The Colic Diaries: Cranial Osteopathy


As anyone who's experienced colic will testify, it drives you to previously unthought-of measures. And in my case, when I started reading forums (I know, tsk) full of mums swearing by something called cranial osteopathy, I decided it was worth a try. Despite my huge scepticism of alternative therapy.

I wish I could explain cranial osteopathy to you, but I still don't fully understand it. It's basically something to do with the way the membranes in your head are aligned (I think! please correct me if I'm wrong!). Apparently when you are born, these get all squashed up and out of place depending on how the labour went, and so lots of babies have issues with their digestion thanks to the membranes compressing the vagus nerve, which has something to do with your stomach. Apologies if this makes no sense at all, but I didn't even do GCSE Biology so I really am out of my comfort zone here. Anyway. Cranial osteopaths work by manipulating a baby's head in order to release these membranes and correct some of the alignment that is out of place thanks to the often-traumatic way a baby is born.

I had a super long labour, as anyone who's had the time and patience to read Daphne's birth story will know. I was actively pushing for nearly three hours, which is definitely over the recommended limit, and I was about ten minutes away from having to have ventouse used on me. So Daphne was certainly stuck in one position for a long time and therefore came out a bit squashed and wonky - something the osteopaths say they can fix.

Anyway, like a proper journalist I did my research, and eventually booked an appointment with an osteopath who works really near me, but also volunteers at The Osteopathic Centre for Children. I wanted someone who specialised in babies, and I found some good reviews for him online. If you want his name, just drop me an email and I'll give it to you - I don't really want to name him on here as I'm not really confident I know enough to 'review' him.

The first appointment was an hour, and the first twenty minutes were spent with me just telling him all about my pregnancy and labour, as well as Daphne's symptoms. The most interesting thing was that when we lay Daphne on the treatment bed, she did her usual jerky twitchy thing, and he asked me if she was always like that when she was lying down. And basically she is - unless she's asleep. I thought all babies jerked their arms and legs back and forth while they were prostrate, but apparently not. He asked me if I'd been stressed during my pregnancy, and I nearly fell off my chair. Suffice to say the latter stages of my pregnancy were some of the most stressful months of my life. He told me that my high cortisol levels during the third trimester had likely made Daphne a very 'wired' baby, whose autonomic response was set to 'Fight', making her ultra-sensitive to stimulation and stress. This was really upsetting, but also very interesting and did ring true.

He also asked if she tended to lean her head in one direction a lot, which she did, and he confirmed the direction without me telling him. He said he could see a few issues with her alignment - mostly that she tended to look to the left, and also that her head was compressed into her shoulders a bit - all related to the way she was born. He said that this is what he could fix with his treatment.

Interestingly, he told me he could NOT fix her colic. He said osteopathy does not treat colic and that it is simply something she would grow out of at around three months, as her brain matures. He asked about her poos, and I said there were often white seedy bits in them, which he said were undigested milk and could indicate a lactose intolerance, which certainly wouldn't help her colic symptoms. All this was very interesting as this has massively improved since we put her on Comfort milk, as I said in my previous post.

He said that the jerky twitchy thing would go away as she got older and realised how much she was loved by us, leading her to feel safer in the world, which made me have a bit of a weep!

As for the alignment issues, he did his treatment (which is the weirdest thing as it looked like he wasn't doing anything - he just sort of placed his fingers gently on various points of her head, neck and stomach) and said she'd probably need two more sessions. Then he sent us on our merry way. I felt a bit ripped off as we'd spent most of the appointment just talking, but we booked in for the following week anyway. Then we took her home. And she was like a new baby!

She slept all day and all evening, and didn't have any colicky symptoms at all that night. She was calm and seemed really... happy. And the next day, I could have sworn that her neck looked a bit longer - I battle daily with trying to remove neck cheese from her neck folds, and it was suddenly much easier to do as she had 'more' neck. I couldn't explain it, but she was definitely different somehow.

However, a few days later, her colic was back with a vengeance. We took her for her second treatment the next week and the same thing happened again - she was a joy after the treatment, then the effects wore off a bit after a day or two. But interestingly, at the second appointment, the osteopath said he didn't need to see her again (despite saying she'd need three sessions in total at the first session), making me less suspicious it was all quackery.

So, my verdict? It is definitely worth looking into cranial osteopathy in general for your baby, but not specifically as a cure for colic. I have a friend who's a paediatric nurse and she's just had a baby too (hello Alice!) and she took her little one to see an cranio specialist even though he wasn't having any specific issues. She's a diehard advocate of it AND a medical professional, so I really do trust her.

I do think there's something in it - and it makes sense that when babies come out of the womb they are all squished up and awkward, which must cause all kinds of little niggles and aches that we aren't privy too. In that instance, it makes sense then that as we grow, we 'grow into' our bodies and stretch out and these aches and pains gradually fade away. So I definitely recommend it if you're a fan of alternative therapy - one thing is for sure, it won't do any harm. And more than anything else, it's just lovely to talk to an expert about your baby for an hour or so! The osteopath was far more knowledgeable than any health visitor we've seen, that's for sure.

Read Part One of The Colic Diaries >

Read Part Two of The Colic Diaries >

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