Complementary Therapies for Babies

Created: July 25, 2016. - Reviewed: August 18, 2016.

If you discover that doctors are unable to help solve a problem that’s troubling your baby, you will likely be looking for alternative therapies or treatments.  This article explains how complementary therapies differ from mainstream medical practices.

Complementary Therapies for Babies
Rowena Bennett

Rowena Bennett

  • Registered Nurse
  • Registered Midwife
  • Child Health Nurse
  • Mental Health Nurse

Rowena over 20 years experience assisting parents to resolve well baby care problems.


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What are complementary therapies?

The terms ‘complementary therapy’ and ‘alternative therapy’ are used in the modern Western world to encompass any healing practice that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine.


Complementary therapy is also known as alternative, traditional, natural, holistic or complementary medicine.  Complementary therapies are used with conventional medicine, whereas alternative therapies are used in place of conventional medicine.


Many complementary therapies make similar claims regarding benefits to crying, restless babies. For example:


  • improve digestion;
  • reduce incidence of colic and reflux;
  • relieve pain;
  • release tension;
  • decrease stress;
  • promote a relaxed state;
  • support sounder and longer sleep;
  • improve blood circulation and lymph drainage;
  • relieve tension-related conditions, such as headaches;
  • enhance the baby’s immune system;
  • relieve muscle tension and stiffness; and
  • provide greater flexibility and range of movements.


Complementary therapies have the potential to resolve many physical ailments and may reduce the risk of future problems developing.  But you need to be aware that the benefits they offer are not always immediately identifiable.

Complementary therapy versus conventional medicine

Complementary therapies

The main difference with complementary medicine and conventional medicine lies in its philosophical approach. The various healing practices that fit within the classification of complementary therapies share common beliefs, such as:


  • Disease and disorders are manifestations of an imbalance in the body’s natural homeostatic processes.
  • The human body has an inherent ability to cure itself given the right conditions.
  • Many illnesses and disorders could be prevented if the body is supported to function at its optimal capacity.
  • All body systems are interrelated; therefore, in order to effectively resolve a problem in one area of the body, it’s necessary to treat the body as a whole. This is referred to as a ‘holistic’ approach.


Complementary therapies place a high priority on health promotion and illness prevention.


Therapies that may be used to reduce irritability in babies include:


  • chiropractics;
  • osteopathy;
  • cranio-sacral therapy;
  • herbal medicine;
  • naturopathy;
  • infant massage;
  • acupressure;
  • reflexology; and
  • aromatherapy.


Conventional medicine

Conventional medicine, also known as orthodox, mainstream, modern and Western medicine, is the dominant medical/health system in developed nations. Conventional medicine uses a symptom-based approach to diagnose and treat illnesses, diseases and disorders after symptoms become apparent.


Treatments recommended to relieve infant irritability may include:


  • medications;
  • dietary change, i.e. hypoallergenic formula, thickened feeds;
  • maternal dietary restrictions in the case of breastfed babies;
  • special infant feeding equipment, including feeding tubes.


 Complementary therapies
   Conventional medicine

Conservative approach: The goal is to provide the right conditions so that the body will heal itself.

Active approach: The goal is to provide relief from physical discomfort.

The primary objective is to identify and correct the underlying cause of abnormal symptoms.

The primary objective is to provide relief from abnormal symptoms.*

Focus on treating the whole body.

Focus on treating the presenting problem.

Relief from abnormal physical signs and symptoms occur as the body heals, which may take days or weeks.

Relief from abnormal physical signs and symptoms may be seen or felt in hours or days following treatment.

Proactive: Treatment can be provided to reduce the risk of future ailments.

Reactive: Treatment is initiated once a physical ailment has already developed.


Surgical intervention to correct life threatening problems or problems that would provide a lifetime burden.

* Medications may mask the symptoms but they don’t cure the underlying cause. Symptoms tend return once the medication wears off.


Got a distressed baby?


Parents of crying, restless babies report varying degrees of success after using complementary therapies. Of course, like anything else, how successful any therapy or treatment is in resolving a problem depends on the underlying cause.


While complementary therapies provide health benefits they’re not a cure for ALL problems that trouble developmentally normal, thriving babies, who happen to cry often or have trouble sleeping. Healthy, thriving babies commonly display inconsolable crying, wakefulness and fussy or distressed behavior due to developmental and behavioral reasons.


Developmental reasons: In some instances what may be viewed by parents as problematic infant behavior can be normal or typical for baby’s stage of development.


Behavioral problems: Physically well babies typically display troubled behavior in response to the parent or caregiver’s infant feeding or settling practices. Behavioral problems that commonly trouble healthy babies include overfeeding, overtiredness and overstimulation, among others. These problems cause babies varying degrees of distress.


Complementary therapies and conventional medicine will make little or no difference to infant distress due to developmental or behavioral reasons, because therapy, medications or dietary change won’t resolve these types of problems.

How we can help!

If conventional medicine and complementary therapies are not helping to improve your baby’s troubles, it may be that the cause of her distress is due to behavioral or developmental reasons. Baby Care Advice professionals are experts in providing advice to parents on ways to manage and minimize developmental troubles and ways to resolve behavioral problems.


An Assessment Consultation may be all you need to receive advice that finally ends your baby’s distress.

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