Transcript: The Benefits of Craniosacral Therapy For Infants
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called The Benefits of Craniosacral Therapy For Infants and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: Over the years, I’ve often heard of craniosacral therapy and what it does and how it works has always intrigued me. I knew that it could do a lot for adults, but also wondered whether parents could use it to help their little ones. I was unsure whether it was sufficiently gentle for that purpose when they’re so tiny and fragile.
Well, it was perfect timing and I got my answers when I recently met mum of 2, Meaghan Beames. Meaghan is an infant craniosacral therapist, who specializes in providing gentle care to newborns, infants and young children, and to date has treated over 600 families.
Just a note before we get started, to make sure you don’t get confused. During our chat you’ll hear us both frequently refer to CST. This is an acronym for craniosacral therapy. Just ensuring that we don’t leave you with any confusion!
During our chat you’ll hear Meaghan talk about how incredibly gentle the CST techniques are and how safe they are, even for infants to receive, how CST can ease muscle and tissue tensions that cause babies to experience symptoms including colic, a shallow latch and a preference to turn the head to one side only, how CST works directly with the nervous system to give your baby fast relief of their troublesome symptoms, and how CST can help with tongue tie tensions,
And so, so much more.
Hi, Meaghan, and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. I’m delighted to have you here. I’ve been wanting to speak with someone for ages who does CST, who focuses on the infant side. Before we get started, can you please tell us about yourself and your background?
Meaghan Beames: Amazing, yeah, so I am Meaghan Beames. I am a registered massage therapist here in Toronto, Canada. I am also an Infant Craniosacral Therapist, so infant CST. I’ve been doing that for 5 years and I’ve been a registered massage therapist since 2015.
So I’ve been working with the body for quite some time and I got into craniosacral therapy right after my first child was born. Now, I had known about craniosacral since I was a teen because my sister had experience with it. When I had my first baby, I was struggling a lot with breastfeeding and I knew that there was something I could do, I just didn’t realize that it was craniosacral and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and with my career and all of that, being a new registered massage therapist and I thought the doula route would be best for me.
So I took that training and it didn’t go well. I didn’t wanna do it after all but I was listening to a podcast about infant craniosacral, and so when I realized that I could still work with babies, which was something I felt passionate about and work with craniosacral therapy, it was like a light bulb went off and I just knew exactly what I wanted to do, essentially with my life.
So I, I knew that I wanted to work with babies and I knew that I wanted to work with the body and when I heard that I could combine craniosacral therapy and babies, my whole life flashed before me. It was like the beacon just shone for me, and it was amazing.
So I went and I trained with Carol Gray in Portland, Oregon, which is in the States. At that time, I had had my second baby who I brought with me to the course and when I came home from taking this training I went nose down in developing this business because I just knew that it was important work and I knew that it was niche, right? How many people have heard about it, how many people do this? I knew that this would be a great business strategy for me.
Helen Thompson: Wow so you took a long journey to get there, but you finally got there, which is great because I think if you’re passionate about something, it works better for you. So how does CST support mums who have a fussy baby and it’s hard for them to latch?
Meaghan Beames: Yeah, I think the place to start is understanding that babies are humans just as we are, right? They’re born human and we are humans, right and their bodies are created just the same as ours, and their bodies can get tight, just the same as adults because of the way our tissues are created. Babies can get tight and a tough latch or a baby who’s not latching properly, it might not be that this person is having a hard time with positioning or getting their baby to get in the right spot. It could actually mean that there’s something in that baby’s body that’s tight and that could either be because of their positioning that they developed in utero, right? Maybe they developed with a crooked neck and then they come out and they do better on one side or feed better on one side than the other. Or it’s painful on one side and not the other.
Or their birthing process can increase tightness within tissues in their body and then that presents as a troublesome latch in whatever way it shows up. So CST it’s extremely gentle. I like to use the word unfathomably gentle, because it is less than a millimeter of movement that craniosacral therapy can do and five grams of pressure that we use. Again, like I said, it is unfathomably, gentle and slow.
So, I know that some parents can get a little bit scared by the word craniosacral because they think, oh, you’re going to do something with my baby’s head but what craniosacral therapy is, is actually the entire body. It’s almost like myofascial release but gentler and slower. Yeah, so some people understand myofascial release or massage therapy, so it’s very similar, but slower and softer.
