Written by Molly McDonald:
Advanced training in Massage Therapy & Infant/Maternal Craniosacral Therapy
Breastfeeding, while natural, can sometimes seem anything but simple. Craniosacral Therapy (CST) can provide a wonderful compliment to Lactation support while you and your baby navigate the learning process of breastfeeding. While some people have heard of Craniosacral Therapy, most people are unsure of what it is. A large part of what I love about this work is the opportunity to educate clients and families about CST, the anatomy of the craniosacral system, the origins of the therapy, and descriptions of different types of bodywork. It seems what people really want to know is “what does this look and feel like and why would I want myself or my baby to experience it?” This article will attempt to explain CST as a therapy as well as what the experience may be like.
First, who should consider Craniosacral Therapy?
Rarely, after receiving nurturing touch or massage does someone think ‘wow, I really didn’t need that- everything was in perfect condition’. Everyone can use good, calming intentional touch as a way of decreasing emotional and physical tension and increasing their well-being. However, if you and your baby have experienced any of the following, Craniosacral Therapy is highly recommended for one or both of you:
- a very fast birth
- a very long labor
- cesarean delivery
- any number of interventions during labor/delivery
- Tongue tie or lip tie
- Pre and post-Frenotomy (for tongue or lip tie that is clipped)
- Baby who seemed ‘stuck’ during labor
- Baby who seems generally uncomfortable or very fussy
- Baby who prefers to have their head turned to one direction over the other
Birth is a challenging process for both mother and baby even when ideal. It is possible that through that process you or the baby might have some ‘restrictions’ present that may be hindering optimal breastfeeding, digestion issues, or general comfort in you and/or your baby’s bodies.
Why should we receive Craniosacral Therapy?
A ‘restriction’ can be any one of the following things: sticky connective tissue, muscle tightness, muscle weakness, lack of fluid flow, excessive fluid (swelling), bones that are misaligned, scar tissue, and even energy blockages. Our bodies are constantly striving for homeostasis (or balance) for optimal functioning. For example, if muscles are too tight, flexibility and movement are restricted. If muscles are too loose, it is difficult to maintain stability. If hormones, structures or neurochemicals are out of balance, then other parts of the working body will try to compensate. Carol Gray, midwife and Infant/Maternal Craniosacral Therapy Instructor, has stated, “if all of the parts in the body (muscles, bones, ligaments, organs, etc) are able to move and glide independently of their
neighboring body parts, then each part can seek and find it’s most optimal functioning”. One important type of tissue, connective tissue, is a pervasive throughout the body. It is a mesh-like tissue that weaves and surrounds all of the body parts. It acts like a lubricant and support system in its healthiest state; however, if left stagnant, it starts to overdevelop and thicken to more of a sticky substance. This stickiness can cause restrictions in mobility between certain body parts, limiting them from doing what they need for optimal functioning. For example, if a baby’s jaw is misaligned or asymmetric, it may impinge the very nerves that control their ability to suck properly. A craniosacral therapist is trained to search for those types of restrictions and then to gently aid the body in releasing them. In an ideal situation, mothers receive Craniosacral Therapy through pregnancy, particularly the 2nd and 3rd trimesters preparing and optimizing the body for labor and delivery. If all of the mother’s body parts have their maximum mobility (including the pelvic bones and the uterine ligaments) mother and baby have the best opportunity for finding their optimal positions and movement for labor and delivery.
What does it look like or what does a Craniosacral Therapist ‘do’?
Craniosacral Therapy presumes that the body already knows how to heal itself, but if there are restrictions getting in the way, CST can help free the body parts from one another so the body may continue its healing and maintenance. Craniosacral therapists are trained to use the sensitive surface of their hands to detect a variety of restrictions or mobility throughout the body. This is done by gently resting their hands on various parts of the body feeling for subtle movement or lack of movement in the tissues beneath and/or between their hands. While their hands are only lightly touching the surface of the body, it is possible to feel for restrictions at any depth throughout the body. Much like you can feel a sliver deep beneath your skin even though you aren’t directly touching the sliver (or restriction) itself. Once a possible restriction has been identified a craniosacral therapist uses a gentle, melting touch to release those restrictions.
