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Can A Cranial Osteopath Help My Baby Sleep?

Author: Lottie Manns

If you are looking for a YES here I’m afraid I can’t guarantee it, but I would whole heartedly say that it is worth a shot! I am also well aware that most newborns don’t sleep much. Sometimes the lack of sleep is so all consuming that you really don’t know how you will function another day without a gazillion gallons of coffee and copious chocolate biscuits. It’s just part of the newborn stage and one which we all know, and hope, will change. But there is still a point when you start to question if there is a reason that your little bundle of joy won’t let you get one tiny bit of shut eye.

When Alice was born I was prepared for the sleep deprivation. I’d gone through it once before, and survived. For that first month I cuddled her all day long and let her sleep when she wanted to. Trying to manage that with a 19 month old as well was tricky to say the least. I actually wouldn’t have minded Alice only having small naps but what proved to be incredibly tricky was that she would only sleep on me. I don’t mean just for quick naps, I mean ALL the time. The moment I put her down she woke up. In her car seat, her bouncer, her crib. Every night I slept sitting up. I am very aware of the dangers of letting your baby sleep like this and I tried everything to not do it. However, when you’re beyond exhausted and the only way your baby will sleep is on you, you let them. And it is so hard not to fall asleep yourself.

I kept thinking to myself ‘It will all change at 12 weeks’. It didn’t. By this point Alice was quite big and I had exhausted every tip going. I’d tried swaddling her, tried sleeping her on one of my tshirts, tried putting a ticking clock by her, sleeping on her tummy, different cots, essentials oils in her room. You name it. Nothing worked. By 12 weeks I was a complete zombie and tearing my hair out. Not only was I shattered, poor Molly was suffering as I couldn’t do anything with her.

That was when I tried a Cranial Osteopath. My midwife recommended I see one as she knew I was at my wit’s end. I read up a lot and also spoke to lots of friends who had taken their little ones. I began to understand a little bit about it, relieving pressure and so on. I also knew that there are certain situations where pressure can build on the baby’s head. For example, after a caesarean or a quick labour like mine. I must stress here that this is only my personal experience, not an expert opinion!

I was not expecting a miracle although was secretly hoping it would help! I wasn’t sure what I would do if it didn’t.

I got in contact with a local Cranial Osteopath who specialises in babies and they immediately put me at ease.

I went to the appointment full of hope. The session with my Cranial Osteopath lasted an hour and started with half an hour of questions. They asked all about my pregnancy, how I felt, babies movements and so on. They then asked about the labour and how it had been. Then finally I was asked how Alice was when she slept. I explained she was fine until I put her down when she would immediately jolt awake with a jerky movement and her eyes would shoot open. From this he was confident he would be able to help and spent the next 30 minutes working on Alice. I will admit I was a bit baffled by this part. He placed his hand on her head and tummy, gently applying pressure to various points. It was so subtle you couldn’t really see it. She was amazing and just lay still the whole way through. Apparently whatever it is they do puts babies at ease. By the end of the 30 minutes Alice was asleep. The recommendation was three sessions for babies so I booked my second for a week later.

He said Alice would probably now sleep for a few hours. She didn’t! Nope. Wide awake as soon as we got in the car! I felt deflated.

Over the next week I noticed that Alice wasn’t jerking awake as suddenly as she had been. She would also sleep for short periods in her bouncy chair. Only 5 or 10 minutes but believe me that was good.

Another 30 minute session and needless to say she was again awake as soon as we got in the car! This time there was a two week gap between appointments and over the next two weeks I began to lose my belief that this was the miracle cure I was looking for. For the first few days Alice was much better, sleeping up to 25 minutes in her big girl cot at nap times. Then it went downhill. We went back to only sleeping on me and I approached my final session with an underlying concern that this just wasn’t going to work.

