Modalities for infants:
Working with infants to reach their full developmental potential is the greatest gift we can give our children – and the most cost-effective.
By the time a baby is 6 months old the brain has doubled in weight. Essential, life-determining synaptic connections are being formed even before your child can smile. These complex circuits shape our future thinking, feeling and behavior and they form at an astonishing rate. By the age of three a young child's brain has twice the number of nerve connections that it will have as an adult. Which connections survive to adulthood are largely determined by which connections get reinforced. The kind of care your child receives, the behavior you model, and the kind of activities and experiences she is exposed to will influence which connections ultimately survive. This is the most important "use it or lose it" period in our entire life and such rapid brain growth will never happen again.
Early on the part of the brain that is developing most rapidly is the brain stem and the sensory-motor system. Every day is filled with new information, sights, smells and movement possibilities. A safe, nurturing environment, full of age appropriate motor challenges creates new synapses and strengthens ones already formed. The brainstem is where basic survival information is regulated and sensory-motor programs integrated and it is based in present time. When a baby is cold or hungry, she responds with a cry of distress, and continues crying until the discomfort stops. She can't predict whether it will stop in five seconds or five hours. It is a real and present danger. One of the most important aspects of this period is the baby's need to establish "Where am I and am I safe?" A child cannot successfully develop more sophisticated neurological capacities until the sensory-motor system is fully functional. When this happens and there is sufficient nurturing, the child will develop affect-regulation or the ability to control her own sensory-motor and survival systems. Once the feeling of safety is achieved, exploration and independence are the normal progression. Me! and Mine! are frequent exclamations as the infant explores the boundaries between herself and her surroundings. Because these basic neural networks of the sensory-motor system are at the foundation of all further growth, gaps or underdevelopment at this stage can have ramifications throughout life.
The prefrontal cortex also develops towards the end of the first year and its development is tightly linked to caregiver interactions. The affect that is modeled by the caregiver imprints on the baby's prefrontal cortex and has a determining effect on the child's world view, sense of self, and ability to relate to others. The second major developmental phase of the prefrontal cortex happens in later adolescence.
When Things Go Wrong
During the first 18 months of life, your child's brain development is focused largely on learning how to move the body, and learning to make sense of the information coming in through the senses. When a child falls, or is fussy, is irritated by loud noises or strong smells, or fails to achieve a developmental milestone, or uses one side of the body to the exclusion of the other, gets ill too often, or exhibits a regressive shift in behavior – then it is time to pay attention! Intervening early saves wear and tear on a whole family and can save a life-time of difficulties for the child. There are a variety of alternative therapies that can help your child fill the gaps when these primary developmental stages fail to integrate.
The other important system that has very rapid development during this period is the immune system. The infant is born immuno-suppressed and receives it's first burst of immunity from the mother in the form of colostrum. As the infant develops she receives further immunological protection from breast milk while her own system is developing. As a species we are under an unprecedented immunological challenge as our environment becomes increasingly toxic, our food sources less and less nutritious, and our predilections more and more towards processed foods – pseudo food substances we were never meant to eat. We are also in the first century of adjusting to early childhood immunizations and the jury is still out on the long term effects these will have on our natural immunity as a species.
Modalities for infants:
When is Infant Reflex work helpful for Infants?
The movement "alphabet" of Brain Gym® – like so many movement modalities – finds many of its origins in infant reflexes. Infant reflexes are an instinctual, universal movement language that all human beings share. These automatic movement patterns are the way a baby "knows" to do everything it needs to do to survive – from turning over in the womb, to wriggling through the birth canal, to taking its first breath, to bonding with mom, to sucking, crawling, walking . . . the list is endless.
These movement patterns are hard-wired to the brain stem, which means that the baby has no choice about performing them once they are stimulated. It's like when the doctor hits your knee with the little rubber hammer – your foot flies out involuntarily.
Because infant reflexes are wired into every aspect of human development, it's good to make sure that the reflexes are progressing normally. There are "ballpark" times for different reflexes to appear, and to integrate into higher functions of the brain. When development seems to be going more slowly than normal, it's a good time to check infant reflex responses. By doing these movements to and with the baby, it is often possible to "jumpstart" the natural developmental processes in a natural way.
Even when development is going as planned, it's helpful to learn about and use these natural movements as we play with our babies. Infant reflex play can grease the wheels of an already happy life.
[more about Brain Gym®]
[back to top]
When is chiropractic helpful for infants?
At the Lydian Center we use a unique chiropractic technique called Axial Stability Method. It is a low-force technique appropriate for all ages. Our unusual approach can transform a child if the underlying problem is physical injury. A difficult birth, infant seizures, a bad fall, bumps on the head, surgery, can all cause biomechanical inefficiency and instability.
Infants appear to recover quickly from bumps or falls, and indeed usually do! But sometimes, though the surface injury heals perfectly, the developing brain can't manage to clear the neurological confusion caused by the injury and the child is left with a hidden biomechanical instability. The developing sensory-motor system, so dependent upon movement patterns, begins to show strain as the body struggles with the mechanics of movement. Behavioral problems, emotional irritability and frustration, sensory integration problems, insomnia, poor balance, poor immunity and digestion, neurological delays, unequal use of the limbs, learning disabilities, language delays and visual problems are signs that there might be underlying injury.
At this age, just a few chiropractic treatments can have a miraculous affect: physical difficulties disappear, behavior improves, the immune system bounces back and the child eases back into the blue print of development.
[more about chiropractic]
[back to top]
When is Craniosacral Therapy helpful for Infants?