Craniosacral Therapy does not use forceful manipulation of bones or the body. It is designed to assist how that particular body wants to unwind, not force the body to do what a practitioner ‘thinks’ it should. This process is called ‘listening’ to the body through our hands.
What does the client feel during Craniosacral Therapy?
Craniosacral Therapy is a practice of patience and subtlety, whereas massage therapy uses pressure, a varying amount of force or depth and repetitive strokes to try to urge the tissues to release. Some restrictions may respond better to patience over force. The effectiveness and relaxation during a craniosacral session is the difference in sensations experienced. During traditional massage, our brains are constantly processing the sensations created by moving hands on our bodies. While receiving CST, your brain is drawn to the area where the practitioner rests their hands, then often the sensation of the practitioner’s hands fades to the background and can leave the brain with only the sensations going on inside of the body. Craniosacral Therapy can literally enhance inner awareness. It’s possible that as soon as your brain recognizes where the body is holding tension, your own healing mechanisms will release them. CST is subtle, simple, non-invasive and effective. Some clients report feeling floaty, on the edge of sleep, or that they can ‘sense’ things in their body that they have never felt before, other clients simply report that they feel very relaxed. With preverbal children and newborns, their body language can be very communicative. Often babies will get very warm during treatment, relax into a deep sleep, unfurl their bodies, suddenly seem much heavier, smile, or express some other emotion momentarily until that particular restriction is released. Even newborn babies sometimes take part in the session by attempting to hold the therapists’ hand in place when a restriction is found that needs to be released.
What will the client feel after a session?
Typically, a treatment session may release restrictions in one or a few areas of the body. However, the body constantly striving for homeostasis works to balance those changes out. Therefore, with CST, clients often report feeling continued sensational shifts throughout their body for a day or so post-treatment. During this ‘integration period’, you or your baby may sleep really hard, feel a bit ‘out of sorts’, or feel very energized. Everyone integrates changes in the body differently. These feelings may last 24-48 hours after a session.
What can a client expect during a Craniosacral Therapy newborn session?
A session lasts approximately 1 hour. A good portion of the initial session is spent gathering information regarding your pregnancy, labor/delivery and your baby’s experiences since birth. The hands-on portion of a session is completely based on your baby and his/her needs that day and generally lasts 5-25 min. I often treat babies while they are nursing if that is where they are most comfortable. Paying close attention to your baby’s body language insures that I am working with him/her and not simply doing therapy to your baby. This approach renders the best results in the short and long term for their physical and emotional wellness. If a parent has any concern about what is happening during a session, they should always speak up and ask questions. While the craniosacral therapist may know the therapy- you are the expert on your baby.
How can I make an appointment with Molly?
All sessions, regardless of location, include assessment, treatment and education of things you can do for your baby at home. Appointments are offered through BABS for babies younger than 12 weeks, on an income based fee schedule. Keep in mind that only 4 sessions/week are offered at the BABS location- you may call the BABS office for these appointments. For babies/children of any age, as well as Craniosacral Therapy for prenatal and postnatal care, sessions are also offered Monday-Friday through Body, Mind and Molly Massage (www.bodymindandmolly.com). Body, Mind and Molly is located on the S.E. side of Bloomington with the option of in-home sessions, in-hospital sessions, and online booking available 24 hours/day. A session is recommended
at least 1 hour in length for the initial assessment and treatment.
In Bloomington, we are fortunate to have a variety of resources. There are other great practitioners in the area who work with infants and Craniosacral Therapy. Each of us has different backgrounds and training in Craniosacral Therapy as well as the other types of work we offer.
Remember, you are the expert on your baby! If you are concerned that your baby may be experiencing discomfort in their body, that they are working too hard to try and breastfeed, or that you simply want to offer them something wonderful and gentle in their first days, Craniosacral Therapy can help assess and work with your baby to optimize their health, development and wellness.
Nationally Certified Massage Therapist
Founder Family Support Bodywork
Certified in Massage Instruction for the parents of premature babies
Internationally Certified Infant Massage Instructor
Advanced training in Infant and Maternal Craniosacral Therapy
Founder- Body, Mind and Molly Massage
Appointments at BABS 812-337-8121
Appointments through Body, Mind and Molly- www.BodyMindAndMolly.com or