I have treated colicky babies in my osteopathic clinics in Harley Street and Kensington for more than 15 years . Colic is by far one of the most common and distressing problems for a new mother to have to manage. A baby with colic, which is another term for abdominal pain, can last for many hours per day or night and can be very difficult to settle, feed resulting in an exhausted baby and an exhausted mother.
I have found that osteopathy helps most babies with colic, although some will also need an approach combined with medication as well.
As an osteopath I feel that a diagnosis should be made as early as possible of where the pain is coming from and what treatment is appropriate for that individual baby.
The 5 main reasons for colic include:
- Irritable gut – where the milk often passes through to the small intestine too quickly prior to being broken down in the stomach. This will give the baby a distended windy abdomen. The baby may look like it is pushing all the time when it is awake, to try and get rid of the wind. Symptoms usually occur 30-90 minutes after a feed.
- Poor feeding/latching – this may occur with a baby who has a tongue tie or a latching problem where the baby is bringing in a lot of wind whilst it is suckling at the breast or the bottle. The baby will often make a clicking sound with its tongue on suckling or it may have a recessive jaw where the jaw is not opening well to latch onto the nipple.
- Reflux – where the contents of the stomach comes back up the oesophagus (tube from mouth to stomach) and causes burning in the oesophagus. Symptoms usually occur immediately after the feeding starts or up to 20 minutes after the baby feeds. He or she may reject the breast or bottle.
- Lactose intolerance – This is where the baby cannot tolerate the lactose in the milk. Symptoms usually occur 2 hours after the feed when the milk starts to ferment in the large bowel.
- Constipation – At 6 weeks the peak time for colic a baby may become constipated. The bowel slows down from opening from 6-8 times per day to 1-2 per day. Some babies may get constipated and the bowels do not open for 4-5 days. Although, medically this is not a problem babies do tend to suffer from a lot of discomfort.
These 5 categories of colic are now well recognised amongst experienced healthcare professionals. However they often do not come up as a clear picture as a baby can often present with a combination of all 5 problems.
Osteopathic diagnosis and treatment will often involve treatment to:
a) The gut. To palpate and use techniques to expel the wind or help empty the bowels In Kane and Ross this is a technique that we will teach the mother of the baby so they can help their baby on a daily basis to prevent the build up of wind.
b) The diaphragm and rib cage. This can often get distorted during delivery, causing a torsion in the diaphragm resulting in the valve at the entrance to the stomach not closing properly so that acid comes up into the oesophagus. Osteopathic techniques can balance the rib cage and release torsions through the diaphragm.
c) The head, neck and mouth. There is a branch of the vagus nerve which supplies the gut and the nerves to the diaphragm are supplied by the neck. Osteopathy will gently release restrictions in the neck and around the tongue allowing the baby to suckle more easily bringing in less wind.
d) The baby generally. Sometimes after birth, a stressful pregnancy, or if a baby has been in a lot of pain, they may be generally tense. Osteopaths can usually feel this on palpation, and use specific techniques to calm and relax the baby.
Osteopathic treatment is gentle and babies will often be relaxed after treatment and sleep. Feeding may become easier if there is a latching problem and mothers will be taught some specific techniques for feeding or winding their baby.
Most babies can be treated well with osteopathic treatment or a combination of medication and osteopathy. If we feel like a baby needs medication we will discuss this with you and if necessary with your baby’s GP or paediatrician.
When to take the baby to the osteopath?
Ideally, babies are seen as soon as possible after birth within the first 2 weeks. This allows us to diagnose any strains or stresses in the body early and treat them; if the baby is older it will often need more treatment. If you recognise that the baby has had a difficult birth, a forceps delivery, ventouse or an emergency c-section after an attempted vaginal delivery, it is advisable for the baby to be seen as early as possible. If possible Kane and Ross osteopaths will come to the Central London hospitals to see your baby within 24-48 hours after your delivery.
An osteopathic study of babies with colic has shown that babies cried less and slept more after osteopathic treatment (C Hayden / B Mulinger, A preliminary assessment of the impact of cranial osteopathy for the relief of infantile colic. ‘Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice’, May 2006).
If you or your baby need osteopathic treatment, or you would like more information on osteopathic treatment of mothers and babies, our website is www.kaneandross.co.uk.
Simone Ross, Kane & Ross Clinics
39 Harley Street, London, W1G 8QH
73 Courtfield Gardens, London, SW5 0NL
020 7436 9007