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Bodywork For Babies

Mom holding baby while physical therapist, Julia Kegelman examines her.

There was a time when I used to think that most humans began as ideal forms. A perfect biological creation set forth to unfold on the path of pre-programmed growth and development. That it wasn’t until some external force collided with the body in an unfortunate circumstance that this destiny toward optimal potential would be sidetracked. But within the first few years of practice, I began to meet patients who could not identify an event that started their symptoms nor could they remember a time when they were not in pain.

As my hands became more seasoned, I could grade how much effort was needed to resolve a restriction. Pairing this information with what I knew about each patients’ history gave me an inventory of what an old restriction felt like versus a new one. After a while, I was able to use this accumulation of experience to create probable timelines for restrictions that the patient had no clear memory of when or how it began. It was clear that I was touching many very old restrictions everyday I worked. Getting to know these chronic pain patients over the years, I often wondered how their lives might have been different if they had received bodywork back when it all started.

It was the Craniosacral Therapy (CST) curriculum that clearly proposed the idea that many people have mechanical restrictions and holding patterns from the very beginning of life. The instructors who studied under the father of CST, Dr. John Upledger, shared about the time he spent practicing in a maternity hospital. Every baby born during his tenure got a treatment session from Dr. John. Keeping track of these babies’ health in the first months of life, he reported that none of those babies had colic! Dr. John wrote about the possible impacts of growing in cramped quarters and the challenges of being born under both ideal and adverse conditions. If the baby was facing backward, restrictions where the head meets the neck are very likely. If the baby is facing forward, the bones of the face are likely to get compressed impacting the airway and feeding. When born of cesarean section, the baby undergoes a dramatic pressure change analogous to a deep sea diver ascending to the surface too quickly causing upregulation in the autonomic nervous system. Assisting vaginal birth with suction pulls on the intracranial membranes and when it pops off the babies head a recoil occurs traveling through the entire system. These are only a few common scenarios that Dr. John Upledger outlined as affecting newborns.

These circumstances are oftentimes unavoidable and certainly unchangeable after the moment has passed. But understanding that the process of growing inside the womb and delivery into this world can be extremely challenging, parents can recognize the signs of imbalance in their newborns and take action to reduce stress now, and far into the future, for everyone in the family.

Signs a baby needs bodywork

Feeding: Limited transfer, Inefficient latch, Painful latch, poor coordination of suck and swallow, Before and after tongue tie release

Digestion: Reflux, Colic, Constipation.

Respiration: hiccups, mouth breathing, snoring, stridor.  

Sleep: unable to self soothe, not waking to eat, lack of maturation of sleep patterns. 

Agitation: unable to be soothed, escalating to extreme agitation quickly.

Sensory sensitivity: sound, light, vibration. 

Delayed milestones: not rolling by 4-6 month, walking without crawling first, crawling in an unconventional way

Musculoskeletal Issues: Torticollis, Plagiocephaly, Hip Dysplasia, Club Foot

History that warrants bodywork for baby:

Breech presentation (with or without version procedure)

Use of forceps or suction

Cesarean section

Premature deliver

Multiple births

NICU experience 

Short deliver

Long delivery

Short umbilical cord

Physically or emotionally stressful pregnancy

Think your child may benefit from a body work session?
Learn more about my pediatric services.