There is a belief that because babies are young and supple they should have no structural strains in their bodies. However, the reality is very different.
The baby is subject to enormous forces during birth. The uterus projects a downward spiraling force, pushing the baby in a twisting and turning movement through the bony pelvis. The physical distance is short, but the journey is potentially stressful and highly stimulated. The mother’s and baby’s form, structure, hormonal, and neurological systems (to name a few) are developed and beautifully able to engage in this process. The cranial bones are soft, allowing them to bend and overlap to relatively reduce the size of the cranium so that the baby’s head can move through the pelvis. This process is called molding; due to this process, many babies will be born with “odd” shaped heads.
The intra-cranial pressure created by suckling, yawning, and crying allows for movement of the cranial bones in the “unmolding process” in the first few days of life. Some of the extreme shape of the cranium is lost. Often this process can be incomplete and relatively unsuccessful, especially in cases when a baby has had a difficult birth. This may therefore leave the baby with discomfort caused by the stresses placed on the cranium and body, and can leave the baby with problems both during infancy and as he/she grows.
Following birth, osteopaths recommend that all babies receive a checkup. Osteopathy can reduce and release uncomfortable distortions and stresses in the baby following birth, allowing the baby to relax and become more settled.
With early intervention, osteopathic treatment can prevent the strains arising from the birth process from causing direct problems as your child grows. Occasional treatment through childhood can be of great benefit as your osteopath can examine and treat problems early and therefore minimize the effect of strain on the body. Treatment from an osteopath using a cranial approach is very gentle, effective, and safe. Your osteopath, through their palpatory skill, applies gentle and specific pressure where the strain is present, releasing the strain and engaging the inherent healing ability of the body.
The osteopaths at Maritime Osteopathy are specifically educated and trained to consult, examine and treat infants and children. We regularly continue our education in this field of interest as we believe it is a true foundation of preparing a baby and child for a healthy life.
Reaction to treatment may vary. Most often a baby is very relaxed following their appointment and sleeps well. Other children may have a burst of energy, followed by a good night’s sleep.
Following treatment for retained molding, occasionally children are unsettled. This is temporary. It is not always possible if the release of tension is incomplete for all of the retained molding to be released in one treatment, especially if it was severe.
When should my child see an Osteopath?
Treatment is beneficial at any age, but the younger a child is, the easier the tissues and structure will release. It is our aim to relieve the presenting symptoms as well as prevent ongoing problems that may arise from unhealed, unresolved birth traumas.
Common Problems in Babies
Even with severe molding retention, some babies cope incredibly well and are happy and healthy. Others may suffer with a range of problems that can be directly attributed to birth.
A crying, irritable baby that prefers to be carried is generally unsettled and needs to be rocked to sleep.
This baby may be generally uncomfortable as there is a constant feeling of pressure in the head. When lying down, the pressure will be aggravated.
A Baby with Feeding Difficulties
Very often, symptoms cause distress for parents and this is often connected and associated with potential problems during breastfeeding. In reality, the cause generally has no link to the mother and more to structural and functional discomfort the baby is suffering.
One feed will merge into the next, and the baby may take a long time to feed. Baby may also be a “windy” feeder. Feeding is difficult and tiring for the baby due to the mechanical stresses and strains felt throughout their head, face, and throat. The nerves to the tongue may be irritated as they exit the cranium through the same mechanical strains. This irritation of the nerves causes difficulty for the baby when suckling.
Sickness, Colic and Wind
Baby regurgitates milk between feeds, and has bursts of prolonged crying due to the pressure and discomfort created by colic and wind. Often this will be worse in the evening.
The baby sleeps for only short periods and may only sleep a little during the day or night. Baby is sensitive to noise and wakes easily.
The mechanical tensions applied through the baby’s cranium to the membranous casing of the skull keeps baby in a persistently alert state.
As Your Child Grows
Retained molding will continue to affect your child as he/she grows if untreated and may lead to other problems. The list below addresses some of the possible problems/symptoms, but it is just a few examples from a very long list of possibilities.
Behavioural and Sleep Problems
A continuation of restlessness as a young baby consequently leading to poor sleep habits.
Difficult behavior; angry, awkward and sensitive child.
This could indicate constant low-level discomfort due to physical tensions and strains still present in areas of the body. These strains may be a result of retained compressions from birth, but are generally aggravated by recent traumas, e.g.: falls, accidents, or infections.
A child that is hyper-active, fidgets, and has difficulty sitting still. The child suffers from poor concentration aggravated by lack of sleep. “Butterfly Child” – flits from one activity to the next.
The physical discomfort the child feels means he/she dislikes staying in one position for too long and finds concentration difficult. This behavior becomes habit forming and will interfere with learning.
Gradually become more frequent. Loss of hearing leads to “Glue Ear.”
Distortion and compression in the base of the skull, particularly in the bones that form the structure around the ear, can lead to narrowing of the sinuses and Eustachian tube that drains the ear. This impedes the mucous drainage from the ear and leaves them vulnerable to repeated infections.
Sinus and Dental Problems
Child has a consistently blocked or runny nose, therefore is a persistent mouth breather. Dental overcrowding is an increased possibility, due to retained compressive molding of cranium.
The sinuses and bones of the face and cranium will suffer from impaired growth and drainage due to retained molding.
Increased vulnerability to chest infections and aggravations of asthma.
Because of in-utero position or difficult birth, baby may not be able to fully expand the lungs due to ribcage restrictions. This can lead to long-term poor use or underuse of the lungs, leaving the child more prone to chest infections and asthma. After a chest infection, due to the restriction of volume of breath during the infection, the chest may remain congested and ribs tense. This means that the child is more likely to suffer further chest infections or it can aggravate the tendency for asthma.
Osteopathic treatment to improve the function of the chest is often beneficial in reducing the frequency and severity of chest infections and asthma attacks.
Developing Posture Aches and Pains
Children complaining of pain anywhere should be taken seriously.
Strain or compression in the pelvis, spine, or head may easily affect the developing spinal posture and anatomy or lead to joint problems later in development. Your Osteopath will treat to encourage the development of a well-balanced posture.
Headaches- Usually beginning at 7-8 years
The bony structures/joints of the cranium are fully formed at around the age of 7-8 years. Any distortion or compression remaining from birth cannot be accommodated so easily and this can lead to headaches