“My baby is crying and irritable all the time but my GP says she’s fine.”
Some babies are just like this – that is, it’s a personality trait and not an illness. Irritability may be partly a need to get on, learn about the world and change it – a need to be stimulated. If your baby is gaining weight and basically well, think about the following:
Is she hungry? You need to eat and sleep to produce enough milk. You may need to supplement with formula milk, but some babies are intolerant to cow’s milk – perhaps try a two-week diet of goat’s baby-milk (Nannycare). Be patient when ‘winding’ her as some babies can take several minutes to burp. The more relaxed she is, the better. A very small percentage of women can’t seem to breastfeed, although many stop trying due to difficulty or lack of support. Contact a breastfeeding counselor or speak to us. Many babies swallow air because they’re not latching on to the nipple properly or are unable to produce a good suction. This can be due to impatience or a strain to the jaw, neck or skull during birth, or ‘tongue-tie’. Osteopathic treatment is the treatment of choice for such strains. Tongue-tie can be quickly and easily remedied by a paediatric surgeon. Is she hot or cold? Babies do not regulate their own temperatures well. Be aware that your baby will feel your emotional state and that of the people around you. Research shows that ‘colic’ is far commoner in families experiencing stress.
Was the birth very long, very short or difficult in any way? This can lead to two main types of problem. Learned anxiety in the baby, and/or strain to the baby’s body – usually the head or neck.
1. Learned anxiety means simply that the baby is still feeling the effects of its sudden start to life (just as adults can feel badly shaken up emotionally after a fall say). This anxiety can affect the body chemistry, especially the hormone system. These babies are often extremely touch-hungry, and ideally, they should not be put down until they want to be – Use a soft sling or simply carrying them around with you so they can feel you next to them. They should be breast-fed skin to skin when possible, and on demand. And it is fine for them to sleep in the same bed next to mum. In other words, they should be treated as if they were still actually part of mum’s body, until they themselves make it clear that this is no longer necessary. During the first three months of your baby’s life, bonding is largely through touch. Calmness of mum and other family members is very important. Osteopathic treatment can help relieve the tension in the baby’s body caused by learned anxiety.
2. Mechanical strain to the baby’s body during birth – usually the neck or the skull – can cause irritability, sleep problems, disturb the feeding or digestive process or disturb the breathing mechanics – not seriously, but just enough to make it a source of agitation. It can cause a generalised bodily discomfort, and can probably cause headache. It is for these kinds of problems that paediatric osteopathy may be very useful.