I was talking to a daddy friend of mine recently about how his newborn has greatly benefitted from seeing a paediatric osteopath, and even attributes the outcome of the sessions to the fact that she seems more physically advanced than other babies her own age. We got hold of the brilliant osteopath Liv Lowrie, to talk us through what happens at an appointment, and why they can be so beneficial during those early stages.
Osteopathic assessment and treatment for newborns is recommended as early as possible after birth. In my own Practice I see babies straight after they have left hospital with their mother or following a home birth – and in my opinion all babies will benefit greatly from an early post-natal check up by a Paediatric Osteopath.
It is always important to check for general symmetry of the baby’s body and make sure that the baby is well aligned without any compression going through the head, neck and spine. The check up of a new born baby takes into consideration the health of the mother during the pregnancy, the intra-uterine development and position of the baby, the labour and delivery – whether all natural, assisted delivery or by c-section.
The initial visit takes up to one hour – and after a detailed case history covering the pregnancy, labour, delivery and the baby’s development and health up to the visit – the baby is undressed and examined. I start off by observing the baby and let him/her getting used to me – always with the mother or parents by its side. I like to watch the baby and how it reacts to its surroundings and how alert and focused they are. Sometimes a newborn can be quite sleepy and this will happen soon after a c-section or if they have any signs of jaundice.
I will then very gently introduce my hands and check the reflexes, the hip position, breathing pattern and the general alignment of the body. I am particularly interested in how the baby holds its head and rotates its neck – and at the same time I check that the cranial bones are well aligned and that I can feel the fontanelle on top of its head. This is a very important aspect of our work and gives me an idea of the stresses and strains which have been placed upon the head and spine during labour. The cranial bones need to unfold after birth – but this process can take a bit longer after a ventouse – or forceps – assisted delivery. In these cases I find that the babies have a strong need to suck as they instinctively feel that the sucking will increase the intra-cranial pressure and assist in the opening of the head and body. I always explain this to the parents – as sometimes the baby’s need for sucking can easily be confused with hunger – and the baby might overfeed. This again can lead to a baby frequently possetting or bringing up undigested milk.
I have a model of a newborn baby’s skull in my Practice and I like to show this to the parents when I explain how easily the cranial bones and the neck can get a bit stuck. This can then result in the baby favouring one side more than the other which again leads to plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome, blocked drainage from ears, nose and eyes or just feeling uncomfortable. It can also make breastfeeding a bit more difficult as the head rotation will be restricted and thereby harder for the baby to turn its head well enough in order to latch on properly. I will also at the same time check for torticollis of the neck or tongue tie which again affects the feeding of the baby and its head position.
The alignment and symmetry of the spine is always important for the baby’s growth and general well being – and I always check to see that the baby is breathing from its diaphragm which helps with colic, general circulation and bowel movement. I see many newborns who have not yet learnt to breathe using their diaphragms – and only have a very shallow breathing pattern. This can lead to a very unsettled baby who has problems falling into a proper deep sleep pattern and is easily startled by any noise or movement. When the diaphragm is restricted I find that this can cause digestive discomforts like constipation, retained wind which leads to colic problems or difficulties with burping the baby.
I am also on the look out for any signs of reflux which can lead to a very unsettled baby and in some cases will need further referral back to the GP, paediatrician or a peadiatric gastro-enterologist – but by discussing it in detail with the parents might settle or be managed without any medication.
If the baby needs feeding at any point during the examination or treatment process – it is usually a good time to be able to observe its feeding pattern and the sucking action which also assists the treatment process.
During the examination I will always inform the parents of my findings and will suggest a referral back to their GP if I have any doubt about the baby’s health or development. Normally the baby will fall asleep during the treatment but can also cry as it becomes aware of changes within its own body. This will normally settle very quickly – but some babies can have a slight treatment reaction, making them feel a bit unsettled and may last for up to about twenty-four hours after the treatment. Many babies tend to have a growth spurt after the treatment – especially in some cases where they had been subjected to compression within the uterus.
Paediatric osteopathic treatment is very gentle and uses subtle techniques which release stresses and strains in the baby’s body. Cranial treatment is one of these techniques which assist in the unfolding of the cranial bones and enables the body to grow into the correct alignment and subsequently good health.
I will always discuss ongoing treatments with the parents – but in most post natal check-ups the babies just need a little nudge in the right direction and can then unfold and grow into healthy happy children which should be every baby’s birth right.
To book an appointment with Liv Lowrie, please contact the Chelsea Consulting Rooms on 0207 763 9100, or online.