The birth of a baby is huge event! In fact, it is the primary event of all our lives. You may not remember your own birth, but your body will still hold that memory, no matter what age you are. Your body has the capacity to remember all your experiences as memory is not just held in the brain; it’s held in every cell too. We call this "cellular memory".
The other aspect is of birth is that it is the first physical ‘trauma’ that a baby experiences. It is thought that even the most straight forward birth has some element of trauma. Simply put, coming from a dark warm womb into a brightly lit world is a massive change, and the physical effects of that transition will have an impact on baby. Whether delivered by caesarean section or born vaginally, both types of delivery can mean challenges for baby; for example, either physical twisting and turning in a vaginal birth or emerging from a vacuum very suddenly in a caesarean delivery. Both deliveries can mean forceps are used and with any intervention this can have an effect on babys' head.
Of course, nature has designed a human skull perfectly to cope with some of the stresses and strains of childbirth; cranial bones are designed to ‘stack’ to allow for compression in the delivery. Nevertheless, babies can struggle to adapt after birth. This may mean babies can cry a lot and are hard to settle as newborns, sleep very little, and show symptoms of colic. Sometimes births are even more complex; babies born prematurely or those who fail to thrive at birth may spend time in an incubator as they need specialised care to survive. In this case it can be a challenge for a baby not to feel her mother’s skin and touch and to spend the first days and weeks in a medicalised environment. Of course, such anenvironment ensures life, which is critical, but it may mean that settling into life after coming home can present more challenges.
What is Craniosacral Therapy?
Craniosacral therapy (CST) is a body treatment that has been found to help infants who have experienced trauma during birth or who feel very unsettled, or who may have additional needs. It may sound complicated, but the benefits of Craniosacraltherapy for babies are worth considering.
The Craniosacral System has been in place since an early stage of our evolution. Itcomprises the bones of the skull (cranium and mandible), the spine, the sacrum and tailbone (coccyx), plus the membranes and fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord, along with the related connective tissue. It is the home of our nervous system, the first system of the body to develop in utero.
So the function of the craniosacral system is to help maintain a healthy environment for the central nervous system (CNS) to work efficiently, thus influencing a variety of bodily functions.
Craniosacral therapy has its roots in osteopathy which is around 150 years old. CST has been around for about 70 years. It’s a gentle non-invasive, hands-on treatment, which works with the body’s natural rhythms, and helps to activate healing and balancing mechanisms.
When your baby is feeling safe, loved and relaxed they may be more able to communicate their areas of tensions. When these tensions are released and balanced, your baby is more likely to wholly relax into life. A good therapist will be able to detect any areas which may be holding tension following birth and provide an opportunity for balance to occur.
How does this happen in a treatment?
Gentle hands-on techniques facilitate the unwinding of areas of compression and misalignment, encouraging the release of stress and associated emotions.When this happens your baby’s body can then start to soften and relax. With pressure and tension gone, necessary space in the brain and body can return; room is freed for natural growth and functioning, and your baby’s health and wellbeing can improve.
It’s also possible that Craniosacral therapy could help to release residual tension around the stomach and colon that have been causing a degree of colicky symptoms to occur. It could also help relieve symptoms by helping to stretch and relax the Psoas muscle situated in the buttocks and hips. This muscle can become tight after several months of being flexed in the foetal position in the womb.
When can my baby have a treatment?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that many newborn babies could benefit from a Craniosacral treatment within two weeks of birth – ideally in the first few days. This could help prevent many subsequent problems in childhood and adulthood, includingsome ear problems, developmental problems, headaches, neck pain and spinal disorders. A good CST will offer your baby the best possible start in life. But don’t worry if you bring your baby later for a treatment – you can still work on early life patterns at any stage. Older children and adults benefit greatly from this treatment. However, when a baby is young it is the best and easiest time for them to release any patterns which may be present as they are so ‘new ’and any misalignment is not yet fully embedded in the nervous system.
On average, at least three treatments are required; however, differences may be noticeableafter just one treatment. After a difficult delivery, and for premature babies, more treatments may be needed.
"As a mother of a newborn baby and no parenting experience, when my baby went through periods of crying and I couldn't figure out what to do, Amber was my first choice. I just knew that cranial sacral therapy would help on all levels, physical and mental, and it always did, thus giving me a deep feeling of relief and reassurance that my baby would be okay." Mother of Baby Z, Berkshire
So how does your therapist detect what your baby needs?
As a CST I take a full history of the baby, from conception to birth and to date. The feelings of the mother and all she experienced in the pregnancy is important to consider, as her baby will have felt her emotions during this time too. The soul of your baby is wise and all knowing, and we acknowledge this during a treatment. It is amazing what a baby can communicate non-verbally (and sometimes verbally too) and we honour all this communication. They want to feel totally grounded in their body and one ofthe effects of a craniosacral treatment is imparting a feeling to baby that she is fully ‘in her body’. As a therapist I communicate to parents, or whoever is present at the treatment what is happening in the baby’s system as we move through the treatment, usually starting at the feet and working gently towards the cranium. From the outside it may not look like a lot is happening. Rememberthere is no manipulation or pressure in the contact as the therapist puts her hands on your baby.
As parents you may also feel things changing as your baby is treated. Mothers often feel emotional and may cry and this is all part of the expression of your baby’s feelings too. Sometimes baby can get quite angry, and they cry in a very angry way – this too is an expression and should be honoured. A baby may not feel he was treated in a way he expected or wanted during birth, and he wants to release this frustration. There can be a myriad of expressions that want to be expressed. When this happens there is a realignment in the physical body as the tissues that may be compressed or hold tension are gently released. Or the opposite happens that the release from compression is felt and there is an expression or emotion that follows. Imagine you have a headache and you have had it for a whole day, then someone touches your head and it dissolves – you may sigh or want to say something as you start to feel better. It’s the same for your baby too.
Following a treatment, a baby can often have a long sleep. The treatment is like an ‘inner workout’ so they may feel very relaxed and may sleep to allow everything to continue to realign. Whatever happens after a treatment is a continuation of the changes in the body that are gently taking place so be reassured that anything ‘different’ is normal and in 24 - 48 hours everything should be completely settled.
Before you book, you should talk with any new therapist and get a sense of how they work and how they would approach your experience of birth and any symptoms your baby may be displaying. You should feel reassured by their responses and feel a connection with them. Craniosacral Therapists have had a lot of training and those who offer treatments to babies will be experienced working with all sorts of children and complex cases.
Finally, you may find you benefit from havinga CST treatment too. Vaginal and C/S births mean new mothers need a lot of their own healing – both to the physical structures of their pelvis and womb as well as a safe space to acknowledge emotions and feelings. The focus can oftenbe on the baby yet if the mother is not feeling well and compromised in her own healing process this can ultimately negatively impact the baby. I encourage all new mothers to have a series of restorative treatments which they all love and find of great value.
Our society expects a lot from women and giving birth is one of those times in life when we really need to be nurtured and cared for. Bringing new life into the world must be honoured and respected. You don’t get this time back and starting family life needs lots of support and support comes in different ways. Putting yourself first as a mother should always be a priority.
Society won’t necessarily give us that, but it is our responsibility to take it.
Amber Kelly, BSc, RCST.
16th December 2023
(photos are my own, reproduced with permission from parents)