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Osteopathy for Children

It is a common belief that babies and children should have no structural stresses or strains in their bodies, because they are 'so young'. The reality is very different. Birth is one of the most stressful events of our lives. The baby is subjected to enormous forces, as the uterus pushes to expel the baby against the natural resistance of the birth canal. The baby has to turn and twist as it squeezes through the bony pelvis, on its short but highly stimulating and potentially stressful journey.

The baby's head has the remarkable ability to absorb these stresses in a normal delivery. In order to reduce the size of the head, the soft bones overlap, bend and warp as the baby descends. The baby's chin is normally well tucked down towards its chest to reduce the presenting diameter of the head.

Many babies are born with odd shaped heads as a result. In the first few days, the head can usually be seen to gradually lose the extreme moulded shape, as the baby suckles, cries and yawns. However, this un-moulding process is often incomplete, especially if the birth has been difficult, assisted or premature. As a result, the baby may have to live with some very uncomfortable stresses within its head and body.

Conversely, babies born by caesarian section are often already in a compromised health state and do not undergo the stimulation of a normal birth and so may also suffer physical strains.

What problems can cranial osteopathy help with in babies?

Some babies cope extremely well with even quite severe retained moulding and compression, and are contented and happy. For others it is a different story, and they can display a variety of problems. Cranial osteopathy may help with:

Crying, screaming, irritability

The baby sleeps for only short periods, and may sleep little in the day (or night!). They wake to the slightest noise- "jumpy".

The baby takes a long time to feed and one feed merges into the next. They may be a 'windy' feeder.

The diaphragm between the chest and the abdomen may be stressed or distorted, which further compromises both digestion and the ability of the stomach to retain its contents. Stress from a difficult or fast birth can leave the system in tension.

Osteopathic treatment using the cranial approach is gentle, safe and effective for babies and children. Very specific, skilled, light pressure is applied where necessary to assist the natural ability of the body to release stresses and tensions.

Could there be any adverse reactions?

Reactions to treatment are variable, often the baby or child is very relaxed afterwards and sleeps well. Others have a burst of energy after treatment, usually followed by a good nights sleep.

Occasionally children are unsettled after treatment. This is a temporary situation, and usually clears within 24-48 hours.

How many treatments will be needed?

On average , 2 to 6 treatments are sufficient.  This varies according to the severity of the problem and the age of the child.

When to treat?

The younger the better, it is never too early to treat.  For best results, treatment should be before the age of 5 years.  After this, the stresses and asymmetries cannot always be completely eliminated, but it is still possible to achieve beneficial release of stresses throughout life.

Sometimes it may be beneficial to use other naturopathic modalities including dietary adjustments and exercises to aid the child in attaining his optimum health.


Original text by Elizabeth Hayden D.O. and Clive Hayden D.O.


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