Helen Thompson: So it’s not like going to a chiropractor where they say, right, relax, crunch.
Meaghan Beames: No!
Helen Thompson: I’ve always been nervous of chiropractors for that very reason. I’m not saying chiropractors aren’t good, I know they are, but as soon as somebody tells me to relax I get nervous and I don’t relax.
Meaghan Beames: No, there’s no relaxing in that. No and honestly the chiros who do practice on infants, they adjust their technique, right? It is not the same technique that they would use on an adult.
Helen Thompson: Yes, of course.
Meaghan Beames: So they also use very gentle things, but it’s still different from craniosacral therapy. Chiropractic and cranio are very different and we will do different things. So, yeah, there are no joint adjustments, let’s say.
Helen Thompson: When we talked, you also mentioned that it helps with colic. I’m mentioning this cuz as you know I teach baby massage, and I know that baby massage helps with colic, but I also know that there are other options out there to help with colic. So you said it’s a very gentle touch, so if you were gonna help a baby who had colic or who was fussy or who just generally wasn’t feeding very well, is there a different way that you treat them with colic to what you do with latching? What’s the difference between the two?
Meaghan Beames: It does, and it’s a great question, and I think a lot of people have that question is what’s the difference? Actually my answer is that sometimes they’re connected, right. Sometimes that colic and the latching are actually symptoms of the same issue within the body. So the way that we work with craniosacral therapy is to find the root cause. So this baby has colic for a reason and it’s usually something that we can find within their body. This baby has latching issues, especially if they’ve had a tongue tie release, they have had work on making sure that their positioning is proper, then they’re still having issues there is a root cause to that. It’s not just, oh, it just doesn’t work. It’s just not working for them. Babies are trying to tell us things with those symptoms. They’re trying to tell us that there’s something not quite right within their body. If they’re crying incessantly, a lot of times they’re in pain,
Helen Thompson: Yeah, colic is a bit like that, isn’t it?
Meaghan Beames: It’s pain, they’re in pain somewhere and these parents are told, oh, don’t worry, in a couple of weeks or a couple of months, they’ll stop crying. This parent doesn’t wanna wait a couple of weeks. They want yesterday for this baby to stop crying and so what craniosacral therapy does is it finds why they are crying incessantly and then treats it. Then we use things like massage that we give to the parents. So we as practitioners will give things like massage for those parents to do at home, to make sure that what we did continues to give benefit to this baby.
Helen Thompson: So with baby massage, when we help with colic, we help by getting rid of the trapped wind and we give them moves to help them with that. So what does CST do to help that? How do you go about finding that root cause because we all know that colic can be something to do with the tummy and trapped wind et cetera, et cetera.
Meaghan Beames: Absolutely, they work together and they are different. So CST finds the root cause. CST works directly with the nervous system and so this baby has trapped gas because why? It could be trapped gas because this baby is swallowing excessive amounts of air. Now why are they swallowing excessive amounts of air? Usually because the nervous system that is responsible for the mouth or for the tongue, it’s not getting the right message from the brain and it’s not getting the right message from the brain because there is tension between those cranial bones. Or there’s tension in the face, in the jaw or in the neck. And so what we do with these CST techniques is we can find those tight areas and very gently release them. So, when we release them, the tension that is within those areas is usually the reason why the message from the brain is not clear to the end organ. So it’s called the end organ, but it could be like the cheek muscles or the tongue.
So the message from the brain to the end organ is unclear because of the tension. So we release the tension and the message from the brain to the end organ, which is the tongue or the cheeks or the mouth or the lips is clearer. So those reflexive motions that all babies are born with in order to feed properly, they will work just naturally work better.
Helen Thompson: So from what you’re saying, it also helps with tongue ties as well. I’ve heard a lot of pediatric dentists say that you should always get tongue ties checked and you shouldn’t necessarily get them cut as such, because sometimes it’s just a matter of a slight movement in the mouth or something that needs to be adjusted and to get that done when they’re younger, it can help them to latch better, it can help their colic, it can help tummy issues, it can help lots of different things.
