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.

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.

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.

Now Offering Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy at Mundaring Wellness Centre

I am excited to start treating from Mundaring Wellness Centre behind Cafe Mojo next week. This is a beautiful space, especially this time of year with spring arriving, and they make healthy and delicious food too. Why not make a day of it – book a treatment and have lunch.

Cranio can help any member of the family to connect to their body. To feel more balanced and calm and to build resilience. The therapy is perfect for settling the nervous system so that the body feels safe and better able to make inspired life choices. Many people report noticing their body in a new way that brings the unconscious to the surface. If you haven’t heard of it I encourage you to give it a try to see if it is a good fit for you. Click here for more info.

I have an appt available this Monday at 11.30am for those who don’t mind booking their self care spontaneously. Or contact me to find a time that works for you.

Navigating laser treatment for tongue tie. To stretch or not to stretch?

The topic of posterior tongue tie (PTT) and lip tie (LT) is a controversial one. Research is limited and opinions are divided. I have worked with mums who have found treating these issues to make all the difference in their breastfeeding journey. However I do have concerns around some current practices including:

  • routine stretches / oral exercises / active wound management
  • laser frenectomy for breastfeeding problems that have not been thoroughly assessed by an IBCLC
  • laser frenectomy for babies to prevent future issues

The Australian Dental Association (in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team) has recently released a “Ankyloglossia and Oral Frena Consensus Statement” which I feel addresses some of my concerns.

The prescription of routine stretches/exercises after a laser frenectomy varies between providers. These are well intentioned, with the idea that they will prevent the lingual frenulum from reattaching or scarring. A recent client was advised to do them 6 times a day, for 21 days! There is no scientific evidence to prove that they do in fact prevent reattachment – and what of the risks? We know that they can cause oral aversion and exacerbate feeding issues. Babies are very orally sensitive. We need to respect when they are telling us “no”. Overriding this can potentially disrupt the parental bond. As a craniosacral therapist, working with the nervous system, I have a unique perspective as I am able to assess the impact of persistent stretches on babies systems. Babies respond to difficult experiences with a fight or flight response. But because they are physically unable to run away or fight, they can easily shift into freeze – a dissociative state. This is a protective survival mechansim and, unless treated, can become a lifelong pattern. Undergoing a laser frenectomy can be a traumatic experience for both mother and baby. With care and sensitivity the body can integrate this trauma with minimal lasting impact. It is my opinion that constant stretches for weeks afterwards interferes with the integration of the trauma, instead driving it deeper into the body.

My other concern is that babies with feeding problems are able to undergo the procedure without a full feeding assessment by an IBCLC. Nipple pain and milk transfer issues may not be related to the oral anatomy. An IBCLC can help to rule out nipple infections and positioning and attachment issues potentially avoiding surgery. Also, 1-2 sessions of cranio/bodywork beforehand may address issues such as myofascial tightness / jaw issues / cranial nerve impingment that can impact breastfeeding. Then, if no improvement in feeding, laser frenectomy can be trialled, often as a last resort.

Non-surgical management strategies can be effective first-line therapies for management of functional limitations associated with ankyloglossia. Surgical management should be considered only after non-surgical management has failed to address the functional issue that led to the diagnosis.

ADA Statement

Finally, the procedure is often done to prevent future issues. Parents have a lot of fear around future issues with speech or dental issues. These aren’t yet substantiated by evidence. Social media perpetuates this fear. In my humble opinion, the only reason to treat PTT and LT in babies is for feeding issues.

“Further research is needed regarding other reported adverse health outcomes, such as problems with speech, malocclusion, lingual gingival recession and obstructive sleep apnoea as evidence of a consistent causative relationship is lacking. No evidence exists to support buccal or labial frena causing problems with feeding or speech.”

ADA statement

That said …despite no evidence, I have seen lip ties interfere with attachment/seal at the breast. And I have seen lip ties contribute to decay at the top of the central incisors.

Laser frenectomy (compared to scissors frenotomy) needs much more consideration as it is a longer and more traumatic procedure. Here in Perth, parents have a few options, my preferred referral is to one that does not recommend stretches and where it is a requirement that every baby is thoroughly assessed by an IBCLC before the procedure. The good news is, if babies do need to undergo laser treatment for tongue tie or lip tie, just one session of cranio can help them to integrate the experience, bringing them out of fight or flight or a dissociative state. This has lasting positive impacts on feeding and the nervous 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.