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Cranial osteopathy for infants

Mother holding baby's head

The majority of newborns can recover from the pressures exerted on their heads during birth through crying, yawning & suckling. However, for others, particularly those born after a lengthy or assisted labour, residual birth tension may remain which can cause babies to be unsettled, uncomfortable and to have difficulties feeding. Cranial osteopathy can help release stresses and tensions in the baby’s head and rebalance the body.

Birth can be a traumatic time for an infant. The pressure of the contractions and the journey down the birth canal can leave many newborns with odd-shaped heads as a result. The newborn’s head, however, is wonderfully designed to cope with the usual pressures exerted during the birth process. The bones of the cranium are soft and easily overlap, allowing the size of the infants head to actually reduce for birth; this is called birth moulding.

In the the majority of infants the birth moulding and any birth tension is naturally resolved with the actions of crying, yawning and suckling within the first week of life. However, this is not the case for all infants, particularly after a long and drawn out labour, or the use of forceps or suction. Equally a very fast or sudden labour can create residual birth tension in the newborn.

How do I know if my infant has any residual birth tension?

Infants who have not fully resolved their birth moulding may have residual birth tension.  The babies may have a constant feeling of pressure in the structures of the head which may be made worse by the extra pressure on the head when lying down. This can affect suckling, digestion and the baby’s ability to relax. These infants are often:

  • Irritable and fussy
  • Generally unhappy, a miserable baby
  • Cry excessively
  • Have difficulty in feeding and latching to the breast or bottle
  • Dislike lying flat
  • Always lay towards one side, or turn their head to one side
  • Show signs of colic
  • Show signs of reflux & silent reflux

So how can osteopathy help?

Cranial osteopathy is a 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.

An osteopath uses observation, case history and highly skilled palpation to assess the infants whole body (not just their head!). By identifying where the tension patterns are the osteopath can use gentle techniques to release the tension and rebalance the body.

On average or 2-6 treatments are required, this however varies from infant to infant and the complexity of the issue.

Elizabeth Beckett

Liz is a fully registered osteopath having fulfilled the educational and ethical requirements of the General Osteopathic Council. She has a keen interest in treating infants with cranial osteopathy and offers a low-cost clinic for pregnant women and new mums and their babies.

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