A Toddler Tells Her Birth Story

Did you know that babies and young children remember their birth?

I recall my son saying, when he was a toddler “mum you punched me in the stomach when I was born”. Now, I don’t remember doing this, but I do remember the scramble to get him from the bottom of the birth pool, when I wrongly assumed the midwife would catch him. I went from being on my knees and leaning on the side of the pool to flipping over and grabbing him. Perhaps I did accidentally knock his stomach with my hands??!

My experiences as a craniosacral therapist have also shown me, that given the opportunity, a baby or toddler may suddenly start telling me their birth (or prenatal) story – through body language, somatic imprints or emotions. It is not uncommon for babies to take one look at me and start to memory cry!

Recently, a regular client had just had her second birthday party. It had been a while since I treated her. Now she could speak. Her mum had asked me to do a session because she had bumped her head. While this imprint did show up, she was not keen on any touch, but instead started to play with me… her play was very specific, detailing her conception and birth journey.

Tunnels tend to feature stongly.

She was fortunate to have a home birth without intervention, so not as tricky as some of the babies I treat, but still – she had a story to tell! She showed me an “egg” and a “tunnel” (many times repeating the word tunnel), and proceeded to show me the steps of how she got here, how she was “stuck” screwing up her face and tucking her self into a ball while pulling out bracelets from the folds of her plush red sofa. So creative! She would repeat the key themes for me for emphasis. There was a sense of empowerment in her experience, of moving through a challenge and overcoming it.

Somehow she knew that I was able to hear her story – the story emerging without any intention on my part. It is one of my favourite “craniosacral” sessions, and as I said, I didn’t touch her at all. More of an “Integrative Baby Therapy” session than cranio. This therapy is part of a movement to recognise that babies are sentient beings, having their own experience of birth, and that how we are born has a significant influence on us. Babies and young children are more than capable of communicating this in the presence of others who recognise this as truth. It still blows me away that somehow our bodies, and/or our consciousness can recognise when someone else is open to listening. So much communication happens beyond what is spoken. It remains one of lifes mysteries that science is yet to fully unravel.

Babies and children remember their birth and being in the womb! Though with time, and our cultures lack of awareness, these experiences are slowly eroded from our conscious (explicit) memory, but they remain in our implicit memory, which is not something that can be consciously recalled, but instead from emotional or somatic triggers. Our bodies remember! Even adults hold imprints from birth.

I wish I had known this was possible when my children were young and could have explored it with them. Its a very special experience to witness. If you would like to explore your baby or childs prenatal or birth imprints please contact me to book a session.

Mirroring: body to body communication

“Children do not just mirror what they see and hear, but also what they feel in other people. As sensitive children … we contact the internal space of our parent’s body with the internal space of our body… we mirror constrictions and emotions that are held within the inner depths of our parents bodies”

Judith Blackstone – Trauma and the Unbound Body

Mums and babies systems are inextricably linked – more so than you might think! Humans protectively constrict (or contract) the body when we experience something overwhelming. These constrictions are bound up with memories and emotions from the event. These patterns of experience are held in our bodies and interestingly, mums and their babies often share each others patterns. For example, a mother with a sore neck may actually be mirroring her baby’s neck injury (from the birth) – when it is actually the baby with the sore neck! It can also go the other way, where a baby may mirror deeply held constrictions or imprints from the mum, from a tight jaw to an ingrained habit of the nervous system. This is one of the reasons that I suggest mum gets a session during the course of treating her baby – cranio releases the constriction in mum, but also in her baby too.

Science is only just beginning to explore these concepts, there has been some research on mirror neurons, which are thought to play a key role in empathy and social behaviour and may partly explain the phenomenon of mirroring. I was taken by surprise during my cranio training, when after months of training my hands to become more sensitive to subtle motion in others bodies, I realised that I was also mirroring some of the somatic imprints of my clients in my own body – which was helpful in guiding me to areas that needed support to release. This is not necessarily a special gift of mine but one that many other sensitive humans can learn to access.

This body to body communication may be one of the ways that trauma is passed down from one generation to the next!

It is never too late to heal though. Bodywork is key in shifting long held trauma from the body. Cranio brings awareness to these constrictions through body sensations (and often emotions or memories) which are then released from the body.

Contact me for an appt if you would like to experience what cranio can do for you or your baby.

Recommended reading Judith Blackstone’s book Trauma and The Unbound Body. She does a fantastic job of explaining a lot of somatic concepts that mirror my experience of giving and receiving cranio treatment.

Mirroring: body to body communication

“Children do not just mirror what they see and hear, but also what they feel in other people. As sensitive children … we contact the internal space of our parent’s body with the internal space of our body… we mirror constrictions and emotions that are held within the inner depths of our parents bodies”

Judith Blackstone – Trauma and the Unbound Body

Mums and babies systems are inextricably linked – more so than you might think! Humans protectively constrict (or contract) the body when we experience something overwhelming. These constrictions are bound up with memories and emotions from the event. These patterns of experience are held in our bodies and interestingly, mums and their babies often share each others patterns. For example, a mother with a sore neck may actually be mirroring her baby’s neck injury (from the birth) – when it is actually the baby with the sore neck! It can also go the other way, where a baby may mirror deeply held constrictions or imprints from the mum, from a tight jaw to an ingrained habit of the nervous system. This is one of the reasons that I suggest mum gets a session during the course of treating her baby – cranio releases the constriction in mum, but also in her baby too.

