Is this approach safe?
Osteopathy examines and treats infants in a very gentle manner, and under skilled hands is very safe. The experience and training of the osteopathic manual practitioner are paramount, and determine the age range and the types of presentations that may be addressed. Under skilled hands, all ages may be seen, including the very premature, newborn, and infants. Paediatric osteopathy can be a speciality in its own right, and osteopathic manual practioner working in this field have relevant post-graduate qualifications and skills.
What are the effects of birth that are of relevance to an osteopath?
Research on over a thousand infants by Dr Viola Frymann of the Osteopathic Centre for Children in San Diego, California, has shown that approximately 10% of newborns show significant distortions in the shape and mobility of the structures in the head, 80% show moderate strains after birth, and just 10% have no significant structural problems.
Problems are more likely following an induced, prolonged or even a fast labours. Presentation births such as a back to back, face presentation, and interventions such as suction/vacuum or forceps delivery. All these can lead to squashing of the head (moulding), shoulder and hip girdles and spine as these areas of the body are squeezed from side to side and from top to bottom during the birth process. There may be swelling or misshapen head after the birth, clicking joints or a restriction in movement. Torticollis or an uneven or side bent (banana shape) looking baby is trauma and can be corrected.
Emergency caesarians can present with some of the problems above too.
Elective caesarians may result in shocking the infant that was not prepared for the sudden change in environment. Parents often observe that the infant’s breathing following a caesarian delivery is shallow or rapid, and nasal or mucous in quality. This is because the lungs are wetter preceding a caesarian section. The clearance of the fluid from the lungs that was present all through foetal life is slower following a C-section. This is due to a lack of catecholamine (a stress hormone that facilitates fluid clearance from the lungs after birth) that is released during normal birth. The fluid from the lungs is also physically squeezed out from compression of the rib cage during a normal birth. Restoring normal breathing is helpful in these babies.
There is also research showing that SIDS babies may have their diaphragm, and thoracic breathing reversed as the nervous system is so new. Treating the lungs and diaphragm could help prevent this from occurring. (West, 2003) breathing physiology.
How can osteopathy and cranial sacral therapy (CST) help?
The structural problems that result from a difficult birth often present in infants as irritability, excessive crying, feeding difficulties such as difficulty latching or sucking, inability to wind, sluggish bowel motion, poor sleep, irregular or shallow breathing and frequent spitting up/vomiting. It is possible that some of these symptoms may be due to discomfort in the head, spine or pelvis. The spine may appear to be visibly curved to one side. The practioner assesses all the areas of the body thoroughly and to relieve any tensions or restrictions that may be present. A baby’s skeleton has 300 parts (mostly cartilage) compared to 206 in adults. This fact illustrates the increased possibility for strains in the infant.
Tongue ties releases?
Treatment before or after tongue tie release is always beneficial to release jaw tension and relieve painful, cracked, bleeding breasts for mothers. Clinically it also helps the milk drive of the mother.
Clive Hayden and Brenda Mullinger (2006) have published a study showing that osteopathic treatment in infancy is beneficial. The parents in the study reported reduced colicky crying, longer sleep duration leading to more settled and quiet periods in the day.
An increasingly abundant presentation nowadays is head asymmetry or distortion which may be noticed at birth or in the weeks or months following birth. The cause of this may be moulding during the pregnancy, positioning in infancy or a head tilt. Advice is to treat as soon as possible.
Regular osteopathy checks during infancy is helpful as problems may arise post-birth. Jasmine usually suggested every 3 months till the child is a year then after 1 year preceding 15 to 19 months, or after vaccinations if you choose to.
Are there side-effects to treatment?
The best side effect is a happier, calmer baby that sleeps!!! Each case is unit and the baby must be assessed.
Clive Hayden, Brenda Mullinger. A preliminary assessment of the impact of cranial osteopathy for the relief of infantile colic. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2006; 12 (2):83-90.
Frymann VM. Relation of disturbances of craniosacral mechanisms to symptomatology of the newborn: study of 1,250 infants. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 1966; 65:1059-1075.