Tongue-tie and Breastfeeding

A tongue-tie (ankyloglossia) occurs when the connective tissue (frenum) under the tongue causes restriction in the tongue movement or function. It occurs in 2.8 – 10.7% babies, more often in boys and can be hereditary.

Anterior tongue-tie occurs when the frenum is attached at the front of the tongue, close to the tip. When the frenum is attached further back, or behind the mucosa, the term posterior tongue-tie is used. This term does not have consensus and the topic of posterior tongue tie (and lip tie) is a controversial one. Research is limited and opinions are divided.

Photo courtesy of Monica Hogan & David Todd

Signs & Symptoms

A baby with tongue-tie may not be able to poke the tongue out beyond the gum line / lips;  and /or may not be able to lift tongue or move it side to side. The tongue tip may look notched or heart shaped. This may interfere with correct attachment at the breast, leading to some of these problems:

Mother:

• Nipple pain and damage

• Low milk supply

• Plugged ducts / mastitis

• Early weaning

• Frustration, disappointment and discouragement with breastfeeding

Infant:

• Baby can’t latch or stay latched

• Fussiness and frequent arching away from the breast

• Clicking sound while nursing or spilling (poor suction)

• Problems with milk transfer – frequent small feeds or long inefficient feeds

• Poor weight gain

• “Chewing” or “chomping” of the nipple

How to treat:

Frenotomy is a minor surgical procedure performed using scissors. It is quick and the baby will often settle soon after. It can be performed without anaesthesia. Scissors are often used when the frenum is thin and anterior and unlikely to bleed much.

Laser frenectomy is an effective method for “posterior” tongue-tie / submucosal tongue-tie and lip tie that controls bleeding well. This is generally performed by a paediatric dentist or surgeon. Different lasers are used: water-lase is commonly used with infants.

Risks:

Infection is rare. Some babies may become fussy at the breast for a period of time afterwards. Bleeding is common – sucking/feeding straight after the procedure usually resolves this. There is a small risk of reattachment and scarring that may require a repeat procedure. Wound stretches and other oral exercises are often advised for this reason but may distress the baby and lead to oral aversion.

My approach as an IBCLC/bodyworker:

Sadly, I have seen many parents (and babies) whose breastfeeding journeys have been negatively affected due to missed tongue-ties. Babies with feeding challenges need to have an individualised, comprehensive feeding and oral function assessment. An IBCLC can rule out nipple infections and positioning and attachment issues which may potentially avoid surgery. Since becoming a craniosacral therapist, I further understand how cranial nerve compression and tension in the body can also cause similar symptoms to tongue tie. The tongue may be restricted, but not specifically due to the presence of a tight frenum. A couple of sessions of cranio/bodywork beforehand may address these issues and have a positive impact on breastfeeding. A procedure may be avoided or it may become clearer that a release is necessary. Cranio after the procedure can help to resolve any stress and to optimise function.

There is so much controversy, and limited research, around tongue ties, that it can be difficult for parents to know whether to go ahead with a procedure to release a tie – especially with posterior tongue-ties and lip ties. Where there is doubt about the presence of a tongue-tie, cranio is a gentle, less invasive approach than laser frenectomy. But ultimately, treating the tongue-tie can make all the difference to breastfeeding success.

Contact me for a lactation consultation, tongue-tie assessment or cranio pre or post tongue-tie release.

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.

Falling asleep during a session

Its quite common for babies to fall asleep during a cranio session. Occasionally an exhausted adult will also drop into sleep. Recently, I had a couple of kids fall asleep during the treatment – which is pretty special.

Cranio helps the body to shift out of a “fight or flight” state into “rest and repair”, sometimes this looks like sleep. Both my boys ask for cranio when they have difficulty getting to sleep and I have occasionally helped my friend’s kids get to sleep at night, while I am at their place. Once, my skeptical partner (who still doesn’t understand cranio) allowed me to do cranio while he lay on the beach as he drifted off into a blissful sleep (he put it down to the gentle lapping of the waves, not the touch!).

It really is a privilege to support any body to shift out of a busy state; to find a sense of stillness and calm (that continues beyond the confines of the treatment room).

Perhaps you need this at the end of a difficult year? Would you like to find a calm centre during the silly season?

Contact me to make an appt – your body will thank you!

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 that bruise on his head -ouch!

