Help for mothers and babies with feeding problems; and how this can lead to children and adults with digestive problems

Carolyn McGregor BSc (Ost.)., BA Div (Hons)., Licentiate of Homeopathy.,MARH.,

Registered Osteopath Registered Homoeopath,

Petersfield Osteopathy, Registered Osteopaths,

1a Spain Buildings, 28 The Spain, Petersfield, Hants, GU32 3LA

M: 07766330489 E:

This information page seeks to provide:

  • Help for mothers and babies with feeding problems
  • Help for children and adults with digestive problems

Help for mothers and babies with feeding problems:

Breast feeding

It is difficult to learn a new skill when you are exhausted and/or are in pain, especially if the skill does not come naturally to you. For many mothers learning to breast feed, this is the case and conflicting advice makes it even harder.

The role of a breast feeding counsellor

Breast feeding counsellors give women a lot of emotional and practical support and encouragement to continue feeding with particular emphasis on helping the mother to get her baby to latch on to the breast effectively through good positioning. Good latching on techniques requires the mother to draw her baby to the breast when his/her mouth is fully open and the tongue is down to allow as much of the nipple and surrounding brown area (the areola) into the baby’s mouth as possible. This helps the baby to develop and maintain the suction necessary for a good feed. Good latching on also prevents nipple damage.

A good feed is a complete meal in which the baby receives the fore and hind milk on one breast (dinner) and then the fore milk (dessert) from the other. However, if the baby keeps coming off the breast, he/she may miss out on the hind milk (a main source of calories) and may gain weight rather slowly or even lose weight. Loss of hind milk and/or air swallowing from falling off the breast may lead to colic, especially if the baby becomes fractious due to hunger.

The specialist role of the cranial Osteopath

Cranial Osteopaths can complement the work of the breast feeding counsellor by giving appropriate advice, treatment and support. Primarily by helping the mother and her baby gain maximum benefit and enjoyment from breast feeding and where breast feeding has become too traumatic, enabling the transition to bottle feeding easier for mum and baby alike.

The earlier Osteopathic treatment begins the better, especially if there are very obvious problems. The special role of the cranial Osteopath is to support both the mother and her baby. The cranial Osteopath will also gently treat the biomechanical strains that may persist in the body of mother and child after labour, thereby helping the mother achieve greater comfort through better positioning, while assisting the baby to latch on to the breast and feed more effectively.

Post natal recovery

Osteopathic help and advice for new mothers

Assisting the mother towards full recovery by helping to relieve some of the pain, discomfort, tension and fatigue associated with pregnancy and childbirth and by helping her body to adjust to the new demands of motherhood.

Breast feeding

Advice for the new mother on the ergonomic factors (factors involving the efficient use of the body’s energy) in breast feeding: in particular the best positions uniquely suited to each mother and child in breast feeding and optimal back care. The aim is to help the mother to sit and bear the weight of her baby in a more comfortable, relaxed way. When mother and baby are more relaxed, latching on becomes easier.

Common ailments for which Osteopathy can be helpful

Back pain from pregnancy or birth, prolonged postural stresses or weight bearing strains ie., feeding, carrying the baby over a shoulder or sling or simply from carrying a car seat for long periods of time.

Shoulder or neck pain due to prolonged or ineffectual pushing during labour or from carrying the baby.

Pelvic pain following a long second stage of labour; tears to the perineal tissues during labour; episiotomy, or an infection.

Chronic fatigue and discomfort due to the demands of early motherhood.

Disturbed sleep patterns with the arrival of a new baby or simply having difficulty ‘switching off’ to be able to sleep soundly.

Helping the baby feed more effectively

From their work with mothers and babies with feeding difficulties, Osteopaths have found that cranial Osteopathy can calm down a baby’s tense, irritated nervous system (particularly after a difficult birth) and help to improve the babies ability to feed more effectively.

Although the cranial Osteopath is not solely interested in the baby’s head, particular attention is given to it as the largest and most important part of the baby, containing as it does the developing brain and much of the nervous system.