The Cranial Osteopath said he didn’t know many 16 week olds who never slept on their own at all. This did not fill me with confidence. At the end of the 30 minute session I asked when I should make the next appointment and he told me not to. I honestly felt like crying as I thought that he had decided Alice was beyond help. My one little glimmer of hope had been dashed.

Back at home I was beginning to wonder how I would cope and what on earth I was going to do. The next day was the same as usual but the following day something changed. My mum was round and Alice had fallen asleep so she took her up to her cot. She lay her on her tummy (which we had tried before to no avail) and Alice slept for 3 hours. 3 whole hours of me being in complete disbelief. Maybe it was a fluke but she did exactly the same later that day. This pattern continued as the days went on and I couldn’t believe I had gone from a child who wouldn’t sleep to one who was a snooze machine! Night times were a bit more hit and miss for another month and she would often end up in our room. I found myself constantly checking on her to make sure she was ok, especially as I knew you shouldn’t really let them sleep on their tummy. I will admit I was concerned about her sleeping on her tummy but we quickly ordered an Angel Care baby monitor with the sensor mat and I felt much more relaxed. From that day one she was a dream baby (most of the time at least!) napping regularly and for long periods. It was like she was making up for lost time.

I still don’t know what made her change but I can only say that seeing a Cranial Osteopath worked for me and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

If any of you have visited a Cranial Osteopath or are considering it please do share below. Any other top tips for getting baby to sleep are welcome!

Image by Little Beanies.

{Contributors}
Author
Author: Lottie Manns
Cake baker (and cake eater!) extraordinaire. Drawn to all things girly and glittery.
Follow Lottie on instagram @buttercreamanddreams

24 thoughts on “Can A Cranial Osteopath Help My Baby Sleep?

  1. Fern was similar. It felt like those first three months, if I wasn’t holding her, she was screaming. I sensed there was something not quite right physically, she seemed in intense discomfort most of the time and went ballistic if she was paced on her back.

    Our GP recommend CO at about 8 weeks and at that stage like you I was prepared to give anything a go.

    Our sessions sound similar to yours, only Fern screamed and writhed throughout the entire thing. After the first session she had the longest nights sleep she’d ever had so while I’d found the process distressing I decided to return for the second session. This time it was even worse. She was screaming so hard she turned purple. I couldn’t bear to watch her suffering so we ended the session early and as we were booking the next one I was thinking ‘er… I don’t think so’ and when I got home I asked my husband to call and make an excuse to cancel. Her sleep continued to be erratic.

    With hindsight I now think that first good sleep was as a result of such an exhausting unusual experience. If anyone asks me if I recommend CO I say I’m not sure it was the right thing for us but I would never tell anyone not to try something that could offer some hope at such an intensely difficult time.

    My husband is a bit less open minded about it, he did a lot of research at the time and concluded there is no basis in science and was considering complaining about the GPs referral. We never went down that route though!

    What helped me most was not trying to fix my baby but just reframing my own response. Once I resigned myself to the fact that even at several months some babies just want to be held ALL THE TIME and it would eventually get better, over time things did improve. I read a lot about the “Caché and carry” theory of mammalian evolution which helped mine and my husbands scientific mindsets to come to terms with this unfathomable tiny human in our care… Now at 10 months chance’d be a fine thing if we get so much as a snuggle let alone a sleep on us, she’s such a wriggly fidget! I kind of wish I’d not sweated it so much.

    All babies are different and I won’t proclaim it’s all snake oil and to avoid throwing money away on CO (as my husband would!) as all babies are different and I only have my own experience to draw on. Plus it must be a million times harder when there is another small child to care for – that first 3 months I felt sick at the thought of going through all that again a second time only with a toddler in the mix too… But I was keen to offer an alternative perspective!!

    To anyone going through the same and looking for suggestions, I can thoroughly recommend the Snuzpod and cocoonababy mattress though for velcrobabies – makes the cot transition much easier. And SwaddleUp sleep swaddles are amazing too. I basically threw money at products and chosen well, they really helped!!

