Generally, a patient is able to tell us if they have pain, where it hurts, how much it affects them and how they may have caused the problem. Babies, however, are notoriously difficult to question!!
So how can you tell if your baby might benefit from osteopathic treatment? Well, while there’s no sure-fire way to find out, there are a few key indicators of your baby’s overall health and well-being that can help tell you whether all is well in their world.
Please note: these signs and symptoms are not exclusive indicators for osteopathic treatment, and can be an indication of other issues that may need direct medical help. If in doubt, please consult your doctor/midwife/health visitor.
First off – excessive crying
While most (all!) babies will cry without it meaning there is anything wrong, sometimes it’s an indication that your baby may be in discomfort for some reason. As you know, the process of birth does involve some squeezing and pulling of baby as they come out, which may lead to strains on muscles and joints, particularly the neck and shoulders.
Long labour or problematic births, can exacerbate this. Quite often, the result is most noticeable during feeding: turning towards the breast may pull on tight muscles in the neck area. Finding a comfortable position isn’t easy, and so they start to cry. It’s the only response they know.
You might also become aware of excessive crying when they’re lying down and trying to get to sleep. This is often combined with excessive fidgeting or restlessness, where baby won’t settle down to sleep, or keeps moving about as you try to get them settled, even when you’re holding them securely.
Which leads us on to the next sign…
Poor sleeping patterns
During the first few months after birth, it’s of course normal for babies to wake during the night for feeds, or to be changed or comforted, sometimes as often as every 2 hours. This pattern should settle and hopefully by around 6 months old they should be beginning to sleep through the night – around 6-8 hours at a time.
If they’re not settling into a good routine, it can indicate a variety of issues. Firstly, it takes an effort from you, as a parent, to start this routine. But if you’re trying and baby still won’t settle, sometimes it shows that they’re not finding it easy to relax. This can be related to restrictions or tightness in neck or back joints, or muscles that baby is just starting to use properly, especially in the arms and shoulders, as this is where moving and crawling actions begin.
Tightness or restrictions in the neck can also affect baby’s ability to feed happily, not just with movement of the head or neck to access food, but also with swallowing and latching on properly. Quite often, bad feeding habits mean baby swallows a lot of air, leading to regurgitation and wind. Or they may get tired from suckling ineffectually, so they stop without finishing and while still hungry. This leads to repeated, quick feeds, or long feeding times during which baby has frequent stops to rest.
Gentle relief of tightness and tension
Osteopathic treatment – for babies or adults – is about settling the body into a place where it works more effectively, and therefore is more comfortable. The techniques we use are aimed at relieving restrictions and tension within joints, muscles and other tissues, and allowing natural movement back into problematic areas.
As mentioned, the signs above from sleeping to eating can be signs of many things, not just muscular or skeletal problems in need of osteopathic treatment. However, they can indicate a simple problem, related to how your baby uses their body, which may benefit from gentle osteopathic treatment. If you’d like to know more, why not call or book your free consultation and let’s make sure your baby isn’t unhappy.