Understanding early difficulties


The development of a healthy, loving relationship between mother and baby can be disturbed if the baby or the mother is distressed, drugged or traumatised after the birth. Medical interventions during the birth and separation immediately after can disrupt the first meeting of mother and baby when the natural release of love hormones should be supporting bonding.

feeding and suckling

A traumatised baby may be unable to respond to the mother during the critical period immediately after birth. The normal hormonal release, that supports bonding and breast feeding, may be disturbed. Pain from a difficult delivery can make feeding uncomfortable for both mother and baby. Suckling is one way the baby can ease compression in its head but the baby’s ability to suckle effectively can be physically affected by shock, held in the cranial base, which can affect the palette.


After a very traumatic birth, babies may cry for an hour or more every day for several months to release the trauma caused by birth. It is important to give babies physical contact and eye contact when they need to cry, and to let them know it is ok to make their protest and express their feelings. They need their crying to be received. By being supported in telling their story, babies reduce the effects of stress hormones, restore their body’s chemical balance, and complete the stress/relaxation cycle. This return to balance does not happen if the baby is left alone to cry, or if comfort patterns prevent release.


Birth stressed babies are often tense, irritable and unsettled. They can be unable to really relax, probably because of the excess of stress hormones in the body. This may be one reason for sleep difficulties so often experienced with babies who have had difficult births.

colic and constipation

The unresolved arousal of the sympathetic nervous system leaves the body awash with stress hormones which inhibit the digestive system. This can lead to discomfort after feeding in babies who have had a difficult birth or other trauma. Compression in the cranial base from being being jammed hard against the pelvis or the unopened cervix, can contribute to colic and other digestive problems, by restricting the vagus nerve.

Links and References
Helping Babies to Heal
Craniosacral Therapy
Infant Trauma
Butterfly Touch
Birth Games
Baby Stories
The Importance of Touch
Movement Repatterning
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©Lesley Downie