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How an osteopath can help your baby sleep

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

In this week's blog, I wanted to focus on the benefits of osteopathy and child sleep and shed a little bit of light on this fantastic treatment.

As a sleep consultant, I don't work with babies who are under 5 months old. The main reason for this is that at around 4 months, babies pass through a biological change where they start sleeping in cycles. I feel that this change needs to occur before I can really help families however, there are other resources that can make a huge difference to the way your little one sleeps, which can be accessed from birth. Osteopathy is one of them.


My little boy’s delivery was far from what I imagined and planned as a first-time mum. I was induced and ended up in theatres having an assisted forceps delivery. Although he was healthy when he was born, the process of being tugged from the birth canal did affect his posture and he also had a noticeable ‘step’ on his forehead where he had been pressing on my pelvis during a long labour.


I took him to the Stockbridge Osteopathic Practice when he was around 2 weeks old to see how the team could help. The results were amazing and, in some cases, instant. The step / raised joint line on his head was gone after just one treatment and I found that my little boy would sleep better and be noticeably more comfortable after each treatment.


I reached out to practice principal, business owner and director Emma Wightman for this blog as I wanted to make sure I was doing this incredible treatment justice.


Emma trained at the British School of Osteopathy and is a member of the Institute of Osteopathy. She graduated in 1997 and since then she has worked in practices in London and Winchester, and in 2005 set up her own practice in Stockbridge. She has an interest in women’s health, sport and fitness, pregnancy-related conditions, and the treatment of babies and children.



When people think about going to see an osteopath, they think of being clicked and manipulated into different positions, but this isn’t the case in babies. Emma, can you please explain how you treat babies and how gentle the treatment is?


Cranial Osteopathy treats the very subtle motion of the cranial rhythm. Being such a subtle movement, it only needs very light pressure and touch to assess it and to create a change during treatment.


You can see Emma working her magic in the below video.


 

When/why would you suggest that a parent brings their child to have a treatment?


We see many babies in the clinic soon after being born, especially those that have had a difficult birth, such as a particularly long or short birth, or needed assistance in some way, such as forceps, ventose or caesarean. These babies can often demonstrate their discomfort with long periods of crying, difficulty settling without the help of lots of rocking or sucking, light sleep and frequent waking, and feeding, reflux or digestive issues. Parents will also bring their baby in if they have noticed some asymmetry in the body, perhaps in how they are lying or moving, which can often lead to flat head syndrome or spinal tension patterns.


We see babies and children of all ages, and it’s never too early or too late to bring your child in!


How can osteopathy help babies/toddlers with sleep?


Osteopathy would seek to find the underlying cause of the sleep disturbance, such as stresses or strains in the head, spine or rest of the body, discomfort in the organs or tension in the central nervous system. It then helps relieve the strain pattern with gentle treatment to enable a baby to feel calm, relaxed and comfortable enough to fall and stay asleep.


How often should parents take their children to see an osteopath after they have completed their initial treatment?


Depending on the severity of the symptoms and level of strain in the body, treatment courses can take on average 6 to 10 sessions to resolve the issue. Sometimes parents like to bring their child back for top-up or maintenance sessions after the initial treatment program for proactive care and in case other external stressors arise, such as a new school, a big growth spurt, developmental change or infections.


Is there anything a parent can do at home to aid the treatment process?


I am always very keen to support families in doing as much as they can at home. So I often teach specific winding or rocking techniques that can help soothe away stress, calm the central nervous system, or in the case of strains in the spine or flat head syndrome, I give gentle exercises and repositioning advice.


And finally, I know that you also have a keen interest in woman’s health and pregnancy-related conditions. Can you also tell us what treatments are available to new mums and how you can support mums who want to come in and see you alongside their little one?


We treat mums throughout their pregnancy for all the aches and pains that can come alongside the increasing demands on the changing body, and also offer mother and baby check-ups after birth.


As a women’s health specialist, my passion is helping women of all ages and stages be as active, fit and healthy as possible, postnatally and into the pre and post-menopausal years. This can involve helping women rehab their pelvic floor, strengthening the core, low back, hips and pelvis, and working with breath and alignment for restoring optimal movement patterns for daily living or their favourite sport.


I have also developed the 6-week Womo Women’s Health course, designed specifically to help women learn about pelvic floor health, breath, alignment, nutrition and hormones. It includes education and exercise classes creating a complete learning experience for both short and long-term health improvements.


We love to chat, so if you have any worries or questions please do get in touch via social media, website, email or phone call!

Emma Wightman


I hope you found this blog helpful and enjoyed learning about another resource that you can access from birth. If you are still looking for further support around sleep, please do reach out and book a free 15-minute consultation with me, the Well Rested Sleep Coach.

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