Babies are born to move! They are learning new skills and constantly adapting to the world around them. During their first year, you will watch as your baby’s movement patterns go from jerky and unplanned to become smooth and coordinated. This gives rise to milestones such as rolling over, sitting independently, crawling and walking.
Osteopaths with a focus on treating children assess musculoskeletal growth, developmental milestones, movement and coordination. They perform physical, orthopaedic, neurological and functional tests designed for children to help with their assessment. Ensuring children meet their developmental milestones is important for all areas of a child’s development.
In the first 3 months, the ‘fourth trimester’, the most common reasons you might bring your baby to see an Osteopath are feeding difficulties, colic and digestive pain. Other signs that there may be an underlying issue are:
- Baby has a preference to turn their head to one side only or keep their head to one side.
- Baby prefers a side at the breast.
- Baby shows head or facial asymmetry such as flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly).
These issues may result from how the baby is positioned in the uterus during pregnancy or strain that occurs during the birth process, especially if labour was prolonged or forceps or vacuum have been used to assist in the birth. The techniques osteopaths use to treat babies include a variety of gentle approaches tailored to the individual needs of each child.
From 3-6 months, your baby will bring things to their mouth, reach for objects, support themselves on their arms when placed on their tummy and start to roll over. It’s important to watch that they are using both hands equally and can roll in both directions.
From 6-9 months, your baby will begin to sit, crawl and stand with support and can get into these positions by themselves. They are busy! Crawling may begin with rocking back and forth and sometimes crawling backwards before moving forwards. Babies should be using both arms and legs equally. Watch for baby pulling with one arm or dragging one leg.
From 9-12 months, your baby will pull up to stand, cruise (walk holding onto furniture) and begin to stand without support in preparation for walking. They will also copy gestures, such as waving and clapping, and point. Early walkers place their feet wide apart for stability. Watch your baby’s foot position – both feet should turn out slightly and one foot should not noticeably turn in or out
If your baby is very unsettled, has feeding difficulties or moves in a way that isn’t balanced or typical, seeking help early can make a real difference. Osteopaths with paediatric training can assess and treat any underlying issues, and recognise when referral to other health professionals is required.