Four reasons why cranio supports infant sleep

I spent 4 years in the midst of sleep deprivation when my kids were babies.

My first son had difficulty with transitioning in and out of sleep. In hindsight I know this was related to our difficult birth and an activated nervous system. I didn’t know about cranio at the time. I took him to a chiro, a couple of times, and he slept well for the night of the treatments, but that was it.

My second son had food sensitivities. Safe co-sleeping was our survival strategy.

Both my kids didn’t sleep through the night until they were over two.

Image courtsey of Verity Worthington (Baby Sleep Information Source)

I understand the desperation parents feel when sleep deprived, the brain does not work well and life can feel overwhelming. Mainstream advice seems to consist of various ways of leaving the baby to cry, which goes against babies biological expectations to be comforted by, and to be in close proximity to caregivers.

I’m not here to say your baby should be sleeping through the night or self-settling. But if they are hard to settle to sleep, or cannot be put down at all, then cranio may help resolve any underlying issues. Babies tend to sleep better after cranio, not just the night of the session, but better sleep in general.

Here are some quotes from parents I have worked with recently:

“he is sleeping longer stretches in his bassinet”

“he slept 5 hours in a row last night”

“she is calmer and easier to settle”

“he is going down for more sleeps and they are longer”

“she will now fall asleep on the breast”

How does cranio help?

1. Babies nervous system may be stuck in a fight or flight state.

Birth, or events afterwards, may trigger a survival response in the nervous system. An activated nervous system is not a recipe for good sleep. Cranio works with the nervous system, the listening touch helps the body to switch out of a “fight or flight” state into “rest and repair”.

2. Compression of the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is an important nerve that regulates the autonomic nervous system. It winds its way from the brainstem, between the cranial bones down to the heart, lungs and digestive organs. If, after birth, the cranial bones are not optimally aligned the functioning of this nerve may be impacted. Cranio helps the body to self-shift these bones into a position that maximises function – breathing and heart rate is more regulated and feeding, digestion and sleep improves.

3. Musculo-skeletal issues

I have treated babies who have had back and neck injuries from inutero positioning or the birth process. If babies are uncomfortable or in pain they will not sleep well. Cranio helps the body to let go of any constrictions – to soften and relax – and this has a ripple effect on sleep and feeding.

4. Birth imprints

The experience of birth leaves an imprint on our bodies, especially when there have been strong emotions involved e.g. fear, stress or sadness. If baby has a story that is unresolved or cycling in their system, then they will be driven to try to tell this story through their behaviour, this can impact sleep and feeding. When babies bodies are listened to during a cranio treatment, then the baby feels heard and at peace. They often sleep (and feed) better when they have gotten the story off their chest.

Disclaimer!

Cranio is not necessarily the panacea. Some babies I have worked with do not improve with sleep, often for the following reasons:

  • Developmental leaps – cranio will often trigger a developmental leap and when babies are practicing rolling or crawling they are more likely to wake more frequently for a while.
  • Food sensitivities – babies who are uncomfortable due to cows milk protein intolerance (CMPI) or other food sensitivities will continue to be uncomfortable until the offending food is removed from their diet.
  • Temperament – some babies do tend to wake frequently even after emotional, physical and nervous system issues are ruled out or resolved. This may just be part of their temperament.

Sleep is not a learned behaviour but the result of a settled nervous system and a body free from physical restrictions and difficult emotions. Cranio is a gentle and often effective way to resolve the underlying issues that get in the way of sleep.  

Get in touch if you would like to try cranio for your little one.

Top six reasons your baby would benefit from cranio.

Cranio is a holistic, gentle treatment that supports the nervous system to down-regulate, which triggers the body’s own self-healing mechanism.  Because it is so gentle, it is perfect to use with babies. Plus babies systems are so potent and ready to shift easily back to balance – some just need a little cranio support.

Because cranio is not well known, parents may not know the kinds of things that cranio is good at addressing. Here are the top six issues I see in my cranio/lactation practice:

1. Your baby had significant bruising around their head after birth

Some babies complete their birth journey looking pretty beat up!

