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Craniosacral Therapy for the Newborn

Since Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST) uses no physical manipulation or ‘adjustments’, it can provide a safe and gentle approach to improve the wellbeing of newborns and young children. This is one of the best-known applications of BCST.

There can be many challenges at any of the developmental stages for babies and children. BCST can be incredibly valuable in helping your baby or child to resolve any issues from their birth and find better health and wellbeing. When imbalances can be addressed and resolved at an early age, they don’t show up as major issues later in life. It is much quicker to address issues early in life before they become more solidified in the adult body.


A newborn baby has just been through one the most powerful experiences that we encounter as human beings – being born. Even if the birth went seamlessly, baby encounters great intensity and the process itself can be quite overwhelming. Often imprints from the birth experience do not get resolved by themselves and are held in the little baby’s body and nervous system. As a result, adjustment to life outside of the womb might be affected. He or she might be disoriented and have a hard time settling into his or her new environment. For this reason, craniosacral therapy is especially useful for babies.

The bones of the newborn’s head are separate moving parts, wonderfully designed by nature to move and adjust as the baby travels through the birth canal. The head has the ability to mould and overlap while being flexible and strong enough to push its way out under pressure. It is common for some moulding to be present for the first while after birth. However, this is usually resolved in the first day or two.

After birth, moulding, overlaps, and other accommodations in the baby's skull should not persist beyond the first few days. Otherwise, they may lead to pressure on important nerves and blood vessels. If they do not correct themselves, they can interfere with proper cranial nerve function leading to colic, breathing, swallowing, digestive or sensory-motor impairments and more. Sometimes babies are injured in the birth process which may be both physical and emotional. In the weeks following birth, many babies find their own balance as their bodies settle from the rigours of birth. However, sometimes a little help is needed – and a few sessions of BCST can be useful and can address any injuries that may have been caused.

A baby’s nervous system can be strongly affected by the birth experience. Even the most natural of births can place tension on a newborn baby’s nervous system. It might be in a fight or flight state, which is part of our survival mechanism. The fight or flight state can lead to many symptoms, including fussiness, restlessness, inconsolable crying, not sleeping, trouble with nursing, digestive problems etc. A stressed nervous system can also express as the opposite: baby may sleep a lot, be very quiet and slow. They may not make connections well, have attachment issues and seem withdrawn.

Usually, the more difficulties that arise during the birth, the more the baby’s nervous system is affected, yet even an uncomplicated and smooth birth can leave its effects. BCST can help baby’s nervous system to release the survival energy and find a place of balance. This gentle therapy offers potential for subtle and profound results.

Common reasons Babies may need Craniosacral Therapy

Craniosacral therapy can be of help with particular symptoms, and it can also offer general support to help your baby or child access optimal health. BCST is of enormous benefit for newborn babies. Many newborn ailments such as colic, problems related to feeding, and not sleeping well will respond to this form of treatment.

Many midwives and lactation consultants will recommend BCST to help with unsettled feeding issues and reflux, and also with babies who are overly alert and difficult to settle. Another common issue with newborns is torticollis, where a newborn typically holds their head to one side and has difficulty turning it, which restricts their ability to feed from both sides.

Parents have reported that BCST is beneficial in assisting with the following issues:

· Colic

· Reflux

· Breastfeeding difficulties

· Unsettled or uncomfortable babies

· Sleep issues

· Digestive problems

· Respiratory Problems

· Imbalance in baby’s structure or movements

· Bonding and attachment issues

· Before/after procedures (tongue-tie clipping, other medical procedures)

· Integrating a challenging or “normal” birth experience for mom and baby

· Head shape irregularity.

· Constipation

Babies tend to respond well to the therapy and need less treatment than adults. Usually 1-3 sessions will suffice depending on the reason for the visit. Preschool or school-aged children can also benefit from this gentle and enjoyable therapy.

What does a baby Craniosacral Therapy session look like?

Craniosacral Therapy is very gentle and involves light contact of the therapist’s hands with the baby’s body to listen to the subtle internal rhythms. The touch may be on the bottom of the spine, the neck, belly, their head or other places.

Each session is led by the baby. That means that the baby decides what needs working on and when. This allows the baby to relax into the treatment. Unwinding and releasing restrictions and tension at the rate the baby can cope with. Craniosacral therapy for baby gently works to relax and release these restrictions.

We usually start with a discussion of how the baby is, their history and how mum and the rest of the family are. This allows me to see the full picture. I take a flexible approach to ensure the baby's comfort which can involve them lying on the treatment table, in a parent's arms, while breastfeeding, or lying on the mother's stomach.

I will usually begin with you holding your baby as I talk for a bit, so he or she can get used to me. Then I will start lightly touching him or her while in your arms. I can work on your baby while they are nursing or sleeping. My experience as a midwife means that I am very comfortable with the baby feeding in my presence. Occasionally, we might progress to me holding your baby or working on a massage table, but only if you and your baby are comfortable with that. Baby may be quiet throughout the treatment, or it may verbalise that there is a restriction or that a release is happening. If baby during the craniosacral treatment begins to get very upset, being fed can be helpful. Each treatment is done with the parent or care giver with the baby. They are fully part of the session. An older child can receive treatment while playing with a favourite toy or looking at a book.

I allow an hour as a timeframe and aim to do hands on work for 30 – 40 minutes. Often, I will work in intervals while your baby is cooperative and settled. We might take some breaks to allow for nappy changes or for the caregiver to do what is needed to settle the child. Sometimes fussiness is a sign the baby had enough treatment.

In my experience, most babies are very receptive to the gentle touch of the craniosacral therapist. However, it is also not uncommon to find resistance on the part of the baby, especially if there are major restriction patterns or pain. Even though the treatment is subtle, it can sometimes be uncomfortable. In those instances, the mother can breastfeed or bottle feed the infant during the treatment session to diminish the discomfort.


Craniosacral is a gentle touch therapy, involving no manipulation so it is ideal to use with infants. The practitioner facilitates the baby’s self-healing mechanism, and this starts with down regulating the nervous system, which most babies enjoy. Occasionally, babies may cry during the session. Please know that this is their way of communicating. You are always encouraged to attend to your baby as you feel appropriate. Changes that occur in the body following the treatment tend to take around 48 hours to integrate, some babies may be unsettled during this time. This is normal and will pass. Other babies may have a longer, deeper sleep after the session. Babies will usually respond quickly to BCST and often require only one or two treatments (depending on the presenting issue).

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many newborn babies could benefit from a craniosacral treatment within two weeks of birth – ideally in the first few days. This could help prevent many subsequent problems in childhood and adulthood, including some ear problems, developmental problems, headaches, neck pain and spinal disorders. However, it is never too late. Many adults receiving BCST can resolve issues that originate from birth.

Not only can craniosacral therapy help a baby find more ease, but it also helps the new parents as they find their way in their new roles as mother and father. Bonding and attachment increase when the new baby can find more comfort in its new life. Birth is the biggest transition we will ever make. We are designed for this process, but sometimes we need a little help adjusting to life on the outside.

Further Reading:

Top six reasons your baby would benefit from Cranio.

What Craniosacral Therapy Can Do For Newborns

Four reasons why cranio supports infant sleep

Babies do not need to cry -the science behind Craniosacral therapy for infant colic

Soothing the Sensitive Baby

Birth Trauma: A Cultural Blind Spot Matthew Appleton MA RCSTA UKCP

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