Soon after Arthur was born last year, I heard a few mums talking about seeing a cranial osteopath. It’s a popular alternative therapy for newborns, particularly those who’ve had a traumatic birth, are unsettled, or have trouble sleeping.
It claims to heal, relax and promote sleep, digestion and body alignment through gentle head and body manipulation. While there’s a lack of scientific evidence, after hearing positive things about it (and out of intrigue more than anything else), I took Arthur when he was seven months old. I was fascinated to see how calming it was for him, but also how valuable the feedback was.
The osteopath noticed one side of his neck was tighter than the other, which explained why he favoured one side sleeping. She also saw that his arms were stronger than his legs, so she gave me an exercise to help him. This would eventually help with the process of shuffling his arms and legs along and then on to crawling.
She then reminded me that it’s not only babies who need attention – it’s easy for mums to forget about their bodies too. It is an expense, but we also go through significant body changes in pregnancy and birth and putting some investment into the physical health of mother and baby, particularly in the first year, its well worth it.
I spoke to cranial osteopath Kam Panesar from London Osteopathic Care to find out more.
How does cranial osteopathy work on babies?
It uses gentle, non-invasive techniques to gently manipulate the head and spine, which in turn affects the whole body. It’s a gentle, soothing technique and great for helping babies relax.
Why would you take your baby to a cranial osteopath?
It could be something as simple as wanting a post-birth check, or a way of soothing a baby who always wants to be held. Other reasons include difficulty breastfeeding, which involves assessing possible reason, such as a tight jaw or neck; torticollis (neck tightness on one side and difficulty turning the head on one side); tongue tie; reflux; colic; sinusitis and conjunctivitis; glue ear and ear infections, which may be associated with the mechanics of the cranium and the use of a dummy beyond six months.
What happens during treatment?
Treatment is gentle and at times it may appear that the osteopath is simply holding your baby. However, cranial osteopathy is a specialist technique which takes years of practice. Your baby should stay pretty relaxed throughout.
At what age can you treat a baby and how often do you recommend it?
The earlier you treat the baby, the quicker the treatment and relief. I’ve seen babies at five days old. The number of treatments depends on the reason the baby is seeing the osteopath. It could take one, two or three sessions, but it’s always a case of the sooner the better.
What are the benefits for your baby?
At a time when you’re unable to use medication and orthodox methods, cranial osteopathy can help. When a child is born they can often experience trauma where the cranial bones tend to fold on top of each other to pass through the birth canal. The unfolding of these bones typically occurs naturally over the next 24 hours. However, sometimes this process does not happen, leaving the baby sensitive, stressed and in tension. My job is to help speed up the process of unfolding the bones, while allowing the baby to feel calm, relaxed and more settled.
Do babies enjoy it?
Yes! They will often giggle, smile and then fall asleep.
Does it encourage better movement, such as crawling and walking?
Absolutely. I had a baby brought to me at 14 months, who would only crawl and was showing not interest in walking. This affected his overall happiness because he found it difficult playing with other children. One of the reasons was that he couldn’t extend his spine to reach for objects. Cranial osteopathy helped put this toddler in the best position to encourage proper developmental processing of the body. After three sessions he was holding onto objects and walking beside them. It was a magical moment for him and his parents.
Are there any side effects?
It can go either way. Mostly the baby will become sleepy – even if they become irritable during treatment, by the end they are usually sleepy and relaxed.
Can mums enjoy a session too?
It is just as important for the mother as it is for baby to have an osteopathic session. During pregnancy you’ll find that your body weight shifts to the front, while your diaphragm and bladder suffer. Cranial osteopathy helps harmonise the body structure and function in a soothing, non-invasive way. Cranial osteopathy is also ideal after birth and will help the body recover balance and harmony. This will give the mother the strength and confidence she needs and will help her to feel restored, rested, light and mobile.
Written by Pippa Middleton, Waitrose Newsletter October 2019
Images courtesy of pixabay.com