Meaghan Beames: Absolutely, all of that, yeah. A tongue tie tension can present just the same as an actual through tongue tie, where the frenulum is all the way to the tip of the tongue. So a very tense tongue might not be tied. It might just be really tense because the nervous system is dysfunctional.
So someone who might think that their baby is tongue tied because they are presenting with all of the things that a tongue tie. They’re on the internet and they’re reading all of the symptoms that you’ll see with a tongue tie baby and they’re like, oh, yep, my baby has that, my baby has that. They’ve got the blisters, they’ve got clicking while they’re feeding, they are crying and screaming at the breast or bottle. So they’re ticking off all of the symptoms. However, if they get a tongue tie release and they don’t see any improvement, it wasn’t a tongue tie, it was nerve dysfunction and so CST helps with the nerve dysfunction.
Helen Thompson: So many people say, oh, tongue ties are this, or colic is this, and colic is that, well just get on with it, it’ll get better, don’t worry about it. If your baby’s screaming and crying, the last thing you wanna hear from a doctor is just get on with it. You know, deep down as a mom, your baby’s in pain, as you say, for a reason and doctors are great in some respects, but they’re not so good at dealing with the root cause.
Meaghan Beames: That’s right. Yeah they are there to medicate and that’s their job and that is what they’re trained for and that’s what they’re educated in and that is wonderful for the children who need the medication. But a tongue tie isn’t about medication, it’s about function. It’s a function issue and doctors aren’t trained in function. They’re trained in how to medicate and how to understand symptoms and medicate symptoms. So if they were functional medicine then maybe they would be able to connect those dots. But they’re not able to connect those dots with their training and that’s not to say that their training isn’t valuable, it’s just that they’re not gonna give you the right answers. They’re gonna say, don’t worry about it, because that’s what they’re trained in. Their training says, this baby will grow out of it within 6 – 8 months.
For a new time parent, they feel unheard, they feel hopeless and they also feel like this person is not helping them and they know that there are answers out there because they have that mother’s instinct or that parent instinct and they’re listening to that and that’s why they are Googling these things because they know that there’s an answer out there somewhere. Usually it’s about what’s happening within that baby’s body. The answer lies within the baby’s body. You did say that for first time parents especially, hearing this information might be daunting and it might be scary to know that maybe there’s something happening in their baby’s body that’s not quite, I’m gonna use air quotes, quote unquote right. It’s not that it’s wrong, it’s that it’s not optimal. That’s my favorite word to use is that it’s not optimal. It is not functioning at its best level, and what craniosacral therapy does is helps that body to work at its best and most optimal way.
Helen Thompson: In a natural or holistic way as well.
Meaghan Beames: Exactly and we’re not here to say that there’s anything wrong with your baby. In fact, the first thing I say is don’t worry, I see this all the time. Cuz a lot of times I do see the same symptoms all the time. Don’t worry, I see this all the time and there’s something we can do about it. That’s what parents wanna hear. Don’t worry, this is common and there’s something you can do about it.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, that’s more of a nicer way to put it for parents because I think a lot of the time they find it, as you say, hard, and if they know there’s somebody out there who’s calming, relaxing, and just says, look, this is a common thing, there’s nothing wrong, it happens and as you said at the beginning, it could be the way they were positioned when you gave birth, it could be that they had a crooked neck, as you said, when they gave birth or even when they’re in the womb, they might have just been moving on one side, which is nothing wrong with, it’s just the way when you give birth, they may have come out in a different way and you don’t realize that until you’ve been checked. I don’t know if this is accurate, but you might go to somebody like you to say, look, can you just check my baby over and there may not be anything wrong at all.
Meaghan Beames: I love seeing those. I love that parents are like, I don’t see anything happening. I just wanna make sure that we can optimize my baby’s body. I. I love that. I rarely see it, and I think that it is beautiful and when these parents come in with their babies, they’re not really concerned about anything, they just wanna make sure that things are right. I will often still find things. I’m like, you know what, this is probably not like a 100%, you know, this baby poos every other day. For the parent, that might be normal, but for me, I’m like, that’s a slow digestive tract, okay, I know I need to work somewhere in the spine. So I love the parents who just come in just to make sure.
