Holding space for a baby is a way to describe my work as an osteopath. If you have been following my osteopathic journey, you might now have an idea about how I do not treat my patients. And maybe even about what I want to point at. If you have checked on the patient’s stories section, you might have read how I hold space for a patient who had a shoulder pain.
But I would like to discuss with you about what a treatment can look like for a baby. I mean when you hold space for a baby, when you work the way I do.
As an osteopath, I treat many babies for diverse reasons. Quite often because the newborn has a stiffneck forcing him to repetitively turn his neck toward the same side. Sometimes parents might notice that his skull becomes flatter and flatter on one side (it is called a plagiocephaly). Infants are also often brought to us because they suffer from reflux or colic. Or because they have difficulties latching for example.
Based on how the pregnancy went, based on the position in the womb, based on the delivery (that can imply the use of forceps or vacuum), babies can keep a residual pattern and organise their body around it. My job as an osteopath is to find that pattern and to help it disappear.
A very tensed baby
I saw a baby recently for a treatment. His parents brought him to me as he seemed to have colics (his tummy was all tensed, poor thing) and his shoulders and neck seemed to be compressed. He was keeping his shoulders up all the time, as if he could not let go. As a result, he could turn both side, but had a quite small range of movement.
So how did the treatment unfold? As always, the idea is to hold the space. There is something absolutely wonderful in treating a human being who is not able to tell me what is going on or to point out at where the problem is. It requires the practitioner to really listen. By listening I do not mean to palpate, I mean to deeply feel what is happening.
What does it look like?
I laid down my little patient on the table, while the parents were sitting close to us. I first placed a hand under the baby’s pelvis and my other hand on his lower abdomen, where the tension was quite noticeable. After a few minutes, he started to relax his lower back. Already at this point, his stomach became warmer.
Then appeared the tensions around his lower ribs, at the back. Facing him, I placed my fingers in this area and supported the tissues, for them to react and show me that they received new information.
Later came the tensions in his upper back and neck. I had to help his shoulder blades and neck. It took a few minutes, but after giving the baby enough space, the tissues finally started to move their way out of the problem and he was immediately able to relax his shoulders. Finally, a precise area showed up around his third cervical vertebra that melted after about two minutes of an extremely soft touch.
What was I doing? I was holding space for that little buddy
Was I pushing in one direction? Was I deciding what should be done? NO, I was listening and supporting the process until the whole body tells me “I am fine for today”, until the information sent by the nervous system changed from a defense mode to a normal mode. I was holding space for that infant. From over reacting to being quiet and still. But does it mean that nothing was being done? NO, it means that my will was removed from the way. I was not treating the patient based on what I wanted to achieve, but based on what the body wanted to achieve. That cannot be done by just sitting there looking at the wall.
So what happens when you hold space for a baby?
At the end, this baby could fully turn his neck both sides. And his mom was amazed at how soft his tummy was. A silent communication took place in this treatment room, for the benefit of this two months old patient. A silent communication that can be learnt. Either you are an osteopath, a massage therapist, a chiropractor, a manual therapist or a yoga teacher…or just a patient. I call it meditation.
About Jules RampalMeditation teacher and osteopath
I am an online meditation teacher and an osteopath currently working in Cavan, Ireland. My courses are for people who want to learn meditation with guided sessions, and for therapists who want to delve into the way they feel and the knowledge they can gather for their clients.
Learn more about me here