    1. Hi Phillippa. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and definitely good to hear another opinion. That does sound very stressful and I don’t think I would have carried on if Alice had been reacting the same way during her sessions. Nothing is worth that (even sleep!). It was certainly only after the third session that she improved and I’ve still got no idea whether it was coincidence or not!!! I’ve had friends who haven’t found it successful or were told not to go by my CO as they were told that it was just normal baby behaviour. I will admit that made me more confident with the CO we saw as I knew they were quite truthful. This Cache and Carry sounds really interesting and I too had a Snuzpod so know what a fabulous product they are. It’s so hard to understand these tiny humans isn’t it? Hope your little one gives you a snuggle soon! xxx

  2. Yes that’s exactly it, there’s no way of knowing what it is that finally causes the improvement but when I think back to those dark days I know I’d have tried anything so definitely worth considering.

    What DOES help is broad-reaching sites like this opening the dialogue about how debilitating and distressing the early months can be and how sleep deprivation and clingy babies can go on for months. Everyone jokes about the cliche sleep deprived new parents but the joke wares a bit thin by month 3,4,5. Especially when you’re lead to believe that everyone else baby is a content little champion sleeper. You think there must be something wrong with you/YOUR baby. But the more we all start talking about the reality of the early months, the more people with unsettled babies will feel they’re not alone…. So thank goodness for RMF!!

    1. We are definitely in this together! Everyone’s baby is different and as you said it is nothing you are doing wrong, you just have to do what works for you and your little one. It’s so great that everyone can share their experiences to show how different things have worked. Believe me I think I tried every trick going. My mum was even mixing up essential oils to diffuse in her room that were meant to evoke sleep! We are definitely trying to show the reality of parenting (without scaring everyone off!!) xx

  3. My baby was/ is a very clingy baby who cried whenever I put him down. In those first few weeks I was snatching sleep whilst he was in my arms, but I hadn’t even managed to recover from my labour because I was getting so little sleep. In the end we bought a cocoonababy. Best purchase ever. He started sleeping in between feeds and eventually moved into it for naps as well. He was diagnosed with reflux at around 6 weeks and this got much worse at around 8 weeks and we are now on medication for this. The reflux was causing him pain when lying down (although the shape of the cocoon helps) and because he was so sick in the day he wasn’t able to sleep for longer periods at night because he wasn’t full. So I have learnt to stop beating myself up about hoe long a 3 month old ‘should’ be able to sleep for, because every baby is different, they’re tiny little dependent humans and there could be an underlying issue- as there was/is with Noah.

    1. Anna, you are so right that there is no definite answer to how long they should sleep for. Reflux is one of the worst and makes them so unsettled. Hope he is starting to feel better now the medication is kicking in. xx

  4. Lottie I’ve found this so interesting to read. Mabel was one of those babies who for the first 6 months pretty much slept anywhere. That wasn’t to say she didn’t wake up several times in the night – she did, sometimes 5 or 6 times! so we were still sleep deprived most weeks. But I guess you take it for granted that actually, putting her down for naps that could be for 2 hours at a time, meant I could do the washing, exercise, even return to work part time after 8 weeks….I really don’t know how I would have coped if that hadn’t been the case.

    Everything changed when Mabel was a little older however – some nights she still refuses point blank to return to her cot and will only sleep in our bed and she is 19 months. Last night it was 2am then 4am……in the end she just slept in-between the two of us until she decided to get up this morning at a rather lazy 7.15am (!) – we had to get her up so she was ready for nursery!

    I think anything is worth a go, certainly if it has been successful for others. And I absolutely agree with Philippa, sometimes whatever you are going through is made easier by simply being able to talk about it to others going through similar experiences.