Check out the squashed nose and facial asymmetry on this little bub, I had the pleasure to treat. He was not able to latch onto the breast without a shield and had issues transferring milk (before cranio).

And this little one had obviously been assisted to birth with a vacuum!

If after birth, your baby had significant bruising, forceps marks, chignon from vacuum extraction, a cephalohematoma or other abnormal head shape, it is a sign that baby has undergone some difficulty during birth and would benefit from cranio. Hospital staff are used to these kinds of injuries and often dismiss it, knowing that superficially these marks do disappear over the following weeks to months. But there can still be underlying physical and emotional tensions that are not yet integrated. These stress imprints remain in the tissues in obvious and less obvious ways. Babies may be very sensitive to touch on their head and may react strongly to clothes being pulled over their head. Other infant interventions like suctioning or fetal scalp monitors may also impact the tissues, in less obvious ways but may still be held in the system.

Cranio can find these holding patterns in the body and facilitate their system to gently release, leaving a sense of peace in the baby’s system.

2. Labour was very long or very fast

Babies have their own experience of birth, often linked to their mothers, but with their own unique pressures and stresses. If they have felt stuck for any reason or under a lot of pressure for a long amount of time this can influence their bodies, in particular the nervous system and the neck. They may have felt scared or panicked. If a prolonged labour ended up in emergency c-section then the baby may also feel disoriented, this can show as arching at the breast or pushing with the feet, the baby can feel stuck in the birth sequence of pushing from the uterine walls.

On the flip side, a fast birth may be a shock to the baby and can show up as activation in their nervous system.

Cranio acknowledges the birth experience and allows these physical and emotional tensions to release leading to happier well-adjusted babies.

3. You have been told your baby has a tongue tie

There is much controversy around tongue tie recently. Research is lacking around posterior tongue ties and lip ties, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It helps to have bodywork before undergoing a tongue tie release. Cranio is a form of bodywork that can address other issues that may mimic the symptoms of tongue tie such as, cranial nerve dysfunction, tight fascia or general nervous system activation. If a couple of cranio treatments improves breastfeeding then the tongue tie procedure may be avoided; if it doesn’t, then the parent can feel confident that the procedure is necessary. It is also recommended to schedule a cranio treatment within a week of the tongue tie release, to optimise function and to reset the nervous system.

4. Your newborn has difficulty latching to the breast

Newborn babies have natural instincts to latch themselves to the breast after birth, if they can’t then there is usually a good reason for it. Often the mum feels like she is doing something wrong, but it is actually because the baby is in pain, tense, stressed or medicated from birth. Perhaps there is a tongue tie or tight jaw muscles? Cranial nerve function can be impeded due to compression of cranial bones which can affect tongue function and sensation. The earlier cranio treatment is given the better in these circumstances.

5. Your baby cries a lot

Babies cry to communicate and once that need is met usually stop crying. If your baby cries inconsolably or with a high pitch then they may need some cranio support. Some babies have musculoskeletal pain or discomfort from birth. Others have a strong need to tell their birth story through memory crying. I have successfully treated babies who have cried excessively since birth. Cranio provides deep listening as well as addressing any physical tensions and may help get to the root cause of their suffering.

6. Baby has a head preference/torticollis or breastfeeding is painful on one side

This gorgeous little guy needed a few cranio sessions for torticollis that was affecting latch at the breast and also causing him discomfort.

Babies with a stiff neck tend to have trouble with positioning and latch. Tight inutero environments and/or asynclitic positions during birth may impact the neck/shoulders and jaw and other parts of the body. This can cause breastfeeding difficulties which tend to be slow to resolve on their own. Cranio helps the body let go of these restrictions and then breastfeeding often becomes easier.

Birth is a formative experience. Its impact is imprinted in the tissues of the body and can influence the health and wellbeing of the person from infant to adulthood. Early cranio treatment can prevent future difficulties such as headaches, anxiety and more.

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree

Alexander Pope

Often an hour or so of skin to skin after birth helps the mum and baby to integrate the birth experience and let go of any held tensions; sometimes this doesn’t happen, sometimes it does – but bub needs more support.

Contact me to book your baby in for a treatment.

Photos used with parents permission*