Craniosacral therapy (CST) is an osteopathic treatment that can be applied to infants and children who have experienced physical trauma. CST can be used to help infants that had birth injuries due to a difficult delivery. Parents have also found it to be helpful to treat a variety of problems, including but not limited to nursing problems, colic, acid reflux, frequent ear infections.
Craniosacral therapy involves a gentle touch. Infants are either placed on my massage table or are cradled by their parent. Infants often breastfeed during the session, to extend further comfort. At times, mothers also receive a treatment alongside their infant. Typical sessions last for 30 minutes for children and infants.
During a treatment, I initially assess for the subtle rhythm of the craniosacral system between the skull and the sacrum. From there, I gently manipulate the skull and connective tissue to relieve any tension in the body. The craniosacral system involves the central nervous system and membranes that envelope the brain, spinal cord, skull and sacrum.
Times I would consider to use craniosacral therapy with infants and children include:
- Acid reflux
- Frequent ear infections
- Poor latch/difficulty nursing
- Learning Disabilities
- ADD & ADHD
- Seizure disorders
- Post fall/concussion
From my personal experience, my eldest son benefited greatly from craniosacral therapy. I had a long and difficult labour with him. He had a poor latch on the breast and required a supplemental feeder to give him expressed breastmilk. Even though he had a poor latch on both breasts, he refused to drink from my right breast. After two craniosacral sessions, his latch had improved and he was willing to take milk from both breasts. I was able to do away with the supplemental feeder and get into a rhythm of solely breastfeeding without the need of any expressed milk.
Babies who are unwilling to nurse or have difficulty latching may benefit from a craniosacral evaluation and treatment. Also note that mastitis or low milk volume can be a symptom of a poor latch. Looking back to the birth process can provide clues to where the breastfeeding problems initiated.
Even a considered normal vaginal delivery can cause trauma to a baby’s head or spine. It’s during a vaginal delivery, when compression through the birth canal occurs, that an infant has their first spinal mobilization and craniosacral treatment. A birth history of a fast delivery, forceps, cesarean birth, unusual presentation or a large head may indicate that trauma occurred. The neonate’s skull bones are mobilized with compression at birth then expanding and reshaping after birth. If the head is extended at the time of birth, to ease the rest of the body to birth, connective tissue and muscles of the neck may contract in an effort of protecting the spinal cord. This contraction can put pressure on the cranial nerves — some of which control the muscles and nerves involved in breastfeeding.
Another time when I consider CST for infants is when they show with opisthotonos. This is when a baby arches their back. This tension often makes it difficult for babies to nurse. I have seen in practice one treatment is often effective to correct this abnormal posture. As the tension releases and the pressure is relieved, the baby can nurse more efficiently.
I have been practicing Craniosacral therapy since 2000. I have treated the young and old alike. I have found it to be a gentle adjunctive treatment in my practice. If you are wondering if craniosacral therapy would benefit your child, contact me for an assessment.
Upledfer, J.E. Applications of CranioSacral Therapy in Newborns and Infants, Part I. Massage Today, May 2003.
Hewitt, E. G. Chiropractic care for infants with dysfunctional nursing: a case series. J Clin Chiropractic Pediatr4(1): 241-244.