    1. I’m never actually sure whether it is harder to have a baby who never sleeps or one who did and then stops when they get older! I find it so hard now when I have interrupted sleep. Worse than when they are tiny as your body just isn’t used to it. I did have a friend who took her toddler to see a Cranial Osteopath for this reason, might be worth a go! xx

  5. My daughter was as you described, super clingy and awake as soon as she was put down. She also had really bad wind. We tried cranial osteopathy, had three sessions. It mad a dramatic difference to her wind problems, after the second session she was suddenly a dream to wind however it unfortunately made no difference at all to her sleep, she just wanted to be with me all the time. We ended up cosleeping until 7 months which I always said I’d never do but it saved my sanity and now I look back on all those cuddles fondly. She then went into a cot in her own room but it wasn’t until close to 15 months that she began sleeping through the night and naps can still be a battle. Having a baby/toddler who doesn’t sleep can be incredibly lonely when everyone you know has little ones who sleep though so it’s really good to see a post like this. People try to be sympathetic asking how the nights are but as time goes on, for me at least, it started to feel like I was being judged and that they assumed I must be doing something wrong when the reality is some babies sleep well and some babies really don’t! Looking back acceptance was the turning point for me, once I came to terms with the fact my daughter didn’t sleep well and just did whatever it took to get enough sleep rather than desperately trying to follow the guidelines motherhood became a lot easier, I still don’t know how I’d cope if number 2 was as bad though, must have been so much tougher with a toddler as well!

    1. You do just have to do what works for you. You might know the dangers of co-sleeping but unfortunately you do what works and there is no way you can function on zero sleep. It is nothing you are doing wrong, sometimes it’s just the baby. After all why wouldn’t they want to be with their mum? If it makes you feel better my friends little boy slept in their bed until he was 3 and a half. He never even went in a cot. She has two others and did nothing different with the third so no rhyme or reason to it. I think you ended up with a great approach to it in terms of doing it your way xx

  6. Finlay suffered from awful colic and reflux when he was a newborn and after researching a number of options online we decided to give CO a try when he was around 8 weeks.
    Finlay was a typical candidate for the treatment from what I had researched… He was almost two weeks overdue, a very long baby and I had been contracting for almost two days but did not dilate (resulting in an emergency CS). Apparently the pressure of being cramped up in the womb can sometimes have an effect on all other areas too, including causing problems like colic and trapped wind. He would also only turn his head in one direction, again something probably caused by being in that position in the womb.
    We had one session with the CO and it honestly did wonders. The amount of gas that finlay passed in that one session was incredible, poor little guy must have been in so much pain. He also managed to help relieve the tension in his stiff neck, and with a bit of continued Physio the head turning problems were resolved.
    I too was sceptical, it is quite an expense, and watching them work you wonder how such small movements can really be doing anything, but I do think it really helped us and would definitely recommend!

    1. So glad to hear it worked for you. I’ve definitely heard that it works wonders for windy babies. As you said they seem to say it can have a positive effect on babies that had traumatic births of some form. I definitely didn’t mind spending the money in the end as in the grand scheme of baby related stuff it really wasn’t that much! xx

  7. My first birth was very long, but then Herbie became distressed so they ended up using ventouse to get him out quickly. He would sleep while being held, in the buggy or car, but didn’t seem happy in his Moses basket. Friends recommended CO. Both my husband and I see an osteopath from time to time, but our osteopath was booked and I was desperate to see someone and ended up going to see someone else. I wasn’t impressed with her and it made no difference. But then I got an appointment with our osteopath and he was brilliant. He asked lots of questions about the pregnancy and birth. How Herbie slept and then picked him up. Our osteopath has very big hands and I was worried he’d hurt Herbie, but you couldn’t even tell he was doing anything as it was such gentile movements. He could feel compression on one side of Herbie’s neck and he said this could be because when a doctor uses ventouse they often are slightly stronger with their dominant hand. This is the reason he felt Herbie didn’t seem to be comfortable lying down. In total we saw him 3 times. I think with anything like this it’s about finding the right person and it may not work with all babies. I think because I’ve used osteopaths I wanted to try a CO, but I had lots of people telling me it was a waste of money. In our experience it made a difference very quickly. When we had Poppy I took her just for my peace of mind to make sure everything was aligned correctly. We have recommended our osteopath to two different sets of friends one who’d had a c section and another who’s baby had reflux and they were both impressed. It’s like anything some people will think it helps and others aren’t so sure.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience Ros. I completely agree it is to do with using someone you feel comfortable and happy with. I was lucky our Osteopath was recommended to me otherwise I think I would have been very dubious and not gone back. Pleased to hear it worked for Herbie and I have to admit I was tempted to book myself a session after taking Alice!! x