Helen Thompson: It’s interesting that you say sometimes babies poo every second day or whatever. I personally, I only know from my experience with baby massage and childcare, I’m not a practitioner like you, but I thought babies don’t poo all the time. It doesn’t have to be twice a day or once a day. If they poo at least once every second day, that that is normal.
Meaghan Beames: That’s right, and on the internet, most people will say, don’t worry, especially if your baby is breastfed, they’ll poo every other day or they’ll poo every three days. But to me, that is a slow digestive tract. That is a symptom to me, and that will lead me to an area of their body that I will almost a 100% find an area of tension or restriction or tightness. Those words are all the same. They all mean the same thing,
Helen Thompson: No, that’s really interesting because I didn’t think of that, cuz every baby is different. It is just interesting you say that because I’ve heard so many people, and so many moms say, oh, my baby does this, or my baby doesn’t and I’m thinking, oh, well that’s, that’s perfect. If they say, well, your baby doesn’t poo for three days, well then I’d obviously think there was something wrong, but every second day and every baby’s poo is different. When you’re breastfed, I think it’s a bit more runny.
Meaghan Beames: Yes, formula versus breast milk is different because they have different ingredients. So yes, their poo will be different if they are formula versus breast milk and sometimes they are going to be straining a little bit more with formula rather than with breast milk, but not always. Some breastfed babies are also straining. They’re also straining and they’re also skipping poo days. That’s what they say it’s skipping a poo day because poo days should be every day.
Helen Thompson: I like that, skipping a poo day.
Meaghan Beames: And usually it’s tension in the spine.
Helen Thompson: CST helps with a lot of things, not just what we mentioned, like colic, tongue tie. It helps with a lot of different things for babies, and it’s good to get them checked out. How early can you actually do CST on a baby?
Meaghan Beames: My favorite is to see them within the first week. I think that the soonest after birth that you can see a CST practitioner, will help your baby and you as the parent, to avoid some of the biggest struggles of being a new parent. So if you know that you’re having a baby next week or in the next couple of weeks, if you preemptively book your session with the CST practitioner, just to make sure, you might be able to avoid things like this baby losing a lot of weight in the first week. That’s a latching issue, that’s a function issue within that baby. They can avoid things like side preference or engorgement. This baby might not be draining the breasts very well, and so this person’s going to experience engorgement or mastitis or clogged ducts. So the sooner this baby can have one, two, maybe even three sessions, the more these things these parents can avoid. Big struggles, right? Things that you’re paying, especially if you want a lactation consultant, things that you’re paying a lot of money for, in order to get help with, you can avoid with CST quite a lot, like Flathead syndrome or the babies who are only turning their head to one side.
We want to get these babies soon after birth and I really don’t wanna be a fear mongerer, that is not my intention, ever to, implement fear in people. It’s to educate, power, power in knowledge. So having these babies seen soon after birth is gonna really help them to avoid things like I said earlier, the flathead or turning their head to one side more often or hating tummy time.
Helen Thompson: Yes, I hear so many parents saying to me, oh, my baby doesn’t like tummy time. I’ve recently just done a baby massage course with some parents and one parent in particular was saying, my baby hasn’t liked tummy time for the last 3 – 6 weeks and now he really loves it. He hadn’t had anything done, but it took her about 6 – 8 weeks for her baby to really enjoy tummy time. I don’t know why that was, but her baby just didn’t like tummy time.
Meaghan Beames: So nature’s way of getting these babies to work themselves, this baby very likely had tension in the neck. They likely had tension in the neck and tension along their spine that when they tried to extend their neck and bring their head up, they might have felt pain and nature is beautiful, nature is exactly how we need it to be, and babies are designed perfectly. So nature has designed babies to do tummy time in order to relax and strengthen the muscles along their spine to help relax them and relieve them. Now, what parents do though is they say their baby hates tummy time because they cry, however, they’re crying because it’s probably hurting and yet the antidote or the cure, quote unquote, it’s not a cure, the cure for not liking tummy time is to do more tummy time because their muscles will relax and strengthen in the most perfect way to help align those vertebrae in their spine so that their vertebrae are now in alignment perfectly and no longer in pain so that’s what happens.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I’ve actually done the course in tummy time and I’m so aware of that, but I think it’s just saying to parents, look, if they don’t like it, just do a little bit at a time, don’t force your baby to do it. Even if you do skin to skin on your chest, that’s still tummy time. Or even just lying them gently on a pillow and supporting them and talking to them and letting them look in the mirror or doing whatever, but always being there with them and watching how they’re doing their head and if you’ve got any issues, I would say to them, if there’s any major issues and they’re finding it really hard, come and see somebody like you because you’d be able to release that area in order to help them with the flat head or whatever it may be.
