Coping with colic is a taxing task. When a parent is faced with a screaming baby hour after hour, day after day, it can lead to myriad problems including exhaustion, sleep-deprivation and even Post-Natal Depression. But despite an array of lotions and potions on offer, the fact is there is no definitively known cause for colic, and as yet no known absolute cure.
However, with the rise in awareness of alternative therapies and complementary medicine, more and more mums, and dads, are turning to osteopaths to help ease the pain for their colicky child. It is suggested that by gentle manipulation of a baby’s cranium the pain caused by excess wind and trapped nerves can be dissipated. But such subtle techniques are often treated dubiously by doubting parents. So what exactly is Cranial Osteopathy, and could it be the solution for your child?
Registered Osteopath Michelle Lewis, BSc (Hons), M.Ost, has been treating babies with digestion and sleeping problems for the past five years and is keen to clarify exactly what Cranial Osteopathy is and how it can help. She says: “For me, cranial osteopathy is not a definitive description for what we do, as it implies we exclusively treat the cranium or head. However in reality, while we do spend a lot of time on the head, we also treat the whole body.
“The body is made up of many different structures and each one has its own inherent rhythm and motion in space. Cranial Osteopaths are trained to feel these very subtle, rhythmical movements – pumping, fluxing, twisting movements – that are present in all body tissues. Current thinking within the osteopathic profession is that this may be an expression of a physiological effect known as the Traube-Hering-Mayer Waves – known as Involuntary Motion or the Cranial Rhythm. A finely developed sense of touch allows us to feel when the normal movement is disturbed and we can then apply very gentle hands on techniques to help show the body where the problem is and encourage it to re-correct itself.”
Exactly why some babies get colic and others don’t is not known, but certain factors can make an infant more susceptible. Colic is defined as the scenario when a baby cries for more than three hours at a time, more than three days a week, for more than three weeks. It has been noted that if a baby has a ventouse assisted birth or endures a long or complicated labour, the immense pressure put through their head and neck can leave strains and distortions in the cranial bones, membranes and muscles, thus disrupting the innate flux and rhythm of the body. So once the baby is born – despite seeming well in the immediate aftermath – Osteopaths think this may lead to a variety of problems and symptoms including difficulty latching onto the breast for feeding, winding problems, digestive discomfort and sleep problems. Babies will often only sleep whilst being held, crying as soon as you lay them flat, due to discomfort and pain caused by trapped wind or misplaced nerves.
By gently unwinding strains, decompressing areas of tension and releasing tight muscles, Osteopaths find babies can become more content and settled, meaning parents can start to enjoy being parents, and not see each day as an impending struggle that must merely be endured.
It is not just babies who have endured a difficult birth that exhibit signs of colic. Discomfort and pain is often also suffered by babies who have engaged head down early in pregnancy and hence spent a long time with their head compressed in the pelvis, children of mums who had problems dilating during labour, so contractions force the baby down on what is effectively a closed door, twins (where space is an issue in the womb), and those who had positional problems i.e. back-to-back, breech etc..
Osteopaths regularly carry out newborn check-ups in the first few days or weeks after birth, examining babies to see if there are any strains that may benefit from some treatment. And the sooner the baby is treated, the better the prognosis, as their bodies develop at such a rate that an untreated problem can lead to bones fusing in the wrong way, meaning more long-term effects in an affected child.
So, could Cranial Osteopathy be the solution that you are looking for? Michelle says: “Osteopaths recognise that every child is an individual, and we will always treat you and them as such. Your first appointment will involve a detailed case history which will include questions about your child, including pregnancy and birth and any complications along the way. This along with an examination allows us to provide a specific diagnosis and then formulate the most appropriate treatment plan for your child. This may include advice on breastfeeding, handling and posture, diet and sleep, not forgetting mother’s health. In the event that your child’s health concern is beyond the scope of our practice, we will ensure you are referred to the most suitable specialist.”
There is no data detailing the success rate of Cranial Osteopathy in babies, but it is growing in popularity and those who have explored it as an option to treat their child are quick to praise its effectiveness. Michelle proudly boasts a host of testimonials from parents thanking her for turning their lives around and giving them a healthy, happy baby for the first time. One says: “Since birth our son had displayed signs of pain while feeding and had real problems sleeping, but we were constantly dismissed as over-anxious when we took him to our doctor. After much research we looked into Cranial Osteopathy and found Michelle. Michelle was the first person to delve into the details of my labour and how that may have affected our baby, and from the first session we noticed a difference. After just four sessions our son went from frequently distressed to the happiest little baby I’ve ever seen. The difference is remarkable and it has eased the heartache you have as a parent of seeing your child in pain and not being able to do anything. I just wish we had explored the options of this type of treatment earlier, or been advised by staff at the hospital or by our doctor of the effect the labour could have on the baby.”
Michelle adds: “It’s not just colicky kids who can benefit from treatment, Osteopaths offer help with all sorts of ailments in babies and children including sleeping problems, constipation, nose and ear congestion, eye problems (conjunctivitis and squints), and behavioural issues such as anxiety, stress, and ADHD. These are just a few of the many issues that we can help address in little ones. Although it is important to remember that Cranial Osteopathy is not just for children but for anyone – expectant mothers, sports enthusiasts, Gran and Grandad, we treat any age., and everyone is welcome.”