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Colic: is it all in the head?

Massive apologies for another baby-related post but I felt compelled to write about the weird and wonderful practice of cranial osteopathy.

Bea doesn’t really like going to bed. Currently, when she goes down at 7pm there is usually a look of urlsemi-disbelief, quickly followed by a big frown and a little whimper. When we leave the room, she’ll chat to her toys for a bit, biff the lowest hanging fruit on her mobile and conk out after about twenty minutes.

But between the ages of 3 and 7 weeks (admittedly only a month, but a LONG month), the evenings were dark. Most nights, Bea would turn bright red, scream, grunt, yell and work herself up into inconsolable hysterics between 5pm and 11pm. A brief period of calm would fall as we lowered her into a bath, but the minute we lifted her out, the storm recommenced.

It drove us pretty crazy. I don’t need to tell those who’ve experienced it that the sound of your child in apparently unimaginable distress, coupled with six hours listening to a baby’s cries is a mental onslaught. We would eat supper – separately – and stare at each other, tense and unhappy as she wailed. Even now, the sound of the hoover or the oven extractor reminds me of those nights when white noise only drowned out her cries.

I assumed it was colic and, ultimately, untreatable. She would grow out of it at 12 weeks (I marked this date in the calendar). Many people offered brilliant advice, most of which we tried. In the end, almost as a last resort as I work in ethical healthcare and though I’m no Ben Goldacre, I was skeptical about it, I made an appointment with a cranial osteopath.

Carina Petter was recommended by several people. The first thing she did was to ask lots of questions about my pregnancy. I told her Bea’s head was ‘down’ from early on and engaged from 36 weeks. She was born nine days early and Carina suggested almost immediately thatcarina_petter-rnd because Bea is quite big, she was ‘crunched up’ inside, hence the need to come out early, and as her head and chest were still constricted they would need ‘releasing’.

I was, as I said, skeptical. As far as I could tell, she wasn’t doing anything to Bea – just holding her on the bed and rocking her slightly. She then slipped a rubber glove on and felt inside Bea’s mouth. To give her her due, she didn’t flinch when Bea projectile vomited all over her trouser suit but I was alarmed: it was 6pm by this time: the witching hours were in full force and Bea was screaming her head off. What the hell was all this about?

We left and had one of our worst nights ever: the hysteria lasted until midnight. It had cost £40. I was not impressed.

BUT. The next day, Bea was a sunny angel. No crying. At all. I put her down for naps – she napped. She fed on the dot of her feed times and the miracle really unfolded when she went straight to sleep after bath at 7pm and slept for 11hrs. (I woke at 3.30am and knitted anxiously by her crib until 7am but NEVER MIND).

Bea is now 9.5 weeks old. Since then, she has slept on average for 7 hours at a stretch overnight, is generally happy and last night she even laughed as I put her down – and then went straight to sleep. We have been back once to Carina, who did some more ‘release work’ and is ‘happy that things are more comfortable ‘ now.

I am not saying this is what will ‘fix’ all babies. Of course I am not an expert. I didn’t know the difference between craniosacrotherapy and osteopathy before the visits and still don’t (I think they’re the same thing?). I understand that practitioners hold and observe the baby and then carefully manipulate the body to encourage it to function ‘properly’, reducing the tension and stresses in the baby’s body and head that might have been caused by the birth.

I count myself – and Bea – very lucky. I know there are a lot of people who don’t believe that something like cranial osteopathy could possibly work. I can only vouch for what I have seen … but I’m happy if Bea’s happy and the dreaded long nights of screaming do seem to be behind us … and if anyone asks, I say now that it was all in her head.