Severe Reflux and Idiopathic Oral Aversion in a Premature baby treated with Osteopathy at 8 months after the birth The baby was one of a set of twins, born three months early at 27 weeks. There were feeding issues from the start so the baby was fed with a nasogastric tube till 37 weeks gestational age, then tried on breast/bottle, however the baby refused to take food or bottle into the mouth. The mother thought it was due to severe reflux. The other twin did not have reflux, was able to eat and was thriving.
I first saw the baby at 8 months past the birth date, referred to me by another osteopath who had seen the baby only once the week before and decided to refer quickly as there was limited time before surgery. A stomach tube was planned in a fortnights time to enable food to go directly via a tube into the stomach and increase the amount of calories and nutrition received by the baby.
The baby was being fed via a tube through the nose and taking omeprazole twice daily for the gastro-oesphageal reflux. Weight gain was slow, milestones delayed, and there was a severe eczema like rash on the face from the acid spilling onto the cheeks. The baby liked to poke fabric into the mouth, however had a very active gag reflex and disorganised suck.
A few days after one osteopathic treatment using very gentle hands on work to reduce the compression of the cranial base and treat the nerves (glossopharyngeal, facial and vagus) to the baby's tongue, palate, face and digestive system, the reflux stopped completely and the baby started eating. The gag reflex was much reduced and the cheeks started to heal up rapidly as they were no longer being covered in acidic reflux. The specialist was very happy with the changes so took the baby off the omeprazole, removed the nasogastric tube and cancelled the stomach tube surgery. The baby started to put on weight as the intake of solids was increased and has continued to improve.
The baby needed a couple more osteopathic treatments to help as he started to grow. The baby has had no more reflux and the cheeks are normal healthy skin. I have recently followed up with the mother and now a year on, the baby is doing well, eating well and has had no more oral aversion or reflux.
In Australia and New Zealand, Osteopaths study intensively for five years full-time at University, are required to be registered by the their respective professional councils and do ongoing postgraduate study each year.
Only some osteopaths treat babies as it takes time, aptitude and practice to develop the skills. The treatment is safe and very gentle. Osteopaths learn to use their hands to gently treat strains in the body. Facilitating blood supply, nerve supply and venous and lymphatic drainage enables the body to heal as well as possible and as quickly as possible.
Please note, not all babies with reflux will respond as rapidly as this baby did. Reflux is usually multi-factorial so other management strategies may also be necessary.
There is a growing body of global research to support our work. Our practice would be happy to participate in further research studies.
Here is a link to information on gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD)
Also a link to a very small scale osteopathic research paper on treatment of GORD
Thank you to the parents who permitted me to write up their baby's case
These photos are not of their baby but are a fair representation.