Osteopaths work with babies to help release physical tension, address movement concerns, promote body symmetry and encourage optimal physical function in newborns.
Not all osteopaths treat babies and infants, so make sure you contact your local clinic before making an appointment or you can find an advanced paediatric osteopath here.
How osteopaths work with babies and infants
Your advanced paediatric osteopath will assess your baby’s development and aim to facilitate healthy function in all areas of newly born and growing bodies by freeing up muscles and joints. This careful assessment promotes body symmetry for balanced growth and achieving physical milestones.
Paediatric osteopaths are trained in assessing and diagnosing development, working alongside GPs and other health professionals to develop a plan of action. The plan may include osteo treatment, referrals to GPs or other health professional, referral for ultrasound or x-rays, prescribing exercises or general nutritional advice.
Initial consultation and assessment
Pregnancy, birthing and delivery can be stressful on babies. Although infant bodies are soft and adaptable, it may make them vulnerable to mechanical strains of birth. Your osteopath will ask lots of questions about your pregnancy, labour, and delivery to help diagnose musculoskeletal strain and form a treatment plan.
As babies and infants are limited in their communication skills, your osteopath may also you questions about your baby’s general health and daily routine, movement preferences, as well as developmental screening to review progress in meeting gross motor, fine motor, social plus other developmental milestones expected by a particular age or stage.
An osteopath will require all minors to be accompanied by a parent or guardian during consultation and appointment.
Like your GP or maternal health nurse, an osteopath will pay particular attention to postural preferences, spontaneous movements, muscle tone, hip stability, and neck mobility and sucking mechanics.
Osteopaths are trained to pick up areas of musculoskeletal strain through a detailed assessment of these areas.
Your osteopath can gain much information by observing your baby during feeding, floor time and being held in your arms.
Helping babies learn and move
At birth, a baby does not have voluntary control over its body. A baby will display a range of spontaneous movements and reflexes that are a sign of a healthy functioning nervous system.
Musculoskeletal strain can make it difficult for a baby to fully explore its environment.
A good example of this is a preference to look to one side. This means the baby becomes more aware of its hand on that side and may prefer to feed on one breast. It can make tummy time and other play-based activities difficult and uncomfortable, and may predispose them to head shape changes, such as a ‘flat spot’ (plagiocephaly).
Other difficulties can arise when a baby is unable to move its neck, jaw, or tongue well to feed efficiently.
Exercises at home and play-based activities form an important part of helping your baby move and learn. Your osteopath will make sure any suggested activities are achievable and comfortable for you and your baby.
Osteopathic treatment for babies and infants often only requires a very light touch, and no more pressure than dressing or holding your child.
Further clinical care
If clinical care is needed, your osteopath will take the time to explain these to you and the reasons. Osteopaths commonly work with maternal and child health nurses, GPs, paediatricians, lactation consultants, midwives, dentists, sleep consultants and other health professionals to achieve the best outcomes for you and your baby.