  8. This is really interesting! My baby would only sleep on me for months too, she literally didn’t nap in her cot at all until she was 6 months. She would sleep for a few minutes in her bouncer but that was it, she never slept in the car. At the time I felt like I was doing something wrong but in the end I just accepted the situation and enjoyed the cuddles! She’s my first though so I didn’t have a toddler to look after too – I do worry what I’ll do if my next baby is the same! Get a good sling I think!! I did the sleeping sitting up at night too, eventually we just let her sleep in our bed and all got good sleep that way so found it worked for us. She’s 16 months now and naps absolutely fine in her cot and goes down fine in her cot at bedtime but always ends up in our bed at some point through the night because she wakes and just won’t go back down in her cot! To be honest though we don’t mind and enjoy the snuggles with her, it won’t be forever. I would definitely try a CO if my next baby is similar though in case they are in any discomfort! I can also recommend seeing a children’s chiropractor, I took my daughter to one at 7 months (because she had hip dysplasia) and the chiropractor found a lot of tension in her neck!
    It is hard when everyone else’s baby seems to be an amazing sleeper and goes down happily in their cot and puts themselves to sleep… I still have to cuddle my little girl to sleep now and I went through months of feeling like a failure because I hadn’t ‘taught her to fall asleep on her own’ but I’ve given up caring now. I’m happy cuddling her to sleep so I’ll do it as long as she needs me to! We get too caught up in ‘the rules’ I think! They are individuals not machines!

    1. I would do anything for cuddles with the girls now. I will admit I missed them so much as soon as Alice started sleeping. As you said, you do what works for you. I think you have done well to find the way that suits all of you. No two babies are the same and no one is a failure. There is far too much pressure for your baby to be doing certain things. I think if I hadn’t had Molly as well I would have left it longer to see if she settled but it just wasn’t fair on Molly as I had no time for her. I did try carrying Alice in a sling but she wasn’t a use fan. Little monkey!! xx

  9. To all my friends Leo is pretty much known as ‘He who does not sleep’. He has never been a good sleeper, even until this day at almost 2 and a half – he woke twice last night. Cue matchsticks in eyes.

    Anyway, my niece had a terrible time getting to sleep and could only sleep with her head to one side when she did finally sleep. Because of her troubles it was advised she went to see a cranial osteopath. Sure enough there was some sort of massive tension along the one side of her skull and one session and she was healed. Literally slept like a baby ever since. So, based on this and with all the hope in my heart we took a trip to see a cranial osteopath. Leo was about 5 months old and had not slept through one night. I think we’d managed one 5 hour stint by this point with very little napping in the day too. I was at my whits end.

    She was lovely and as you’ve said he was so settled during the whole thing and he slept relatively well that night. We, like you went back for a further visit. Sadly, there was no difference at all. She said that she could feel some pressure but nothing that she would say wasn’t ‘normal’. And so we were advised not to go back.

    So long story short, I think some kids are just not sleepers. Leo is beyond inquisitive and I think he has a very over active mind. And so now I just try soothing techniques. I must’ve tried everything in the book. But we still have disturbed nights but I’m used to it now. And actually sometimes I relish in those very early morning face strokes to try and soothe him back off because there will come a point when he’s out partying at that hour and I’m worried sick so I’ve tried to embrace it rather than let it kill me.

