Babies and children

Why bring babies for bodywork?

Birth is a big deal.  Tiny bodies can get stuck in tensional patterns. Knowledgeable, skilled bodywork can help babies resolve any physical traumas they encounter during the birth process or due to uterine lie. Babies do the best they can, but sometimes they don’t know how to resolve tensional patterns, even with parents’ loving touch.  Rolfers™ are trained to recognize balanced structure and to guide in resolving imbalances.   Babies are brilliant and usually respond quickly to nudges in the right direction.

Skulls mold to adapt to the pressures of the birth canal and are meant to do this.  The system is designed to spring back out after the compression (a good loud cry helps this process along), but sometimes gestation or the birth process includes forces more powerful than baby can overcome on his/her own (contractions without dilation, intense contractions due to pitocin, mom’s pelvis too rigid, use of vacuum or forceps, crowding in utero due to fibroids, large size, multiple fetuses, etc), and baby’s system needs a little help to decompress into balance.  C-section babies don’t get the compression, and often need help in getting spring in the fluids surrounding the brain due to not having the pump action of compression.

What would indicate my baby needs bodywork?

Some common reasons parents bring their babies for bodywork are:

  • Feeding issues – poor or weak latch, reflux, gastric distress, pain when nursing, tongue-tie restrictions
  • Torticollis, hip or shoulder dystocias
  • Tone issues – hyper- or hypo- tone, tense or floppy babies
  • Developmental delays – not rolling over, not crawling, walking, or exhibiting age-appropriate fine motor skills (children) on a normal timeline
  • Recovery from injury or illness – reorganizing the structure after injury (rehabilitating normal walking patterns after a break or sprain, for example, and releasing the holding patterns of trauma and compensation)
  • Sleep issues

How does bodywork help with latch issues?

Latching issues can be neurological, structural, or functional (and are often all three).  Latching and feeding are full-body processes for babies – all of the parts have to be coordinated to work together efficiently.  Sometimes releasing a structural limitation such as frenectomy / frenotomy of the lingual frenulum is enough for the baby to learn to coordinate a functional, efficient suckling pattern.  Most times baby needs some additional help in establishing good function.  Your brilliant baby has developed the best compensation pattern possible to him/her to obtain nourishment (his/her biological imperative) around any structural restrictions.  Often baby needs some input in order to fully realize the new potential and let go of learned and practiced compensatory patterns.

What do sessions look like?  

Newborns and infants often receive gentle hands-on work on the treatment table or in the Rolfer’s arms to help ease tension imbalances and ensure healthy fluid flow, but this can be done in a parent’s arms as desired. Often latch is assessed and treatment includes work inside the mouth. Mobile babies may receive repatterning help while they are moving to improve coordination – helping baby to roll over smoothly in both directions, normalizing the pressing up and the crawling pattern, or stimulating developmental reflexes so the baby’s nervous system makes the most well-coordinated orchestrated responses.

When appropriate parents will be given exercises to incorporate in their play with baby at home.

With older children, we often look at anatomy together and help them develop good understanding of easy movement.  It is especially important to give teens and tweens a factual, relevant, and fun understanding of their bodies and how they are designed to efficiently move.  (Simplistic instructions like “stand tall, shoulders back” or “elongate your spine” are poor information and usually lead to harmful holding patterns.)  Sessions can be tailored to look at specific movements of interest to the child / tween / teen (throwing, batting, running, using the computer, singing, playing an instrument, etc.)

How much and how often?

Most babies come for around 4 sessions, each spaced about a week apart.  Sessions are $100 each, with a reduced rate of $75 available as needed.  Babies are never turned away if the normal fees are out of reach – please contact me for specifics.

Why should mama come for sessions?

Having a session or two for mama can further support the nursing relationship. Sometimes a nerve can get entrapped and irritated due to the flexion forces used in mom’s body during labor and delivery (ribs can easily get displaced) and can cause pain when nursing due to baby applying pressure on an irritated nerve.  This often shows up as mama having the same pain no matter baby’s nursing position.

Mamas come to recover more easily from pregnancy and childbirth:

  • unwind the torsions of pregnancy and labor
  • promote repair of diastasis
  • free diaphragm and ribs from the physical pressures of gestation and pushing
  • release pressure to promote healing of the pelvic floor and hemorroids
  • restore functional core support after pelvic floor injury or C-section
  • release fixations in movements of the spine
  • update movement patterns to meet the new demands of infant care while avoiding the common aches and pains of so many chores requiring forward flexion
  • learn easy-to-apply strategies for increasing ease while baby-wearing, using car seat, carrying, stroller pushing
  • experience the hands-on listening their babies are receiving and feel for herself the movement challenges baby is having, so she can better support baby

Additionally, many moms find it therapeutic to recount the birth story with attentive hands helping to normalize the tissues and connect the emotional experience with the physical reality.

How would I choose a skilled therapist?

A skilled provider should have intimate and extensive knowledge of normal infant physical developmental reflexes and how those reflexes develop into functional patterns. S/he should be able to identify what kind of support would help baby become expert in developmentally appropriate movement. S/he should have knowledge of how fetal skulls develop and how they present as newborns and infants.

An extra bonus is a deep knowledge of how a person becomes “traumatized”, how the body stores trauma, how one avoids becoming traumatized after an unpleasant experience, and the ability to offer titrated tools to safely release the hold of stuck emotions and stuck patterns.

Rebecca Lisak has been working regularly with babies since her eldest was born in 2006, and now about 50% of her clients are infants. She was driven to more deeply explore applying her beloved Rolfing and cranial work with babies when she saw the results on her toddler – a few minutes of work could reliably ease the stormy toddler tantrums for months at a time. Her son was born tongue tied, and Rebecca used hands on work to support a successful nursing relationship with him without medical or surgical intervention.