Baby & Toddler


The birth process

During birth, the baby is subjected to enormous forces as he or she twists and turns to squeeze through the mother’s relatively narrow bony pelvis . To make this easier, the baby’s head is designed to adapt and reduce in size by bending and overlapping of the sofy bones of the skull. This is called moulding, and it is why many babies are born with oddly shaped heads.

In the first few days after birth, the head naturally loses much of the extreme moulded shape, aided by suckling, crying and yawning. But this unmoulding process may sometimes be incomplete, especially if the birth has been difficult, and can leave the baby with uncomfortable stresses in the head and/or body. This may cause a variety of problems both in the young baby and later on as the child grows.

A baby who is uncomfortable or in pain will be

  • Crying a lot
  • Being unhappy or irritable for long periods
  • Have difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Showing signs of digestive discomfort
  • Preferring to feed on one side
  • Only be able to settle when held in arms
  • Sleeps on one side easier than others
  • Uncomfortable in car seat
  • (this list is to give you an idea, its not definitive!)



In a research study conducted by Clive Hayden into the effects of cranial osteopathy treatment on babies, some parents saw the following changes in their children’s behaviour

  • Reduced colicky crying
  • Improved sleep
  • Less unsettled, irritable behaviour
  • Increased quiet, happy spells.

Development in the first years

If a child is delayed in reaching the normal developmental milestones, then that child may not be achieving its full potential. Some of these milestones are:

  • 4-5 months, starts to roll over
  • 5+ months, first teeth (highly variable)
  • 6-7 months, sit largely  unsupported
  • 8+ months, starts to crawl
  • 12-15 months, starts to walk unaided
  • 12-18 months, pre-speech gabbling, followed by simple and single word pronunciation
  • 2+ years, severalwords are put together
  • 2 years 3 months+, simple sentences.

Osteopaths are trained to assess the physical state of infants and children to determine if there are  physical reasons for any delay in reaching a developmental milestone. For example, stiffness in the spine and pelvis can make it difficult for a baby to learn to crawl.

Osteopaths are knowledgeable and responsible professionals who will refer children to other health professionals when necessary.


Before a child has learnt to express itself verbally, it has to find other means of communicating. Sometimes a child may be awkward, uncooperative or just plain difficult, especially when tired. If a child has physical imbalances and tensions, then difficult behaviour may be their way of expressing their discomfort. When these tensions are released they often become much happier and more relaxed.

Occasionally a child’s behaviour can alter after sustaining a fall, a common occurrence when the child is toddling and learning to walk.

Osteopaths are trained to be able to assess the physical state of infants and children to determine if there are any physical reasons for their difficult behaviour.

The osteopathic assessment

An osteopath is interested in every aspect of the health of the child, and will begin the consultation by taking a detailed case history. This can include questions about the pregnancy and labour as well as information about accidents, infections and development.

This is followed by a comprehensive physical assessment, which may include testing out all the joints in the body for their ranges of movement. It may also include testing certain neurological reflexes, as well as often quietly feeling the body tissues for distortion or altered tensions in any part of their body.


Osteopaths are trained to diagnose and release strains and tensions even in the youngest of babies. In assessing a newborn baby the osteopath checks for asymmetry or tension  in the pelvis, spine and head, and ensures that a good breathing pattern has been established.

Osteopathic treatment of babies and children is very gentle and they often happily play with  toys or interact with a carer during treatment.

After Treatment

The most common response is for children to feel tired and sleepy for a few hours after treatment. Some children may become very energetic for a few hours.

Occasionally a child may appear to be unsettled for about 48 hours followed by a general improvement. If a child is unhappy for longer than 48 hours then it is advisable to contact your osteopath.