Science is only just beginning to explore these concepts, there has been some research on mirror neurons, which are thought to play a key role in empathy and social behaviour and may partly explain the phenomenon of mirroring. I was taken by surprise during my cranio training, when after months of training my hands to become more sensitive to subtle motion in others bodies, I realised that I was also mirroring some of the somatic imprints of my clients in my own body – which was helpful in guiding me to areas that needed support to release. This is not necessarily a special gift of mine but one that many other sensitive humans can learn to access.

This body to body communication may be one of the ways that trauma is passed down from one generation to the next!

It is never too late to heal though. Bodywork is key in shifting long held trauma from the body. Cranio brings awareness to these constrictions through body sensations (and often emotions or memories) which are then released from the body.

Contact me for an appt if you would like to experience what cranio can do for you or your baby.

Recommended reading Judith Blackstone’s book Trauma and The Unbound Body. She does a fantastic job of explaining a lot of somatic concepts that mirror my experience of giving and receiving cranio treatment.

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*

The complexities of touch

Early experiences of rough or insensitive handling, by hospital or NICU staff after birth, can influence how physical contact is received late in life. While these memories are not usually conscious, clients with this history may dissociate or feel tense or like they want to run away or strike out when receiving touch. This patterned reaction to touch may plague the client’s intimate relationships, as well as arising in bodywork. During a cranio session, a client is assisted to become aware of their ability in present time to protect themselves, get up and leave, negotiate the contact or simply speak, which can support them in shifting their relationship to this imprint.

Frankyln Sills – Foundations in Craniosacral Biodynamic p358

Just wanted to share a passsage from one of the leaders in this field – Frankyn Sills (I have paraphrased slightly). I have seen these imprints and reactions to touch in babies, children and adults. The earlier you treat the better, so these implicit memories have less of an influence in later life. Cranio is an ideal way to redefine your relationship to touch. If you resonate with this, or feel your baby or child may have specific touch needs based on their past history – please consider booking in for a cranio treatment.

Sleepy Newborns

Did you know that cranio can help to wake up sleepy babies? I have worked with many babies whose mothers have plenty of milk but they are unable to stay awake long enough to drink it. This is a frustrating situation. Relying on a breast pump and topping up with a bottle is a full time job and also runs the risk of bottle preference (where baby gets used to a constant flow of milk).

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink

Sometimes there is a tongue tie that is causing the baby to tire when breastfeeding.

Sometimes they are born too early. This includes babies induced. Being born at 38 weeks may be considered 2-4 weeks early for that particular baby.

Sometimes there has been a medicated birth and the baby has not fully integrated the medication / anaesthesia into their system. Anaesthesia or opioid medication has a dissociative effect on the nervous system. It is helpful because there is a temporary separation from a painful experience but on a more subtle level, there is a separation from the body.

This is where cranio comes in. I have treated sleepy babies who are not yet fully present in their bodies due to a medicated birth – one session of cranio can bring them out of a dissociative state and into the present moment – it breaks the pattern in the nervous system. This is why cranio is also helpful for anyone who has recently undergone surgery.

*I say all this with no judgement. I, too, have had a highly medicated, induced birth. My son was too sleepy to breastfeed when he was born and his first feed was a bottle of formula. I didn’t know about cranio back then (or expressing colostrum) and wish I was able to arrange this gentle treatment for my son.

Arching and pushing in babies (after emergency c-section)

For some babies, getting stuck in the birth canal, then being born via caesarean, can be a disorienting experience. Especially so, if anaesthesia or opioid medication was used at the time.

Babies are active participants during birth, they will push off the walls of the uterus with their feet, twist their bodies and turn their heads in order to facilitate the birthing process. It is a biological sequence encoded into their bodies. They are programmed to do this. If this sequence is interupted, at any point, the sequence may still be cycling in their system. A baby may frequently arch and twist at the breast, or push/kick their feet off surfaces.

These movements often arise during a biodynamic craniosacral therapy session. The baby is supported to complete the sequence or to express these movements. Afterwards the baby no longer has a need to keep acting out these movements – the arching, pushing and kicking stop and the baby feels complete and settled.

Consider a cranio treatment for your little one to support them to complete this unresolved urge still cycling in their system.

The Body Remembers…

Babies (and adults) remember their birth and early life (pre-verbal) experiences. These experiences are imprinted on the nervous system and tissues of the body. Early life experiences, like birth, influence our body and our behaviour. These formative experiences are often forgotten but can be later remembered (for example during a treatment of cranio). This occurs through the phenomena of “implicit” memory and is recalled through body sensations and feelings. Cranio creates a supportive, caring, slowed down, environment where these implicit memories can gently emerge (along with emotions and physical sensations). This process can restore a feeling of wholeness, even with the accompanying pain of remembering.

*I have paraphrased Mia Kalef (from her book “The Secret Life of babies”) which I am currently reading. I highly recommend to others who are interested in understanding the nature of craniosacral therapy, the unconscious body and the sentience of babies.