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.

Cranio for kids

School holidays are a good time to book your child in for a cranio treatment. Home visits are affordable and may suit those who don’t want to bring all the family to appointments.

It is a privilege to treat children, I love it as much as I love treating babies. Children are very much in tune with the rhythms of their body and during a treatment, can often 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.

A few things cranio may help children with:

  • head injury
  • growing pains
  • musculoskeletal issues
  • adjusting to orthodontics
  • headaches
  • birth trauma (it’s never too late to address issues from the birth)

Click here for more info and prices or go to the contact me page to book in.

Food Sensitivities in Breastfed Babies

In my lactation practice I am seeing more and more babies with food sensitivities (allergy and intolerances). In Australia, ten percent of babies have food allergies 1, also these numbers don’t include intolerances (non IgE mediated reactions). Unfortunately, many mothers and their uncomfortable babies are dismissed by the medical system, especially if they are gaining weight (or “thriving” – not my definition of thriving!). What tends to get ignored, is the impact on both mum and baby’s wellbeing and enjoyment of breastfeeding.  

These are all signs and symptoms of food sensitivity that I have seen in babies:

  • hives
  • rash
  • nasal congestion
  • eczema
  • cradle cap
  • low weight gain
  • unusual bowel motions (excessive number of stools or mucus or blood in stools)
  • vomiting /reflux after feeding
  • excessive hiccups or gas
  • high-needs baby
  • constant sucking
  • difficulty getting baby to sleep
  • colic
  • grunting
  • attachment difficulty / shallow latch / twisting away from the breast
  • breast refusal

Food allergens cause irritation to the gut lining, causing inflammation and discomfort. This can lead to babies taking smaller feeds at the breast, fussing and sometimes refusing to feed much at all, leading to low weight gain. Low weight gain can also be caused by impaired nutrient absorption in the bowels. Other babies gain lots of weight because they have an increased need to feed for comfort.

Before trialling an elimination diet, it is a good idea to see a lactation consultant (IBCLC) or someone who is experienced in this area. An IBCLC will do a full assessment ruling out other possible causes of discomfort or breastfeeding problems (eg. lactose overload, supply issues, tongue tie). A doctor can do a thorough check to rule out medical issues such as UTI, GORD etc. Bodywork can play a role. As a craniosacral therapist I can treat unresolved physical and emotional tensions in the body that may be contributing to unsettled behaviour.

After other causes have been ruled out, the first step is to trial a dairy elimination diet for 2-3 weeks. Cow’s milk protein is the most common cause of food allergy and intolerance in babies. Some mums choose to eliminate soy as well, as many babies who are sensitive to cow’s milk protein are sensitive to soy too. If babies are sensitive to dairy, mothers should see improvement after 3-4 days of starting the elimination diet. Stools may take longer to return to a normal consistency. Parents will have to carefully read ingredient lists on packets of processed foods to ensure there is no hidden dairy. Removing cow’s milk from mother’s diet often makes a significant difference. For some mothers this is an easy venture, for others (myself included) it was near impossible. Accidental slip-ups can happen and often there are other foods causing reactions. In these cases I refer mums to a dietitian experienced with helping breastfeeding families. Mothers who need to continue any long-term elimination diet, including dairy-free, should also have their diet checked by a dietitian.

Other factors to keep in mind that can negatively impact bowel function in babies include maternal or infant antibiotics, and the oral rotavirus vaccine (that babies receive at 2 & 4 months). Discuss these medical treatments with your doctor if you have a food sensitive baby. Exclusively breastfed babies are protected from rotavirus through breastfeeding and the vaccine is non-compulsory.

As a mother of a breastfed baby who was sensitive to cow’s milk protein I know the impact food sensitivities can have on breastfeeding, emotional wellbeing and sleep. Parents may be tempted to switch to formula, but breastmilk is still the milk of choice for these babies, providing good bacteria (probiotics), a large range of prebiotics to develop a healthy microbiome, many protective factors, stem cells and gentle exposure to other potential allergens. Most formula is derived from cow’s milk protein, though there are specialised formulas for babies allergic to cow’s milk protein. These are often expensive and taste terrible. There may also be the temptation to enrol in sleep school or hire a sleep consultant, though food sensitive babies do tend to fail sleep school! This also doesn’t help remove the cause of the baby’s distress.

It is a difficult road caring for and breastfeeding, these babies. There is a lot of self-doubt (feeling you are getting parenting or breastfeeding wrong) and an overriding feeling of helplessness. Parents need support and empathy, not to be dismissed or given advice to space feeds or switch to formula.

Here’s my tips to get through the day with a food sensitive baby:

  1. Keep on boobing!
  2. Don’t worry about routines, forming bad habits, or feeding too much.
  3. Do what ever is easiest for you in each moment.

Remember this too shall pass.

  1. *Article inspired by Robyn Noble’s webinar – Recognising Allergies in Breastfed Babies.  

Resources for mothers:

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 the 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
  • Blocked 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 feeding or spilling (poor suction)
  • Poor milk transfer – frequent small feeds or long inefficient feeds
  • Low weight gain
  • Chewing or chomping at the breast

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.