    1. Oh Becky, I feel your pain! Still not sleeping through. You are a machine! As you said though, some kids just don’t sleep and there is no reason for it. I will say that my experience of Cranial Osteopaths is that they are very truthful and will tell people when it’s just normal behaviour as though frustrating you know they aren’t pretending to help when they can’t. I love your way of viewing it though. I’m already dreading the day the girls start going out (probably not as much as Edd is!!) xx

  10. I took my little boy for cranial osteopathy on the recommendation of a friend. Max has always been a clingy, un-put-down-able baby and did not seem to understand the concept of sleep (particularly during the day). Once we got past 12 weeks and it was apparent that other babies had all seemed to settle into more of a routine I began to think that I’d try anything! We took Max for 3 sessions (the osteopath said that she didn’t feel any further sessions would be particularly beneficial) and although there wasn’t a huge difference, we were able to start trying to work on his daytime sleep with a bit more success and he did seem a little more settled when he was awake. Of course, it’s difficult to put that down to the cranial osteopathy, or just his growing up a little bit, but when they’re not sleeping I think you’ll try anything! I know if I was lucky enough to have a second child (and unlucky enough to get another non-sleeper, haha!) I would consider cranial osteopathy again.

    1. I think that 12 week mark is always your milestone isn’t it? I’m the same in that I still don’t know if it was the Cranial Osteopath that helped Alice sleep. It may just be coincidence but whatever it was I’m just glad it all changed! x

  11. A friend of mine suggested I took Milo to see a Cranial Osteopath when he was a few weeks old as he just would not sleep on his back or anywhere other than on my chest. Turns out he had a massive headache from his ventouse delivery and after a few sessions he slept like a dream so now I recommend it to everyone! Although recently my friend took her little one who was having similar issues and it did absolutely nothing for him. Milo was a great sleeper from then until he was about 15 months and then suddenly he started waking 3 or 4 times in the night again and had a pretty permanent blocked nose and a lot of chest infections – eventually I ended up taking him back to see the osteopath who said she could feel a lot of tension in his head still and very blocked sinuses – after a few sessions again he was so much better and the chest infections/ colds got less and less. Luckily (touch wood!) Ralphy hasn’t suffered the same fate and despite his rather quick delivery he has been a dream since day one, but if he did show any signs of an issue I wouldn’t hesitate to take him to see one.

    It is weird though isn’t it as when you watch them do whatever they do, it literally looks like they’re just touching their head and then an hour later you walk out again thinking have I just paid someone £50 to stroke my baby’s hair?!

    1. Ha ha Kim, that made me laugh so much. It definitely looks like they are doing nothing. So pleased to hear it worked well for you and I would certainly consider going again if either of the girl’s were struggling with sleep. xx

  12. Reading this article it all makes sense…my little boy is what my NCT group call a ‘champion sleeper’. He has slept through the night since he was 6 weeks old. Yes, I did commit to a consistent bedtime routine, but so did other mums I knew with bubbas waking up at all hours.

    When my lil one was about 10 days old we took him to visit an osteopath who completely chilled him and I remember him sleeping for ages afterwards. Perhaps it’s coincidence, or perhaps there’s something in it, but we only needed the one treatment and she sent us on our merry way; with a happy, healthy ‘champion sleeper’.

  13. I took Hartley to see a co today after 12 weeks battling with reflux/ colic/ a hernia and major sleep deprivation! and he is soundly asleep at the mo in his basket (which was unheard of) he would always sleep on us meaning we were extremely sleep deprived and feeling at our wits end!
    Co explained that the birth must’ve been traumatic for him- I had an appendicitis and they had to remove the appendix and then him!! And we weren’t able to hold him till atleast 48 hours later! Co explained that if anyone suffers trauma being held is the first way of eliminating stress! She made a lot of sense and although I was sceptical so far it has worked wonders!!! We are going back in 2 weeks so fingers crossed it will continue and thank god other mums recommended it! I was Sooo desperate and h is now a much happier chappy

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