Meaghan Beames: Absolutely. I’ll have babies come in hating tummy time at the beginning of the session. I will do a few things to help them release areas of tension along their spine and then at the end of the session, they love tummy time. They’re, extending their necks, they’re looking up really, really high and it took 15 minutes of releasing some tension for this baby to then enjoy tummy time.
Helen Thompson: So before we finish, just on the tummy time issue, if you just let a baby do it gradually and let a baby relax gradually with tummy time and not force them and maybe do 2 minutes a day or 3 minutes a day and increase it, would you say that that would help them instead of coming to see somebody like you or would you always advise coming to see somebody like you straight away?
Meaghan Beames: What I say is tummy time, if you do enough, quote, unquote, enough tummy time a day, I would be put out of business because nature is perfect and we are created perfectly and nature’s way of getting these babies out of these tension patterns is by doing a lot of tummy time and even sleeping on their side, so not being on their back as much. Being out of these baby containers, which include bouncy chairs or the bum bows, getting these babies, having excess amounts of movement would put me out of business. What keeps me in business are those BabyBjorn Bouncer chairs.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, and also you can help with the things like the tongue tie and the colic, which has got nothing to do with tummy time,
Meaghan Beames: Yeah, that’s true. Well, no, you’re right. However, the more tummy time these babies do, the more function they would have. You’re right, there’s a lot I can do that tummy time can’t but there’s a lot of things that we conjunctively can do together.
Helen Thompson: If somebody wanted to get in touch with you to find out more about CST, how would they go about doing that?
Meaghan Beames: Absolutely, so my Instagram handle for my private practice is mybabycst, and that’s on Instagram and then for my school, because I do teach infant and craniosacral is beamescst and those are both on Instagram. That’s pretty much where I live. I don’t do any other social media really.
Helen Thompson: Do you have any online courses or anything for a mom, if they’re not in Canada?
Meaghan Beames: Absolutely, so my first level of training is virtual. So parents are able to take that, so it would be CST Foundations and then the level one. I actually did have someone from Australia who lived in the deep country. She said there’s no one around her and her baby was severely gassy, was not pooping for days, she took my course and her baby changed within a few sessions that she was able to do with her baby. So it’s possible to make change on your own child and by learning these techniques yourself. So yes, I do have virtual courses.
Helen Thompson: Thank you, I’ve learnt a lot from talking to you about CST and it’s a lot more valuable than I actually thought and I’m glad to hear that it links with baby massage and tummy time and supporting the parent holistically. So thank you for being here, I’ve really, really enjoyed talking to you.
Meaghan Beames: I enjoyed talking to you too, thank you so much for having me.
Helen Thompson: Wow, I loved learning all about infant CST and the amazing ways it can help babies. I’ll definitely be telling more of the mums I teach baby massage to about it. I’ve included links to Meaghan’s Instagram pages, which she mentioned during our chat. I’ve also included a link to her website as well as a freebie she offers called ’10 Signs A Baby Needs Body Work’.
These links are in the show notes, which can be found at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/125.
On the First Time Mum’s Chat podcast, I’ve spoken with a number of professionals who provide help to babies and infants, and I’m regularly asked for tips and suggestions from mums on this topic. Is this an area that you would like to know more about or do you have any questions relating to it? If so, I would love to hear from you. You can contact me by email at email@example.com.
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Next week I’m chatting with postpartum doula, Heather Magill, who brings calm, confidence and connection into the lives of families with new babies. We are talking about virtual postpartum support and options for you and your family and how important it is to have support in this society. Be sure to listen to this episode when it comes out next week, and please subscribe to First Time Mum’s Chat via your favorite platform so that you can get quick and easy access to all our episodes when they are live.