Is osteopathy necessary for babies ? Stefano Mittempergher B.Sc. Ostéopathie, F.R.T.

posted Nov 30, 2011, 7:39 AM by Clinique Alain Dubreuil   [ updated Nov 30, 2011, 7:48 AM ]

Birth is one of the most humbling and exhilarating experiences a parent to be can live through: parents tell everyone hoe stressful and emotionally draining it was for them, and how physically difficult it was for the mother. What most of us don’t realize is how stressful the event is for the baby. It is a common belief that babies and children should have no structural stresses or strains in their bodies because they are so young. The reality is very different. Birth is one of the most stressful events in their lives. The baby is subject to enormous forces especially on the head, coccyx (tailbone), and spine, when navigating the birth canal, as the uterus pushes to expel the baby against the natural resistance of the birth canal. The baby has to turn and twist as it squeezes trough the bony pelvis to the outside world. The process of birth involves the passage of the baby’s head through the mother’s pelvis. In order to easily navigate this area the infant’s head must move just the right way.

This involves forward bending of the head and neck to get into the pelvis, rotation (to one side) to get through it, and then backward to finally exit the birth canal.

As can be seen the four parts of the occiput are exposed to multiple and complex forces, and commonly become twisted and compressed, causing an irritation of the nerves in that area. If the child tries to go through the birth canal in an unusual fashion, due to the mother having uterine fibroids, or structural problems with her coccyx or pelvis, the problem can be greatly exaggerated.

Other possible scenarios include the mother’s cervix inability to dilate, a long labor, and the use of Pitocin: a liquid medication that is a synthetic form of the natural occurring hormone, Oxytocin which greatly increases the forces of contraction. If there is a fetal distress, this is again a trauma. Further more if the labor is interrupted, prolonged, or requires intervention such as suction or forceps, the baby’s ability to absorb these stresses may be overwhelmed, and it may be left with strains, compressions or torsions through its head or body. Although the birth process is quite a traumatic experience, babies are able to cope with it surprisingly well. The bones of the head are uniquely designed to overlap to reduce the size of the head as it is being expelled, and the bones will bend and warp as the baby descends; finally their chin is also pushed down into the chest to decrease their total diameter. This compression means that the baby will have an odd shaped head on delivery but over the coming days it will remold itself as the baby moves, cries and yawns. This natural ability enables us to absorb the stresses of a normal delivery. However, it is not unusual for the birth to leave its mark on the body and most people have observed the altered shape of a baby’s head immediately after delivery. Less obvious to observe are the effects on the neck, shoulders, body and limbs which are also exposed to strong forces and may affect the functioning of the body. The stress that the baby’s body undergoes at child birth may lead to discomfort in the head, neck and body. This may cause difficulties with the latching on and suckling, and can cause colic and wind. In fact, some misalignments may be acquired before the birth process even begins. Trains may be present before birth if the baby’s head has been down for a long time before delivery, or if he has been lying in a cramped position. Also, during birth, the diaphragm may have been heavily stretched affecting the ability of the stomach to retain food. Research conducted by Viola Frymann D.O., on more than a thousand children, showed than 10% of the newborn demonstrate significant distortion in shape and mobility of the cranium after birth, 80% demonstrated moderate distortion, while only 10% showed no significant distortion of the cranium.

Cesarian babies may also benefit from Osteopathic treatment. They may have had an unusual lying position within the womb which caused a buildup of pressure within the head or pelvis of the baby, or a prolonged and difficult labor that ultimately lead to a c-section. Even with planned c-section, the action of the very quick birth can often lead to irritation of the nervous system. Once a child is born, he takes the all important first breath. It is the first breath that initially re-expands all the structures of the body that were “pushed together” in the descent through the birth canal. A good, deep, unencumbered, full first breath needs to be taken. This can be difficult in a seemingly normal delivery without trauma, if the child is affected by anesthesia or narcotic pain medication that the mother has been given. In a c-section a deep first breath rarely happens.

There are large changes in circulation that need to take place in order for the newborn to shift its circulatory processes to breath and oxygenate blood on its own, with no help from the mother. These issues can often be traced to a strain or injury through the body, head or pelvis. This may be a source of pain in itself, or the injury may have resulted in an irritation of the many nerves and blood vessels that lie in close approximation to the bones, such as those that supply the tongue, stomach, sinuses and ears. If the strains are unresolved into childhood, the immune system may be compromise so that the child becomes susceptible to:

  • Recurrent infections of the tonsils, ears, adenoids, and/or sinuses
  • Poor resistance to infection
  • Asthma
  • Chest infections

Most common problems involve:

  • Impaired suckling
  • Impaired swallowing
  • Irritability of the stomach and colon
  • Frequent spitting up, or vomiting
  • Colic
  • Sleeplessness
  • Learning disability
  • Behavioral problems
  • Mechanical problems, such as scoliosis

It is also possible to sustain injuries after birth through falls, accidents, surgeries, dental work, orthodontics and daily postural stresses and strains. Infections and illness may also create strains within the body, which frequently need to be addressed to halt the cycle of recurrent infection.

Osteopathy is effective in relieving stresses in the body tissue by removing the tension in said tissues, that may be causing discomfort.


Colic is a common condition in babies; one common cause of colic is trauma, during birth, to the occipital area (the back of the head). The occipital bone is composed of four parts at birth, and nerves that pass between these parts may be compressed from the forces of labor on the head. In addition, there are also other important nerves and veins that travel between these parts and the adjacent area (temporal bones). With the compression of the occipital area and the possible changes in shape, and relationship of the parts of the head, pressure may be placed on these structures, altering the way in which they work, causing further symptoms. Remember structures and functions are intercalated.

With an understanding of normal anatomy and the application of a trained sense of touch, the osteopath can identify and treat the distortions in these children. This can immensely influence the first months of life for both parents and child. In general, there are also long term benefits, as the compressions may impair other functions later in life.

Osteopathic treatment involves the support of the neuro-musculo-skeletal system. The treatment involves applying the proper forces at the proper time in the correct area, allowing the body to monitor and self correct.

Osteopathy addresses the entire body. Stresses are eased throughout the entire connective tissue, from head to toe. The rib cage is allowed to expand fully, and the nervous system can properly carry on its functions. As a result, the body is more efficient, the general level of well being increases, and children usually feel better and function better in the World.