At the Bowen Conference earlier in September, Georgi Ilchev, a Bowen Instructor from Bulgaria spoke of the Bowen Therapy Association of Bulgaria’s research into the effectiveness of the baby Bowen procedure for baby colic. This research was inspiring and so interesting, not only because I have a soft spot for helping babies, but witnessing my nephew go through colic when he was a baby (it broke my heart), this topic is very dear to me.

Colic is painful, possibly sharp abdominal wind or intestinal spasm, which can onset during the first weeks of birth and may last up to the age of four or five months.

Symptoms include:

  • A painful cry that can last for hours each day
  • Pulling their legs towards their abdomen
  • Crying at the same time each day (generally late afternoon or early evening)
  • A distended, firm abdomen during bouts of colic.

Currently, there is no definite and scientific based reason for the cause of colic. However, there are many theories including:

  • Immature digestive system
  • Intestinal spasms caused by wind getting trapped in the baby’s intestine
  • Foods which lead to excessive gas, bloating and abdominal discomfort
  • Immature nervous system
  • Constipation
  • Babies swallowing air while they eat or during episodes of prolonged crying
  • Antibiotics
  • Psycho-emotional status of the mother especially for breastfeeding mothers.

The aim of the study was to determine how effective Bowen Therapy treatments are for baby colic, and to try and to provide an explanation where efficacy was limited or the colic did not resolve. 15 Bowen therapists and 170 babies were involved in the research. The research was conducted over a one-year period between June 2015 and June 2016.  There were 78 boys and 92 girls, the youngest baby 7 days old and eldest at 8 months.

The type of birth, how the baby was fed and if the baby was medicated was taken into account i.e.

  • 84 babies were born vaginally whilst 86 were via caesarean
  • 136 babies were breastfed, 29 formula fed and 5 were breast and formula fed.
  • 92 babies were medicated for their colic, and 78 were not.

Bowen Therapy sessions were conducted every 4 to 7 days, consisting of the Baby Bowen procedure. In addition, other procedures were applied when needed and applied on the 3rd or following treatment. Most babies received between 1-3 sessions, whilst some babies (less that 1/5th ) required 5 or 6 sessions.

The study provided some great results

  • 106 babies (63%) had a complete recovery.
    • 51 were on medication
    • 55 had not been on any medication.
  • 41 babies (24%) had very good improvement with mild, incidental signs of anxiety (not typical signs of colic).
    • 24 were on medication
    • 17 no medication.
    • 25 of the babies were born via caesarean as opposed to 16 born vaginally, which the research team believe attributed to the reason they didn’t make a full recovery.
  • 12 babies (7%) showed temporary improvement in their colic. 9 of the 12 babies were breastfed and on medication however, didn’t change their symptoms permanently. One must question, the mother’s diet.
  • 11 babies (6%) showed no and/or poor improvement. Out of the 11 babies in this category, 8 of them were breastfed and 7 of them were born via caesarean. The remaining 3 babies were formula fed, and 2 also born via caesarean. 7 out of 11 babies were on medication and their colic did not subside.

Hypotheses as to why there was no and/or poor improvement

  • Majority of the babies in this category were breastfed. This led them to the conclusion that a mother’s diet may be the reason for their baby’s colic. Through breastfeeding, signs of fruits and vegetables and other gas forming foods may pass through to the baby and lead to gas and/or bloating.
  • How the mother feels i.e. her psycho-emotional status – when a mother is distressed or anxious, it is very difficult for the baby to be calm.
  • C-section born babies experience prolonged bouts of colic, and more difficult cases to resolve. As the baby doesn’t pass through the birth canal, they don’t have the opportunity to gather useful vaginal and rectal bacteria which helps forms a healthy diversity of their own gastrointestinal bacterial flora (as a vaginal birth would).
  • Full myelination of the vagus nerve (a very important nerve in the human body), isn’t completed until the last 2-3 weeks before birth. Caesarean born babies, especially those born before due date experience lack of myelination of this nerve therefore have less that optimal innervation of the gastro intestinal system.


From the results, it is evident that Bowen Therapy is effective for babies suffering with colic.  With no side effects or contraindications, most babies made a complete recovery, or significant improvement with only 1-3 treatments. The research did not show that taking medication resulted in a better recovery rate and faster resolution.

Breastfeeding influences the persistence of the symptoms when it comes to diet and emotional status of the mother. The research found, caesarean born babies are susceptible to prolonged colic and may require further treatment sessions.

Therefore, it can be said Bowen Therapy is a safe and effective technique for baby colic, and should be considered as a primary treatment.

Permission given by Georgi Ilchev, President of Bowen Therapy Association Bulgaria.


Elizabeth is a Bowen Therapist, Remedial, Pre and Post Natal Massage Therapist, and Aromatherapist. Elizabeth is passionate about women's health and wellness.In addition, Elizabeth is the creator of the Nurture Mumma, Nurture Bubba Gift Packs, Baby Products and has developed a range of Aromatic Mists.