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 prolonged 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 48 hrs 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; sometime 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*

Six issues that cranio works quickly to help in babies

Cranio is a gentle, holistic treatment that has the potential to facilitate profound changes in the body, which can make all the difference to an infant’s sense of wellbeing. Babies often find it to be very relaxing and parents often notice they feel a lot calmer too after their baby receives treatment. Babies tend to respond quickly to cranio, often only needing between 1-3 treatments. These six issues can be easily addressed in one session:

1. Your labour was induced

Induction via a Syntocinon drip can feel intense to mothers, often we overlook the experience of the baby. Babies play an active role in birth; pushing off the uterine walls with their feet, twisting and turning to find their way out. Induction overrides this natural pacing and sequence. During a cranio treatment I may palpate tones of urgency and fear. These stress imprints often resolve within one cranio treatment where they otherwise may be held in the body and impact on feeding, sleep and baby behaviour. Feeling of self-empowerment are often restored after a cranio treatment.

2. Your baby is restless when sleeping or difficult to settle to sleep

This may be related to a difficult birth experience, sometimes these babies are in shock from the birth or stuck in “fight or flight” mode with their nervous system is dialled up. Cranio helps to calm the nervous system. This isn’t just within a treatment, but often continues afterwards. Babies then feel safe enough to drop into a deep sleep. *Other reasons may include food sensitivities and may not be as easily addressed with cranio.

3. Your newborn baby falls asleep at the breast within 5 minutes

Medication or anaesthesia from birth may still be influencing baby. Or the baby may be in parasympathetic shock after birth. This is the freeze aspect of the nervous system survival mode – “fight, flight or freeze”. Cranio can clear this dissociative state so that baby is more alert to feed.

4. Your baby has poor eye contact

We underestimate babies. They have a strong capacity for connection and can make deep eye contact if they feel safe and are not holding on to difficult experiences. Babies often have improved capacity for eye contact after cranio treatment.

5. Your baby was exposed to medication (during pregnancy, birth or anytime afterwards)

Perhaps you had to take medication (including antidepressants, pethidine) during pregnancy or labour. Sometimes this is unavoidable and in the best interests of both mum and baby. Or maybe your baby had to have antibiotics for a health concern.

A baby may need a little support to help clear the side effects from their system, usually one session is all that is needed.

6. Baby vomits or hiccups excessively

There may be tensions in the diaphragm that cranio can help to release.


Ideally babies would have treatment in the weeks and months following birth, but it is never too late to book in. Please share with anyone you know who is pregnant or has a baby.

Please contact me to book an appt for your baby.

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.

Cranio for kids

I have treated a few school age children lately. It is so beneficial to the child to be able to resolve underlying physical tensions, suppressed emotions or patterns of “fight or flight”‘ in a safe space.

Children are very much in tune with the rhythms of their body and during a treatment, can feel all the shifts happening within, more so than most adults. They do have to consent to treatment, and are told that at anytime that they can speak up and stop the session, if desired – mostly, they don’t though, they can feel the benefits. By the end of the session, the nervous system feels calmer and balanced. All the energy that was holding the tensions at a subconscious level is freed up to optimise their vitality. They are then better able to self regulate their emotions.

It is a privilege to treat children, I love it as much as I love treating babies. Therefore I want to open up more space for school age children to access my services. I will extend my hours on Mondays and Tuesdays to see children after school.

Please contact me, if you feel your child may benefit from some craniosacral therapy.

Slow to heal?

The body has an amazing ability to heal itself. But sometimes, this self-healing mechanism can get stuck or feel sluggish. Ailments that should realistically clear within a week or so can drag out for months. What is it that drives our healing? What gets in the way? And how does cranio help?

During a cranio session, I am able to tune into subtle rhythms of the body. We call this “primary respiration” because the body expands and contracts in a rhythmic quality, similar to our breath. Another term for this is the craniosacral rhythm. These rhythms are central to our healing and are sadly ignored by the medical model.   

Stress has a significant influence on the craniosacral rhythm and the ability of the body to heal itself. At the start of a session it is common to feel stress imprints on the system – a fast heart rate, tight chest, shallow breathing or an all over “buzzing” quality. After some time these imprints dissolve as the body finds safety in the present moment and shifts into a parasympathetic state – also called “rest and repair”. The stable nervous system of a craniosacral therapist acts as a model of health for the client’s system to resonate with and assists in this shift from stress. Our nervous systems are always communicating with the nervous systems of others around us.

