What can you expect when you bring your baby for an osteopathic treatment? It’ll be a lot like an adult session, but with time-outs for snuggles, feeds and diaper-changing.
We’ll start with a discussion of your baby’s symptoms. Then a review of family history, prenatal and pregnancy health, labour and delivery.
I’ll ask about any illnesses, accidents or surgeries. Accidents do happen, so full disclosure is always best. Past or current treatments, interventions and diagnoses. Plus a systems review to make sure we’ve covered everything. This provides valuable clues to potential contributors to your baby’s health. It also helps me understand your experience to date, and better determine my role.
Cramped in-utero accommodations can hold a baby in positions that create muscle restrictions. Infant bones are soft, and their head design allows plenty of space for moulding as they descend through the birth canal. But compressive forces experienced during labour and delivery may leave strains, in subtle or more obvious ways. The position of the bones, in turn, affects other structures – connective tissue and muscles, blood vessels, nerves…
The 12 cranial nerves, exiting from the brainstem, are especially vulnerable. Smell, swallowing, vision, digestion, hearing, breathing are all under cranial nerve control! (You can read more about how your baby could benefit from osteopathy here.)
Look, Listen, Feel
Next, a physical assessment. I’ll look, listen and feel. As an osteopathic practitioner, I’ll consider the whole body. There may be something distant from the problem area that’s part of the puzzle. For example, a stiff neck or injury to a shoulder can affect breastfeeding. A compacted sacrum can too.
I usually start with them facing me, hands on their pelvis, so we can make eye contact while we get acquainted. Most babies don’t appreciate a stranger investigating them in a new environment. Using one of their blankies provides comfort with its familiar smell. A soother (if you use one) and favourite toy is helpful too. And you’ll be right beside them the whole time.
I observe their alignment while they’re lying on their back. A slight curve in their body or turn of their head to one side is common. I’ll palpate different body parts, feeling for alterations in tissue texture and tone. I’ll check leg and arm movements, and test grip and reflexes as needed. It might take a little time to do this, as I want your child to feel safe and comfortable.
If I find an area of restriction, I may treat it right away, or do more investigation. Babies respond so quickly that sometimes just palpating can make a positive change!
Gentle, Hands-On Attention
The techniques I use are very gentle and I work within each baby’s tolerance, in that moment. They may be very passive and relaxed, or they may be quite vocal. Especially if we find an area that needs attention. Crying is their means of communications, so I pay close attention. Is that cry a “Yes, that’s the spot that needs help” or is it a “That’s scary, I need reassurance.”?
They might prefer to be in a parent’s arms while we work. Or be treated while they’re nursing. We can do that; they run the show.
I like to explain and I welcome questions, but my full attention is in my hands and their connection with your baby. Babies notice if you’re not entirely present! So I often have to answer between moves or when baby needs a little break. Their needs are always first, but of course, I consider yours too.
After the hands-on work, I’ll review my findings and tell you what to expect post-treatment. We’ll make a plan for follow-ups and, if required, referrals to other practitioners. I’ll also show you some simple things you can do at home to make further progress. (if appropriate).
Once we wrap up, you’re welcome to hang out in a comfy chair for a relaxed feeding before heading out.