The Osteopath will also be interested in seeing the baby’s head, neck, jaw, throat and tongue are all fully functioning optimally, thereby enabling the baby to latch on to and maintain a good suckling force on the breast.

Cranial Osteopathic treatment may also be used to help treat digestive disturbances such as infant colic, gastric reflux, and respiratory ailments affecting the nose, sinuses, chest and diaphragm.

Helping the tense, irritable baby to relax

A baby like its mother, will find breast feeding more difficult to achieve if it is unable to relax. Settling an upset and hungry baby on to the nipple between cries requires a good deal of co-ordination on the part of the mother. This becomes harder and harder as the baby becomes more and more desperate for a feed and the mother becomes more tired, sore and frustrated.

A tense baby is likely to feel stiff. To the trained eye, the head and face may appear ‘tight’ due to ‘moulding’ which may occur as a result of pressure on the baby’s head, either inside the uterus or during labour. This can upset the sensitive nerves and joints, resulting in a tense and irritable baby.

Moulding in utero may be due to the mother having a slight deviation in her pelvis or lower back, a fibroid, or other obstruction in the pelvic region. This may affect the position of the baby in the womb and the way in which the placenta develops. Carrying very high or low, or a long period of head engagement prior to birth can increase the chances of moulding.

Moulding during labour may occur as a result of a long second stage, forceps intervention, ventouse or emergency caesarean section.

Prematurity or a period on I.T.U/SCBU (Intensive care unit/Special Care Baby Unit) can also cause moulding, due to intubation, which can create tension in the neck or moulding to the facial bones.

Gentle cranial Osteopathic treatment may help the baby relax, reduce moulding and problems associated with it, as the child gets older.

Other professional help and support for breast feeding can be obtained from midwives and health visitors, The National Childbirth Trust, Breast feeding counsellors and the Le Leche League.

Common problems that effect feeding that may be helped by the specialist cranial Osteopath:

The baby who finds it difficult to turn his head to both sides resulting in feeding difficulties on one or both breasts:

Neck problems among babies and children are commonly found especially after forceps or ventouse assisted deliveries where assistance is required after mal presentation of the baby’s head into the birth canal and where ventouse or forceps application may be been incorrectly applied and where abnormal forces have been placed on the babies head and neck upsetting alignment of joints and overlapping sutures.

Where the umbilical cord has been wrapped around the neck, even loosely, often upsets the neck and also can cause colic where the cord tugged on the infants tummy before it was delivered. Cranial Osteopathic treatment can help improve the flexibility of the neck and related structures, enabling the baby to turn his head more comfortably from side to side more efficiently at the breast.

The baby who cannot open his mouth wide enough to get a proper latch:

The baby needs to be able to open its mouth wide enough to take in most of the brown area of the nipple (the aereola). Some babies find this difficult, especially if they were an occiput posterior presentation or a face presentation at birth, as the jaw can get pushed backwards, making it more difficult to open the mouth. Sometimes the baby will suck on the end of the nipple making it sore and cracked or the baby will repeatedly come off the breast, making a complete feed more difficult.

Gentle Osteopathic treatment to relax the jaw, neck and throat mechanics and encourage movement and flexibility of the tongue can help the baby open its mouth to get a better latch on to the breast.

The baby whose jaw deviates slightly to one side when opening his mouth or the baby whose tongue suckling force is not symmetrical:

This can occur during any uncomplicated delivery, particularly if fast; and more especially can occur if the baby does not present in the optimal position and further rotation movements are required by the baby to engage its head into a more optimal position for delivery; or where instrumental assistance is required, either by forceps or ventouse (suction cup). Here, the obstetrician may be required to encourage the rotation of the baby’s head, or shoulders and torso through assistance of applied ventouse or forceps. This can generate further strains within the cranial mechanism and body; and oftern an Osteopath may see a deviation of the lower jaw (mandible) as a result.

