Osteopathic treatment for newborns and toddler is a safe, gentle and effective way to help with a range of issues that may be causing your child upset. Your baby can see an osteopath for treatment just a few days after birth – meaning almost no child is too young for treatment.
Many people think that because a newborn is so young, that surely they cannot have any muscle tension or pain! However, the childbirth process is a stressful experience for both mother and child.
As the child exits the birth canal, an extreme amount of force is placed upon him/her to fit through a narrow gap. To allow this to happen, the skulls of newborns are flexible, having not yet fused together. A fontanel or soft spot at the top of the skull allows the bones to overlap as it passes through the birth canal. Every now and then a baby may have lasting effects from this process, with tension in their head and neck that results in abnormal head shapes, pressure in the skull or a wry neck. Likewise, other areas may also be affected, including the shoulders, back, stomach and pelvis.
Commonly treated issues include
- Deformational plagiocephaly aka Head shape abnormalities from laying in the same position or a prolonged labour
- Muscular torticollis – aka twisted or wry neck
- Breastfeeding/latching difficulties
- Sleep disturbances
- Unsettled, restless, colicky babies
- Nasolacrimal duct obstruction – aka eye discharge
- Checking for age-appropriate reflexes and hip function
Osteopathic treatment – what does it involve?
Newborns and toddlers respond much faster to treatment than adults, their muscles relax and their nervous systems calm down quickly, with a very light touch. For this reason, treatment is subtle, gentle and definitely doesn’t feel like a massage that an adult might get. On average, a child will only need to see an osteopath for 2-6 treatments, however, this depends on the reason and cause of the issue and the age of the child.
Osteopathic treatment will involve looking over your baby while in nappies only, so we can check for hip and back alignment and assess mobility. It’s best if your baby is fed and somewhat settled before the appointment – keep this in mind when choosing an appointment time.
Treatment aims to reduce any muscular tensions found, whether this is in the hips, back, shoulders, neck or head. To do this, light massage and balancing techniques are used, as well as rhythmic movements to free up joints. No joint clicking/cracking is done to newborns or toddlers in osteopathic treatment.
Babies cannot directly tell us about their discomfort, instead, they may cry, not sleep and be generally unsettled. Osteopathy can help babies with any physical discomfort, allowing them to really settle into their surroundings. Osteopaths can also help to screen for tongue tie and hip issues, teach you some handy settling techniques and advise mum on best ways to hold/breastfeed for her own comfort.
We can also help with training mum on how to massage and treat her child, what pressure to use and massage techniques to help with self-care at home.
Before and after treatment
Ideally, your child will be fed and settled prior to treatment. After treatment, you may not notice changes immediately, as the body takes time to adjust to treatment. Much like when adults get osteopathic treatment or a massage, babies may also feel more sleepy or irritable for a few hours afterwards.
How to choose a good osteopath for your baby
As of 2021, all Osteopaths are required to have undertaken extra paediatrics training at the Ara Institute of Canterbury – if not, they are not allowed to treat anyone under the age of 16.
Other than the required qualifications, a good Osteopath will be fluid with treatment, working with the movements and needs of your baby. Osteopaths that treat babies generally have a soft touch, need to be calm during treatment and confident handling and interacting with babies and toddlers.
Osteopath & Western Medical Acupuncturist
Anna enjoys the challenge of problem-solving aches and pains, which includes not only looking at the area of discomfort but also investigating whole body function and daily habits to determine the true cause of the issue. Her aim is to get you back doing what you love as soon as possible.
Anna's area of interest is in pregnancy-related issues, surfing and rugby shoulders.
Favourite treatment techniques: Soft tissue massage and dry needling.