Thinking differently about baby health

healthy baby

Harlow was not a happy baby.  She rarely smiled.  Of the more than 150 babies I have looked after, she was the most uncomfortable I had ever met.  Harlow was in one of three states when I first met her: Eating, sleeping or crying / screaming. This is not an exaggeration.

The story I will share with you is not intended as medical advice, it is simply what we (her parents and I) did with the help of trained professionals, our combined instincts and my intuition and experience.

When I first met Harlow she was nearly 5 months old, she was overwhelmed.  I could tell that her central nervous system was in overdrive.  She was frantic in her movements, jerky, eyes darting about, wriggling while eating, trying to look away from her baby gym toys – but getting caught in the excitement of them.  She cat napped or couldn’t stay asleep.  Her body was rigid (think planking) there was no fluidity to her movements.  She just seemed uncomfortable and miserable.

I got to work with the things that I usually do, which included treating her as if she had reflux because her symptoms “kind of “ suggested it, but not in the usual way I see… I kept her upright after feeding, changed her nappy propped up, made sure she was feeding regularly yet spaced out enough to let her food digest, encouraged a dummy (she refused), introduced solids (Epic fail with puree this kid is a baby led weaning kinda gal). I tried to wear her in an Ergo carrier as she could not be in a buggy at all without crying hysterically, this also didn’t work.  I also established a gentle, flexible routine which created the space for better day naps and night sleeping.

Harlow was put on probiotics and fish oil as recommended by her Pediatrician, Dr Leila Masson who is hands down the most holistic oriented Doctor I have ever come across.  When I put the word out to find a holistic Pediatrician, everyone came back with Dr Leila Masson.  I say that because, with Harlow, like many others, there is nothing medically wrong with her and Doctors who are willing to suggest or try alternatives are incredibly helpful to parents whose instincts are telling them something is not right here.  Babies are not meant to cry all day long, or pass out from exhaustion at night, they are supposed to be able to play and learn and grow and thrive in every way.  Harlow was not medically ill. Yes, she was a good size and weight and striving for that 100th percentile, but she was most definitely not thriving in every way.  She could not consistently roll over or hold interest in a toy for any length of time.  Harlow was in her own little world and there were only brief snippets of her coming out of it.

Harlow could Stare. You. Down.  No kidding – lock eyes and have no facial expression, but when it came time to play she just would not willingly make eye contact.  Social occasions, forget it… she just got overwhelmed, upset and withdrawn.

What shifted?

We got an appointment with an Osteopath.  I have worked with Cranial Sacral Osteopaths for years in London, Hong Kong, and here in New Zealand.  Across the board they are brilliant for babies.  I am a firm believer in the treatment for my own health and in my opinion I believe that it can make a positive difference to every baby.  There are some babies where the changes are subtle, or may even seem like nothing happened at all.  There is everything in between… And then there is Harlow.

We went to see Natalie Griffiths at Mother-Well Holistic Health in Mt Eden, Auckland.  Harlow did not like her initially, and certainly not the treatment, she cried hysterically for most of it.  At this point I had rarely left the house with her for fear of her having a meltdown when the only thing that stopped it was putting her to bed to sleep.  It is hard to fathom a baby that cannot be placated by distraction, a walk about, singing, dancing, baby wearing etc… but Harlow was this baby – the only way to help her was to let her sleep it off, in her bed, and to me it seemed unnecessary to be anywhere else but near to her bed to get her as comfortable as I could, as quickly as I could.

Natalie shared that she had never come across anything quite like it in a patient.  The diagnosis, for want of a better word, was that her whole body was locked: hips, diaphragm, and cranium.  This meant that everything was jammed structurally and it was causing discomfort.

To be honest, the first three treatments were subtle changes, subtle differences, Harlow started rolling regularly, albeit only in one direction.  She could tolerate the car seat without screaming, she could sit in the buggy supported with bolsters for a short length of time, she started being able to be worn in my Ergo carrier.

After the fourth treatment we suddenly saw a different baby.  I will never forget it, the appointment was on Wednesday and on Thursday Harlow started babbling! Serious talking, sounds and tones she had never uttered before suddenly were pouring out! Oh, and she started to roll the other way also.  At our baby sign language class (also on Thursday) the other parents commented on how much more engaged and relaxed she was, holding eye contact, happy with the noise level and distractions, dare I say, content!  Could a massive shift happen just like that?

Apparently so!  This was a baby who slept and played mostly in a straight line, she didn’t easily play with her feet, or toys or really do anything, she rarely played on the floor because she was always crying.  She couldn’t be worn in a sling or baby carrier, she could not be in a buggy.  She cried and she cried.  Harlow went from being what I would affectionately describe as a mess, to a wonderfully engaged, flexible little butterball.  She has become malleable and thoroughly enjoys rough and tumble.  She can now play on the floor by herself, for up to an hour at a time it transpires.  She now can spend up to two hours out and about in the buggy and as long as needed in the Ergo carrier.  The list goes on and on…

Harlow can still Stare. You. Down! She is still a sensitive baby and I am not sure if that will change, not that it matters, what matters is that she is comfortable.  She is still easily overwhelmed and that is a work in progress.  But thanks to her parents instinct that all was not well, a Pediatrician who listened, an Osteopath who did a great job, and my knowledge in the field, as a team we managed to help create the space for this little girl to thrive in every single possible way!

Where to find an Osteopath in NZ – http://www.thewellnessdirectory.co.nz/search_directory/craniosacral-therapy

Interested in babywearing? http://www.slingbabies.co.nz/Site/Home.ashx

 

Jayne Eddington

Jayne has over 18 years experience in caring for children and has worked in both New Zealand and the UK. She has a vast range of expertise and can offer help and advice if you are struggling with your children. You can read more about Jayne on her website- Everything But The Stork.

Jayne writes regular columns for Kiwi Families and will also answer your questions about babies and children

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