A baby’s skull is designed so that it protects the delicate brain inside even when under great pressure, as in the birth process. This is made possible because some of the bones of the skull have been designed to allow a great deal of flexibility thus allowing the head to change shape or mould as it descends through the pelvis and birth canal.
The skull is made up of two forms of bone, cartilage and membrane.
The base or floor of the skull is made from cartilage that provides strength and protection to the most delicate parts of the brain, where as the bones of the vault, which is most of the head above the eyes, are formed from membrane. These membranous bones allow flexibility so not only can they adapt and accommodate to the stresses of the birth process but they also allow for growth and expansion of the developing brain.
Plainly put the baby’s skull is a bit like a balloon with stiffening plates in it, mounted on a more rigid but still slightly flexible base.
During labour the baby’s head experiences large compressive forces as it enters the pelvis and is pushed against the cervix by the contractions. These forces remain as the head twists and turns during its descent through the pelvic cavity and negotiates the resistance from the pelvic floor muscles. The pressure placed on the head and neck can result in distortion of the bones of the skull and as a result some babies end up with extremely odd shaped heads when they are born. The softer membranous bones are more able to return to normal after the birth where as the stiffer cartilage based bones are less pliable.
After delivery the skull begins to re-expand and un-mould to return to its normal shape, assisted by the baby crying, sucking and yawning. After only 10 days the vault of the baby’s head will look quite different as the overlapped and squashed bones free up. It is distortions of the cranial base that are harder for the baby to resolve and can have an affect on the brain and in particular some of the cranial nerves as they exit from holes within and between the bones of the cranial base. An example of this is colic, often caused by compression of the Vagus nerve as it exits the cranial base. This nerve has a relationship with the stomach and digestive tract but can also keep the baby in a more activated state thus the baby can suffer from colic, excessive crying, tummy ache and sleep difficulties.
Effects of retained molding on the baby include:
Unsettled and restless behaviour
Excessive feeding or sucking
Digesting food difficulties
There are many reasons why babies may experience feeding or sucking problems including procedures carried out after birth. If the baby had oral suctioning, resuscitation or a tube passed to help it feed there may be guarding of the airway thus the baby may be hesitant to draw anything, including a nipple deep into its mouth.
Babies born by caesarean are widely thought to escape most if not all of the above but in reality the fast nature of this birth process gives little warning to the baby that something is about to change and as a result these babies often suffer from shock.
Craniosacral therapy works with these physical and emotional restrictions and birth patterns to try and release them using gentle, non-invasive touch. As the restrictions release so to should the symptoms enabling mother and baby to enjoy their early days and months together.
The therapist will observe the baby and through a light contact become aware of the birth patterns present. It is common for babies to want to have cuddles or even a feed during the treatment so plenty of space is given in the treatment to accommodate this. It is common
Babies and children tend to respond well to craniosacral treatment, generally requiring fewer sessions than most adults. The treatment process is gentle, non-invasive and completely respectful of the physical and emotional needs of the individual baby/child.
The treatment of babies and children is a specialist field within craniosacral therapy. As such, it is recommended that parents take the time to ensure that any potential therapist has the requisite skills and experience in this area.