Cranial Work For Infants
One of the aspects of my clinical practice I am asked about
most is the cranial work I do with infants. Parents are referred to me
for this work by their doulas, midwives, obstetricians, lactation
consultants or friends
who have experienced the benefits of cranial work with their own
In this article, I will explain the reasons babies need
cranial work, how it is performed,
The results we achieve and the lasting benefits of this
I first became interested in infant cranial work when I was
mid way through my chiropractic training.
I was studying pediatric chiropractic, and heard a lecture that I will
never forget. The light bulb went
on! My daughter had been posterior
during my labor with her. We had
no interventions until my obstetrician broke my water. That was five hours before she was
born. With a posterior
positioning, undetected at that point, labor was very challenging. As she was crowning, he noticed the
posteriority, and we turned her as she was crowning. No easy trick.
This took 45 minutes of turning her from the crown of her head. All was fine, and she desperately
needed cranial work, which I knew nothing about at that time.
I had her treated about a half dozen times by my
chiropractor, who had only heard of cranial work. The standard chiropractic treatments did not clear her
It wasn’t until I was sitting in the peds class that I
realized what it was she had needed.
Which brings me to the signs and symptoms of babies who need
The first sign many parents notice is bumps, ridges or
asymmetrical features on their baby’s heads. When babies are passing through the birth canal, their heads
contract along the sutures on the skull.
The sutures can actually overlap so as to allow them to pass through the
birth canal more easily. After the
birth, the cranium expands again.
Due to the compression to the skull, sometimes the cranium doesn’t
expand evenly. This can lead to
features such as uneven ear height, an ear that fans out more widely than the
other ear, uneven eyebrows, etc.
It can also lead to less comfort for the baby in their head, discomfort
with nursing, or colic symptoms.
Cranial treatment allows your baby’s head to expand more evenly,
therefore alleviating many potential problems.
A most noticeable symptom are lactation issues such as:
tongue thrust, a poor latch, baby seeming more comfortable on one breast than
the other, too loose a latch, a non-productive suck, baby being fussy at the
breast. It can also be the reason for sore or torn nipples, due to poor latch or jaw coordination or tightness.
The cranial nerves which
innervate the tongue and mouth pass through the skull at the level of the
occiput, or base of the skull.
Often times when there are issues with nursing, the baby
needs not only general cranial work, but specific work at the level of the
occiput. This frees up the area,
creates more symmetrical movement of the skull, and increases coordination of
the tongue and mouth.
It leads to a much more relaxed and enjoyable nursing
experience for both mom and baby.
Colic symptoms can also be a result of cranial
include gas, fussiness, general stomach discomfort, inconsolable crying, crying
for extended periods of time, baby scrunching their legs toward their chest to
relieve pressure in the abdominal area, etc. In the case of colic, I often do more general cranial work
along with releasing any pressure in the diaphragm area. The same goes for what is being termed
“reflux”, or too much spitting up.
I advise parents, before putting their baby on a prescription for a
diagnosed reflux, to try cranial work.
It can be very effective in many cases.
So, how is cranial work performed with infants?
I first do a thorough evaluation of signs and symptoms, take a
pregnancy and birth history, talk with the parents at length re: their
experience with their baby, what they’ve tried so far, baby’s sleeping and
eating patterns, etc.
I examine the baby, including a cranial exam. I am looking for the above mentioned
signs and symptoms.
Next, I evaluate motion
in the baby’s head, usually while they are nursing or sucking on a pinkie
finger. I feel for restrictions in
the cranium, which are more prominent when their palate is moving. I explain to the parents what I am
finding, and answer any questions they have. I show them my findings, explain the treatment and make sure
they are comfortable with it.
Assuming this is the case, I apply gentle pressure to the baby’s head,
again while they are sucking to gain the benefit of the palatal movement. This is usually extremely relaxing for
the infant, and often we have to do a little work to keep them awake for their
treatment. I also will have
examined their spine, pelvis, and neck area, and will do gentle treatment to
any of the appropriate areas.
is a wonderful time to treat, just post partum, as the baby will develop more
comfortably, have less symptoms of any kind in their infancy, and often sleep
more comfortably as well.
Often, after a treatment, a baby will nap more readily that
day. My own son had his first
chiropractic treatment at 5 months old.
That day he slept through the night for the first time! It was heaven!
As a new parent, it is important that any practitioner or
any treatment you seek for your baby feels completely comfortable for you. I encourage you to contact me with any
questions re: cranial treatment, specific symptoms or behaviors your baby may
be experiencing, or general questions re: my work with infants.
If you are a new parent, congratulations!!! And welcome to the grandest adventure