Breathing; a short introduction.

Breathing of moving air into and out of the lungs and is divided into two phases; inspiration and expiration.

During inspiration, the diaphragm and muscles between the ribs contract, causing the rib cage to expand and the pressure within the thorax to decrease. This causes air to rush in and fill the lungs.

During expiration, the diaphragm and rib muscles relax, causing the pressure in the thorax to increase and forcing air out.

Breathing is under both conscious and unconscious control. Area’s in the brain stem monitor blood oxygen levels, carbon dioxide levels and the pH of the blood and adjusts your rate of breathing accordingly. Our mood can have an involuntary effect on our breathing rate too: quick, shallow breathing if we are angry or stressed and slow, deep breathing if we are relaxed.

However, we are also able to change our breathing rates consciously depending on our activity, for example when meditating or singing.

An osteopath can assess your breathing pattern by…

  • The number of breaths per minute.
  • The balance between inspiration and expiration
  • The location of your breathing – upper rib or lower rib breathing.

An osteopath will commonly look at your breathing as part of your treatment plan, especially when presenting with neck and back problems.

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Nervous baby and problems sleeping.

img-thingSome babies may sleep for only short periods and may sleep very little during the day or the night whilst others may wake at the slightest noise or want to be held all the time.

These babies may have tension on the bony membranous tissue surrounding their skull, keeping their nervous system in an alert state and making it difficult for them to relax and go into a deep sleep.

An osteopath can help to release the tensions in you baby’s body, helping it to relax.

What can you do?

  • Swaddling your baby can help to settle them.
  • Place a firm hand on your babies tummy to help them relax.
  • Alternatively, let them hold your finger.

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Noisy Sleeper

Baby’s nasal areas are very small and narrow. If any mucous is present in the area it is difficult to drain away.

Lack of drainage can disturb or prevent your baby from sleeping as well as causing them to breathe noisily when they are asleep.

A congested nose can reduce their ability to suck, which can result in wind in their tummies.


Babies born via C-sections tend typically have a lot of mucous build up, as their chests have not been compressed through the vaginal canal, and it is good to seek treatment to prevent mucous retention.

Saline drops or suction from the baby’s nose may help.

Osteopathy can release tension in the mid face and chest to allow mucous drainage to occur.

Check our colic section for information and advice regarding wind in your baby’s tummy.

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Colic and Reflux

Colic is a broad term used for abdominal pain and effects up to 40% of babies. The main symptom is excessive crying in a baby who is healthy and well fed.

The five main reasons for colic are…

  • excessive wind due to a poor suckling technique.
  • difficulty digesting food due to an immature gut.
  • reflux – acid and milk from a baby’s stomach going into the oesophagus or mouth.
  • constipation.
  • lactose intolerance – this is much less common.

In a recent study, babies with colic who were treated by an osteopath cried two hours less and needed less carrying than babies with colic that went untreated*


Osteopathic treatment can help your baby pass wind more easily, release tension around the diaphragm to reduce the symptoms of reflux and specialised techniques to the bowels may help with constipation.

If your baby cannot open its mouth well to feed, has a poor latch or is gulping an osteopath can release any compression at the base of the skull and jaw to improve latching. This has added benefit for you as it will help to reduce cracked nipples and improve the baby’s food intake.

What can you do to help your baby?

  • Feed your baby at a more upright angle.
  • Hold your baby upright after feeding.
  • Massage your baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction 3-4 times per day when they are not in pain.
  • Don’t feed your baby more than every two hours in order to give them more time to digest.
  • Give your baby baths.
  • Various medications can help – ask your GP or pharmacist.

*Hayden C. & Mullinger B. (2006) A preliminary assessment of the impact of cranial osteopathy for the relief of infantile colic. Complementary therapies in clinic practice. May 12(2), pp83-90.


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Baby requiring constant feeding.

Having a baby that takes a long time to feed and leaves little time between feeds can leave you feeling tired and isolated.

Your baby may be a ‘windy’ feeder, tongue-tied or unable to suck efficiently. Feeding is a complex task and can be difficult and tiring due to mechanical stresses through the head, face, jaw and throat. Also, the nerves to the tongue and face muscles may have been irritated either inter-uterine or during birth, making sucking difficult.

What can you do?

  • sleeping baby (1)Ask a professional if your baby is tongue-tied.
  • Ensure that your baby is gaining weight.
  • Space your babies feeds evenly even if you need to use a dummy or finger.
  • Remember, it is normal to feed your baby as often as every 2-4 hours.
  • Ask an osteopath to check your baby’s neck and it’s sucking mechanism.
  • An osteopath can also check your babies diaphragm and abdomen for signs of reflux and wind.
  • Also check our feeding posture post to ensure you are relaxed and avoid neck or back pain.

Difficulty with latching or sucking

One of the most important parts of breastfeeding is having your baby latched on correctly. Babies are born knowing how to latch on and suckle correctly, but with more than 40 muscles to control the lips, tongue, jaw, cheeks and soft palate; anything affecting these will have an impact on how well your baby will feed.


Compression of the back of the head or jaw during birth or from the use of forceps may affect the nerves or muscles to the tongue and mouth causing difficulty with latching or sucking.

What to look out for during feeding:

  • Your baby may not open its mouth wide enough.
  • Your baby may not turn to one breast.
  • You may experience sore or cracked nipples.

To prevent feeding difficulties and to avoid frustration, these problems should be addressed as soon as possible; it is ideal to see an osteopath before your baby is a week old.

Osteopathic treatment will usually focus on the back of the head, neck, jaw and hyoid bone.

You can also get the advice of a lactation consultant at this time and take a look at our feeding posture post to make sure you are relaxed whilst your baby is feeding.

Posture whilst feeding

You are likely to be sitting up for 6-8 hours each day when feeding, so it is important to get this right!

A comfortable chair and good feeding posture is essential in order to prevent neck or back pain.

Pain whilst feeding may shorten your feeding time. It is better to correct bad posture before pain develops than treating pain once developed.

Have a good chair. A chair with arms to rest your elbows and ensuring feet are flat on the floor with your bottom at the back of the seat is preferable.

Prevent leaning forward. A footstool to lift the foot on the side the baby is feeding will prevent forward leaning. At night, sit in a chair rather than sitting in bed.

Protect your neck. When feeding at night, use a travel pillow to support the neck and prevent your head dropping forward if you fall asleep. A book or TV can stop you looking down at your baby and prevent neck pain.

Have everything you need at your feeding station. Ensure you have drinks, food and anything else you may need at hand.

Feed where you feel comfortable. This may not necessarily be your baby’s room as you may feel isolated here. If possible have more than one place in your home to feed.

When breastfeeding, ensure the baby’s nose is at nipple height. Keep your elbow supported by cushions – try two normal and one V Pillow. When you take your breast out of the bra it should sit on the top pillow.

When bottle-feeding, changing position is important.  Change arms frequently keeping elbows supported. Try to get somebody else to wind or feed your baby if your neck or upper back is sore.

Always seek treatment to avoid any current pain from increasing.

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