So you’ve heard about osteopathy for babies but are too scared to try it out? I speak with a top osteopath to find out everything you need to know…
Auckland osteopath and director of Bodyworx Healthcare Karen Gardner has been treating babies (and their mums) for years. I first went to her when my son was born in what you might say a rapid delivery, and had particularly bad wind. I’d tried every tonic out – not to mention countless winding techniques that I’d stay up late googling on YouTube like a mad woman. Nothing seemed to help. It was my sister who suggested an osteopath and to be quite honest I was pretty sceptical, and a little nervous about the whole process. Mostly, because I actually didn’t know anything about it. But after one visit I could see a change in my son… and better yet his wind issues soon became non-existent. I recently spoke to Karen to address all the common concerns parents have with osteopathy, and why it’s such a good treatment for babies and adults alike.
A lot of people are scared of osteopathy for their babies, so how exactly does it work?
Karen: Osteopathic treatment is a hands-on therapy, requiring five years of training, plus post graduate paediatric training and a wonderfully developed sense of touch. Osteopaths are trained to diagnose and release strains and tensions in babies. In assessing a newborn baby the osteopath checks for asymmetry or tension in the pelvis, spine and head, and ensures that a good breathing pattern had been established. Osteopaths use very gentle and relaxing techniques such as balanced ligamentous tension, articulation and cranial to release tensions in the baby’s body. Osteopaths work with the parents to ensure the experience is a positive one for the family. It is safe and gentle and sometimes parents wonder whether the osteopath is even doing anything as not a lot of movement is used!
How young is too young to bring your baby in?
Karen: Many parents decide that they will have their baby checked by an osteopath within the first few weeks post birth, whereas others first see an osteopath when they are concerned about their baby’s symptoms.
What problems can an osteopath help a baby with?
Karen: Birth is one of the most stressful events any of us go through. Babies are subjected to enormous forces by the contractions of the uterus as they turn and twist descending through the mothers bony pelvis, and it’s common for them to suffer a great deal of compression to the skull while being born. The effects of a long or difficult delivery, possibly involving a ventouse or forceps extraction, or a caesarian section may firmly imprint an effect upon the baby. This can lead to structural or functional imbalances and a wide variety of symptoms. This can also be true of very rapid labours. At times even the most ideal delivery can have an adverse effect on a baby if it is unable to release the physical stress and strains experienced at birth. In some cases the normal activities and movements of life are unable to resolve these strains, and a baby may present with a range of issues like: irritability, problems suckling and feeding, poor sleep patterns, abnormal posturing ie) difficulty turning head one way, digestive discomfort with colic and reflux symptoms and a misshapen head.
Are there any side-effects?
Karen: Generally babies are relaxed and often sleep very well after treatment.
In the years you’ve been practising have you noticed an increase in mums willing to try it out for their babies?
Karen: There is definitely an increase in mothers bringing their babies for osteopathic treatment. I think coffee groups, Plunket groups, Facebook groups and social media have increased public awareness about the types of conditions we can help with and the positive outcomes.
What are some of the best things parents have said to you after a treatment?
Karen: Most parents cannot believe the change in their baby and how relaxed they are. Some parents have asked if we can come and settle their infants each night (jokingly) and others ask if they can hug me!
How can new mums find out more?
Karen: Recently my colleague Kristen and I have been running small mother and baby workshops on the first Friday of every month from 10.30 till 12pm. These workshops are free of charge and aim to give mothers the opportunity to ask questions about osteopathy and to remove the mystic around it. We advertise these workshops on our Facebook page or you can call our reception to book a space.