So don’t hesitate to ask when you call to make an
appointment. It’s important to make sure you see someone who is trained
and specialized in babies and children.