Recently I treated client with a sore shoulder who had limited range of movement, he was heading down the path of scans and trips to the doctors for injections and physio treatment. After one session his shoulder was “better than ever and nearly back to normal”, this was with minimal contact at his shoulder! At the start of the treatment the effects of stress emerged as a disturbance in his system (that he could feel too). This state of being takes a considerable amount of energy to maintain and means this energy is not being used to heal the areas that need healing. Working with the whole and supporting the body to find stillness and the slower rhythms frees up this stuck energy to move to the places in the body that need support.

Similarly, a client with a persistent bruise (over months) found that one session of cranio shifted the bruise, with minimal “hands on” contact to the area. Initially her system was overlaid with stress imprints which acts as a barrier to her healing. During the session her body was able to switch from “fight or flight” mode to ”rest and repair”. and within days the bruise began to fade.

Our nervous system plays a huge role in our wellness. Cranio is one way to support the body to shift out of stress states so that the body has the best opportunity to heal. The attunement to the healing forces in a cranio session can shift the body towards health, sometimes within one session, though a series of treatments can help to change the body’s overall relationship to stressful events. It is quite the paradigm shift to consider that focusing on the health (healing forces) is what helps, rather than trying to fix what is broken. Refinding our wholeness is the key.

If you have a persistent health complaint that is dragging on or slow to heal, contact me to book a cranio treatment to orient your body back to health and wholeness.

Low-cost baby cranio clinic

Here are the new dates for the next three months.

I am offering a monthly clinic for babies to receive biodynamic craniosacral therapy – by donation. All babies should have the opportunity to receive cranio, regardless of their parents’ financial situation. This is a great opportunity for your baby to experience this gentle therapy. Read below for more details….

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Who:

Pre-crawling babies (babies who have not received cranio before will be prioritised)

What:

Cranio is a light touch form of bodywork that is non-manipulative. Jenny uses a listening touch to calm babies nervous system, sparking a biological process, unique to each individual, to release held tensions, stresses and trauma from the body. Babies often find it to be deeply relaxing. Parents often report that baby is calmer, easier to settle and more comfortable in their body.

Why:

Cranio may help:

  • breastfeeding difficulties
  • fussy, hard to soothe, irritable babies
  • babies who have had an assisted birth (vaccuum /forceps/ C-section)
  • babies who experienced a fast birth or excessively long birth
  • babies who vomit frequently
  • newborns who do not wake for feeds
  • babies with digestive or sleep issues
  • premature babies or babies who have been separated from their mother.

When:

  • Thursday 22nd October – 9.30 – 2.30
  • Thursday 26th November – 9.30 -2.30
  • Thursday 17th December – 9.30 – 2.30

Where:

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Clinic – 74 Nollamara Ave, Nollamara.

Cost:

Donation based – suggestion at least $10. (*usual cost $60). If you find the treatment to be helpful for your baby, I would appreciate a facebook review.


Places are limited and by appointment only. So book early through the website or phone 0435 309 397.

Cranio for babies with a head preference

I recently had the privilege of working of with two babies who had a head preference and cranio was very helpful in increasing range of motion and infant comfort.

One little boy had significant torticollis from inutero positioning. This prevented him from latching well to the breast. His mum was “amazed” by the improvements. She herself booked in for a few sessions of cranio, it was so interesting to see the same constrictions show up in her body too. Baby shows much more progress when you help to release the jaw/neck tightness in mum.

Another baby I worked with over three sessions had significant neck tension and discomfort, which we suspected was from an external cephalic version (ECV). He was in a breech position and was assisted to turn head down while inutero by health professionals. His mother noted how painful the procedure was for her as she felt his head when it hit her pelvis. For the baby this can be a disorienting experience and, by the sounds of it for this baby, painful too as his head came into contact with her pelvic bones. He was extremely unsettled since birth. After two treatments, he was noticeably more comfortable in his body, sleeping better & crying less.

It is important to note that mums also need to be involved in treatment. It still astounds me to feel the same constriction patterns arise in the mums body. Often full healing is not possible until the tight jaw/shoulders/neck resolve in mums body. Mums and babies are so connected and often mirror each other body patterns.

Cranio is such a gentle and sensitve way to approach these kinds of injuries. Often if touch is the cause of the injury (despite best intentions), then the spacious empathic listening touch of a craniosacral therapist is the perfect way to create a sense of safety around touch in order for the body to release tensions and trauma.

For best results book a birth trauma package – three treatments spaced one week apart (including at least one mum and bub treatment).