Osteopathy for babies: what’s the point?

How does osteopathy work for babies – and when does it make sense? We explain the method and talk to the expert Heidi Polzin.

What is osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a holistic form of medical treatment. It is based on the conviction that people feel healthy and fit when all of the interconnected structures (bones, fascia, joints, organs) in the body work well together. This also includes the craniosacral system: The brain is located in the skull (cranium) and continues as the spinal cord in the spinal canal. It is surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid (spinal cord and cerebral fluid) that pulsates six to twelve times per minute and can be felt with the hands.

Osteopaths relieve tension and blockages through targeted movements and thus bring the pulse back into rhythm, which can stutter or seep away in the event of malfunctions. In doing so, they stimulate the metabolism and, above all, the body’s self-healing powers.

How useful is osteopathy for babies?

Osteopaths believe that many babies suffer from trauma after birth. For example, through a caesarean section or because they had to be brought into the world with a suction cup. This can cause various complaints such as persistent screaming (three-month colic) or tense muscles. With the help of osteopathy for babies, these complaints can be treated in a gentle way.

Parents should therefore pay attention, for example, if a newborn baby only turns its head to the left after birth, but never to the right. The cause here could be a blockage of the cervical spine, which experienced osteopaths can detect by palpation and correct with gentle pressure. According to the osteopath, if the problem is not treated, it could lead to insomnia, headaches or drinking problems in the infant, among other things.

Is osteopathy scientifically proven for babies?

So far, there are no scientific studies that clearly demonstrate osteopathy for babies as an effective treatment. Many parents report that their child’s symptoms have subsided after treatment. Critics, however, doubt that osteopathy is really necessary for babies – according to this, for example, functional disorders after a childbirth trauma usually subside on their own over time. In addition, there is no scientific evidence that symptoms such as insomnia actually occur if the child initially only turns their head to one side.

Cost of osteopathy for babies

Some statutory health insurance companies cover the costs of osteopathy – it is worth asking here before starting treatment. However, there is no obligation for the health insurers to take over, since the effectiveness of osteopathy has not been clearly proven.

Expert discussion with physiotherapist and osteopath Heidi Polzin

When babies cry a lot, we mothers are sometimes just at a loss. What if something hurts the child that we cannot see or feel ourselves? A conversation with physiotherapist and osteopath Heidi Polzin:

What happens if you treat a patient with osteopathy?

Heidi Polzin: I first perceive the patient visually, then with my hands. With it I can find the places where the body has built in brake pads. Everything in the body is in flux, the blood, the lymph, the brain and the spinal cord swim in the liquor. And there I can feel the pulse; if it is not rhythmic, it indicates a disturbance.

Why is osteopathy a suitable therapy for babies?

In no system is health expressed as powerfully as in the body of a baby, it still has all the capacities. And a problem that has only been there for a short time can be solved quickly.

What problems do parents bring their newborn babies to your osteopathy practice for?

Complications can arise during pregnancy or especially during childbirth. A lack of space and the effects of forces can cause the child’s skull bones or spine to shift. Most of the time, the baby will sort itself out by itself after birth, by drinking or screaming – but sometimes not. This can be seen from the fact that the baby is restless and sleeps poorly, has drinking and digestive disorders or postural asymmetry.

How do you go about it then?

I look at the cranial sutures, the cervical spine, the upper head joints, the angles of the hip joint. If, for example, the hips are noticeable, there is almost always something in the neck or on the feet. And when you deal with one part, the other often comes off too.

So if, for example, a child cannot or does not want to turn their head to the right …

… then I see what the obstacle is. The head joints? Or is there tension in the stomach or lungs that prevents the head from turning to the right because the baby then feels the tension? The basis of my work is exact anatomical knowledge. Which organ is there? Which vortex? Which vessel? Where are nerve branches? Where is the diaphragm located? What is underneath?

The vagus nerve, for example, affects digestion and breathing. Sometimes the disorder can also have emotional reasons. A long, difficult birth or a mother who did not do well during pregnancy. The unconscious, including that of the unborn, stores everything. Often a single treatment is enough. Parents can support the effect at home. If a baby only looks to the left, I advise placing light sources and a mobile to the right of the bed.

What is particularly important when it comes to contact with babies?

The basis of good treatment is to understand the baby as an independent being that expresses itself in a non-verbal way, with looks and gestures. A baby who has been fetched with a suction cup often does not like to be touched on the head. When I put my hands there and it wriggles out, I immediately notice, okay, don’t touch it. So I’ll go to another place. Sensitive listening in this communication with the baby – also in connection with the mother – is the first step. Above all, I am looking for good access. It’s the same with babies as with adults. Everyone has parts of their body where they don’t want to be touched, and open entrances elsewhere.

How do you find the right contact with the baby?

I am open, approachable, smile, speak. The baby reacts and ideally opens up too. Most of them are curious anyway. It is important that I am calm inside, calm is transmitted. And then I pay attention to all signals. In the way I communicate, I assimilate myself, I speak in the tone of the baby, this is called “pacen”. If it whines a little, I answer in the same tone of voice and with the same expression on my face. So we are in constant contact through play.

How does the baby feel when treated with osteopathy?

A baby who is healthy enjoys touch. It shows this very clearly, opens your hands, for example. And babies also clearly show when it’s enough, through changed breathing, turning away, restlessness.

What can parents learn from you?

For example, understanding the signals the baby is giving. And the various handles. Babies like to be touched and held securely.

Heidi Polzin works as a physiotherapist, alternative practitioner and osteopath in a group practice in Hamburg. The mother of three adult children has been treating large and preferably very small people with gentle osteopathy for twenty years.


  • Bültmann, A .: QuickStart Osteopathie, Haug, 2011.
  • Beinborn, B .; Newiger, C .: Osteopathy: How it helps your child, 2nd edition, Trias, 2005.


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