Cranial Osteopathic treatment seeks to resolve the soft tissue and articulatory strains within the head, face, neck, shoulders and torso and indeed elsewhere within the body. Deviation of the lower jaw can create difficulty with both latching, suckling and swallowing. As these inter-linked actions are controlled by complex muscular movements of the jaw, throat and neck muscles; even a small degree of asymmetry in the balance of the muscles which suspend the lower jaw, or the head on the neck, also creates the potential for an imbalance in the opening and closing of the mouth itself. Tongue imbalances or weakness can be an important consideration here and can occur independently or also be associated with deviation strains of the jaw.

A Cranial Osteopaths hands seek to find and resolve any subtle strains or restrictions which if remain unresolved can impede latching, suckling, swallowing processes which quickly impact upon digestive comfort and function.

Help for Children and Adults with digestive problems:

As an experience for yourself as an adult, observe your mouth opening and closing several times in front of a mirror. If you feel comfortable to do so, gently place your fingertips over the jaw joints just in front of the ear on both sides of the face. Repeat the action of gently and slowly repeatedly opening and closing your mouth. Sometimes it is easier to sense the movements of the jaw through your hands when your eyes are closed. But do just as you feel comfortable to do so.

It is an interesting fact that older child and adult presentations of deviation of the lower jaw and imbalances of the tongue were often set up in the functional anatomy of the face during pregnancy (with foetal thumb sucking or non-optimal foetal positioning) or during delivery, whether fast, instrumental or complex in some other way.

It is often the case, that a Cranial Osteopath will be resolving imbalances in the face, head, neck, throat and shoulders of their adult patients which were actually set up during foetal life or during birth. This is especially important to consider where an infant, child or adult presents with a chronic underlying digestive disturbance, such as persistent disruption to the digestive processes where there is wind, pain, distention or sluggishness of bowel. Often indicated here, is disturbance to the motility of the gut muscles which form the tube of the intestines or the inner lining membranes of the gut responsible for peristalsis action of squeezing and wriggling the foodstuffs through the gut.

When either the muscular coatings of the tube of the stomach, the intestines or their nerves and blood vessels supplying the digestive system are out of balance; this can lead to patches of intestinal dysfunction and dysregulation; which in turn can lead to pain, bloating, wind, and altered bowel habits. All of these things are considered, assessed and treated by the Osteopath in our patients of all ages.

There are a variety of wonderful Osteopathic techniques which may be gently utilised effectively to re-balance the activity and regulation of the digestive system.

The Osteopath may employ a variety of effective Osteopathic techniques for digestive well-being; from Cranial Osteopathic techniques; Visceral (specific techniques for the organs) Osteopathy; Functional Osteopathic techniques and manipulations of the spine to effect positive rebalancing of the nerve and blood supply to the digestive tract.  All will be gently explored with you and explained fully to you by your Osteopath, who will work with you to formulate a treatment plan, gain your consent for Osteopathic treatment to take place and work with you for your comfort and well-being throughout your Osteopathic treatment or course of treatment.

For further information, enquiries and appointment bookings, please contact:

Carolyn McGregor BSc (Ost.)., BA Div (Hons)., MARH.,

Registered Osteopath Registered Homoeopath

M: 07766330489 E:

Practice Address: The Trinity Centre, 25 Chywoone Hill, Newlyn, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 5AR;

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Practice Address: Cowdray Therapy Rooms, Parkway, Easebourne, Midhurst, West Sussex, GU29 0AW;

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Practice Address: Petersfield Osteopathy, Registered Osteopaths, Suite 1a, Spain Buildings, 28 The Spain, Petersfield, Hants, GU32 3LA;

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Registered with the General Osteopathic Council, Osteopathy House, 176 Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 3YY. Tel: 0207 357 6655

Registered with the Alliance of Registered Homeopaths, Mill Brook, Mill Brook Hill, Nutley, East Sussex, TN22 3PJ. 01825 714506