By Deena Zacks LC.
Craniosacral Therapy (CST) is a sister technique to massage therapy. The thing that makes CST different is that the pressure which is applied to the body in order to release tension, is applied in an extremely gentle manner. To be exact 5 grams of pressure is applied to the body. This light pressure encourages the body to self heal.
The body has a Craniosacral system, which plays a vital role in maintaining equilibrium in the functionality of the central nervous system. This system includes bones, fluids, membranes, and muscles. The brain and spinal cord are included in this system and have a powerful influence over the functionality of the body.
There are many professionals that double as CST practitioners. Examples of such health care professionals include Doctors of osteopathy, chiropractors, medical doctors, nurses, acupuncturists, osteopaths, psychologists, massage therapists, dentists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and some lactation consultants (Brussels, 2001).
What does a typical CST session look like?
To the untrained eye it may seem like there is virtually no pressure upon touch, but the CST therapist is trained to asses and feel the difference between structures and tissues. Very minimal force is needed to manipulate and relax the soft tissue (Kaplan, 2018).
Who benefits from CST?
Many infants are born with a poor ability to latch, which often leads to ineffective milk removal at the breast. This can in turn cause the mother pain, and puts the dyad at risk for early weaning (Riordan, & Auerbach 1999).
There are a number of avenues to consider when looking at alternate options to help ease some of the tension the dyad is experiencing. Many patients who can benefit from such therapy, such as infants who are unable to breastfeed properly. These breastfeeding issues can stem from injuries that occurred during birth, congenital or neurological problems, illness, or the lingering effects of medications that the mother may have taken during labour (Hazelbaker, 2020).
These occurrences can present from specific situations where an infant was fed artificially, removed from the womb with tools such as a vacuumed or forceps, a quick birth, caesarean, or a large head circumference. These are indicators that trauma may have occurred during the birthing process (Healow, & Hugh 2000).
What are the CST practitioners looking for?
There are a number of infants who experience misshapen skulls due to being born cesarean etc. A CST practitioner will be able to gently examine the baby's head for overlapping cranial sutures, unevenness of the scull, and usual soft spots. The CTS will encourage the body to self correct through gentle manipulation (Upledger, 2005). CST is more effective on infants due to the malleability of the soft tissues and cartilage.
Prior to therapy being prescribed, it is essential to identify where the cause of the breastfeeding issue stems from. The prior mentioned birthing experiences can result in undue pressure placed upon cranial nerves, especially those that innervate the mouth. There are three nerves that innervate the oral orifice, such as the pharynx, soft palate, and tongue muscle. In such cases where these nerves are compressed or inflamed, the nursing experience will appear to be dysfunctional (Hewitt 1999).
There are other infants who benefit from CST, such as those who do not open their mouths wide, resulting in an ineffective latch, or those who pull away at the breast.
A Lactation Consultant (LC) can help assist the mother with proper body mechanics for a more effective latch, although if the issues continue, the LC will often recommend seeing a CST. Dramatic differences after treatment are noted by many parents, not only visually, but subjectively from the breastfeeding mother.
When to see a CST practitioner?
Craniosacral Therapy is a great alternative when other means such as the infants body mechanics are not successful. Treatment by a CST is often a couple of sessions, where the practitioner works with the infant to aid in proper body adjustments. It is important to remember that even after CST treatments, mothers and babies may need additional breastfeeding help (Brussel, 2001). When seeking out a CST it is important to know whether a CST practitioner is specifically trained and experienced in working with babies.
Craniosacral Therapy offers a promising approach to solving difficult breastfeeding concerns. It may help bring a mother and baby closer to create a thriving breastfeeding dyad.
How can a CST improve breastfeeding for the dyad?
CST can help the infant strengthen and lengthen their tongue so that it sits over the gum line.
CST can relax tension in the oral cavity, so that the infant can open their mouth with ease.
CST practitioners can work with tension that is present in the neck, which could be from the position the infant was in utero, or the means of how they were removed. This will release tension for the infant as well as the mother (Kaplan, 2018).
Is CST painful?
Due to the nature of the techniques used during a session, there is virtually no pressure on the infant, when one watches a live session they can attest to the way the infant instantly relaxes. As well, the state of relaxation is often seen post visit when the infant is so relaxed that they often nap for a good stretch (Kaplan, 2018).
How many sessions are usually advised, before a difference can be seen?
Depending on the infant and the tension that the CST will be working on, the therapist will change the length of the necessary sessions needed to see improvement. Often times, the infant is very receptive to treatment and as few as two to three appointments are needed to resolve the issue. Although there are cases where an infant may need to come frequently, those would only occur if the CST is working on a number a concerns (Kaplan, 2018).
How do I find a CST?
Lucky for you, Paola is multi disciplinary. Not only is she a lactation consultant, but she also holds many other doctrines. Paola is also a certified craniosacral therapist and now offers CST sessions at home or in the clinic.
If you think your baby might benefit from CST, please check out the CST section on our website to learn more and book an appointment with us today.
Brussel, C. (2001). Considering Craniosacral Therapy in Difficult Situations.
Kaplan, R. (2018). How can craniosacral therapy improve breastfeeding? SDBFC. Retrieved December 7, 2022, from https://www.sdbfc.com/blog/2012/8/23/how-can-craniosacral-therapy-improve-breastfeeding
Hazelbaker, A. K. (2020). The Impact of Craniosacral Therapy/Cranial Osteopathy on Breastfeeding. Clinical Lactation, 11(1), 21-27.
Healow, L. K., & Hugh, R. S. (2000). Oral aversion in the breast fed neonate. In Breastfeeding Abstracts (Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 3-4).
Hewitt, E. G. (1999). Chiropractic care for infants with dysfunctional nursing: a case series. J Clin Chiropr Pediatr, 4(1), 241-244.
Riordan, J., & Auerbach, K. G. (1999). Isotope use in breastfeeding mothers, Chap 17. Breastfeeding and Human lactation. 2nd ed. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury MA.
Upledger, J. E. (2005). CHRONOLOGICALLY CONTROLLED DEVELOPMENTAL THERAPY. Alternative Medicine and Spinal Cord Injury, 101.