Osteopathic care of babies
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, so make sure you contact your local clinic before making an appointment or you can find an advanced paediatric osteopath at www.findanosteo.com.
How osteopaths work with babies
Your 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 and promoting body symmetry for balanced growth and timely physical milestones.
Paediatric osteopaths are trained in assessing and diagnosing development and work with you as well as GPs and other health professionals to develop a plan of action. This may include osteo treatment, referral to the GP or other health professional, referral for ultrasound or x-rays, prescribing exercises or general nutritional advice.
Initial consultation and assessment
Birth is a significant event for a baby as well as the mother. Through pregnancy and any form of delivery, babies will go through different forces and stressors. Although their 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 very young children are limited in their communication, 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.
Your osteopath will physically assess your baby similar to your GP or maternal health nurse, paying 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. For example, some babies have a strong 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.
Osteopaths often recommend developmentally appropriate manual therapy treatments for a baby who is found to have musculoskeletal strain or imbalance. Osteopathic treatment for babies often only requires a very light touch, and no more pressure than dressing or holding your baby. Your osteopath will explain the details of the recommended treatment to you.
Further clinical care
If further clinical care is needed, your osteopath will take the time to explain these to you and the reasons around this. 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.