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Tuesday, August 25, 1998 Published at 00:46 GMT 01:46 UK


Massage baby to sleep

Two thirds of the group under study saw remarkable improvements.

Cranial osteopathy really can help disturbed babies sleep at night, according to new research carried out in Manchester. The work is thought to be the first formal investigation of osteopathy in the UK, which was officially recognised by the medical authorities just three months ago. BBC North West Health Correspondent Clare Smith reports:

Philip Owen is a cranial osteopath. His profession received official recognition only this year, but Corinne Cohen does not care about the credentials: she has a baby girl who refuses to sleep at night and she is desperate for results.

"If I get four hours unbroken sleep, that is very good for Lydia," says Corinne.

"At her worst she would sleep a maximum of about two hours and I'd be up six or seven times during the night with her."

After seven months of trying to cope with little Lydia's disturbed nights, Corinne can barely function. It does not bother her that Mr Owen cannot reproduce scientifically the change he claims to make when massaging the baby's skull.

"By gently listening with my hands and palpating the bones of the skull and the spine, I can detect little areas of tension, little areas of a build-up of pressure that may well be having a disturbing effect on that child," explains Mr Cohen.

His research showed that two thirds of a group under study saw remarkable improvements. The disturbed babies went from just a couple of hours' rest a night before treatment, to up to thirteen hours' unbroken sleep after. And for most babies, the change was fast and permanent.

Moving skull

His explanations seem coherent. Skulls are made up of several pieces that move against each other. If they grate, or get stuck, it causes tension. Tension can cause sleeplessness.

Bonnie McClaren was another of the babies in the study.

"She'd only ever sleep for an hour at any one given time," says her mother, Karen.

"And when she woke up she'd beat the sides of her cot, before she'd open her eyes even."

Karen tried everything until she went to see a man she initially viewed as something of a witchdoctor.

"It literally was from having seen him in the evening, she slept right the way through that night, and she's slept ever since.

"She's so much happier. She smiles, she giggles, she wake up laughing now."

For some in the group the initial improvements disappeared - but even traditional medicine doesn't work for everyone all the time.

The techniques of cranial osteopathy were developed in Thirties. They are used in babies to deal with a number of problems from colic, to chronic ear infections and delayed development.

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