Craniosacral therapy is a super-light touch cranial therapy that tracks the slow pulse of cerebrospinal fluid. Because an infant's cranial bones have not yet fused (the fonatanelle is soft until the age of one) and the skull is still quite malleable, craniosacral therapy can organize the bones of the skull, remove "kinks" from the dura (the strong tissue that encases the central nervous system) and release stress from the soft tissues.
Many complaints of babies - colic, constipation, not sleeping, difficult nursing, spitting up, mysterious crying or crankiness (often babies and young children have headaches they don't know how to tell you about) - can all have a structural basis. For instance, an obstructed vagus nerve (a nerve that "wanders" from the brainstem all the way to the abdomen) can account for many of these conditions. Gently releasing the obstruction (like unkinking a garden hose) through craniosacral therapy can sometimes produce magical results.
Some births are more difficult than others, but no birth is easy for either mother or child. Even a normal vaginal birth with a short labor and no drugs is stressful on the system. The baby is being propelled head first through a narrow canal of bone under extreme pressure. A little TLC is a good idea for any baby. If there has been any kind of intervention in the birth process, craniosacral therapy becomes even more important. Caesarians are one kind of birth experience that CST can help to mediate (the extremity of pressure change from the womb to the open air alone can cause a huge amount of cranial compression - as if you were to suddenly go from a pressurized airline cabin at 30,000 ft. to sea level). Long labors, forceps or vacuum extraction, medicated births - the effects of all of these can be mitigated and even erased by CST.
A few craniosacral sessions at the beginning of life can nip many potential problems in the bud. Learning delays, for instance, can often have at least part of their origin in structure. So can gross and fine motor coordination issues, auditory processing and vision, eating disorders, and various cognitive and emotional difficulties. It's best to bring babies in for craniosacral therapy as young as possible. It's much easier to work on a baby who can't walk yet! But craniosacral therapy can also be done on "moving targets" as toddlers play with blocks or sit in their caregivers laps, listening to songs or stories. It's never too late for CST! But the younger the baby, the easier the task, and generally, the fewer the visits.
[more about craniosacral therapy]
[back to top]
When is Homeopathy helpful for infants?
Homeopathy excels at preventing patterns of illness, such as chronic colds or ear infections. Antibiotics may seem to work well for a particular ear infection, but they can weaken the immune system and increase the chance of recurrence. A constitutional homeopathic remedy can strengthen the child's (or adult's) ability to withstand the microbes that are a natural part of our internal and external environment.
Because homeopathic remedies strengthen the whole person (mental, emotional, physical, energetic and behavioral), a remedy that works well to strengthen the immune system is likely to also help other problems – colic or constipation, sleep problems, or incessant crying. Homeopathy can be so effective for teething pain, eliminating the pain instantaneously, that babies kick and flail with enthusiasm when they see their mothers opening the tube.
Homeopathy can also help resolve emotional trauma – for example, in a baby who has been separated from her birth mother through adoption, or because of a health emergency for mother or newborn which requires hospitalization. This experience of abandonment can result in separation anxiety, in a child who clings like a little barnacle to her mother and cries inconsolably when separated from her. Homeopathy can help heal the emotional trauma and allow a child to grow into age-appropriate independence.
Homeopathy does not suppress symptoms, but gives the body's healing energy the information it needs to organize itself better around a problem. Homeopathic remedies are both powerful and gentle. They are easy to administer to babies, either by tucking a tiny pellet inside their mouth or by dissolving the pellet in water and swabbing the water on the baby's lips. They do not need to be swallowed to be effective. Instead, they work as soon as they touch the mucus membranes in and around the mouth. There are no side effects, no possibility of dependency, and no toxicity even if a child swallows a whole bottle by mistake.
Begabati can evaluate children for their typical pattern of acute illness, provide an appropriate series of homeopathic remedies for their typical symptoms, and teach parents how to use the remedies to treat their children at home the next time.
[more about homeopathy]
[back to top]
Breast milk is the best food for infants! A newborn's lymphocytes are not yet capable of making all antibodies they need and breast milk plays an important role in keeping the immune system strong during this time. Of special importance are bifidus growth factor, immunoglobins, interferon, and enzymes. Additionally, a feed-back mechanism exists to let the mother's system know the exact needs of the infant. Through pours in the mother's areole, cytokines in the baby's saliva report on its nutritional and immunological needs. The mother's milk constantly changes in response.
Because breast milk contains gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and essential fatty acids, breast feeding can actually delay the onset of food allergies as well as other allergic symptoms. Infants under a year old are particularly susceptible to food allergies because their intestinal tract is porous and cannot screen out big molecules that cause allergies. This is why infants under a year should not be fed wheat, cow's milk, fish, or egg whites during the first year of life.
[more about nutrition]
[back to top]
When is sound healing helpful for Infants?
Infants respond to music, and the best music is the parent's voices singing. It doesn't matter how "badly" mom and dad think they sing – they are baby's first love. The variety of inflection and vibration of singing in these loved voices is both emotionally nurturing and important for the child's development.
Rhythm play is another important aspect of baby's development: the beat and cadence of nursery rhymes and simple movement games. Rhythm organizes the brain for learning. Music lights up the whole brain – it is one of the most natural and effective tools for integrating development we possess as human beings.
Parents who would like some help integrating music into their relationship with their babies are invited to come into Eve's fun, safe, and cozy office, and play. Every sound we make is a good sound; this is not about performance, but about participation and joy. Music nurtures babies and parents alike.
[more about sound healing]
[back to top]
Copyright 2013, The Lydian Center for Innovative Healthcare
design by Dale Muzzey