Most mums experience pain in childbirth and the experience is something that stays with us throughout our life. And so it is for babies as well. The journey from womb to the outside world is a traumatic and painful experience, but one that is given little if any consideration.
British psychotherapist and craniosacral therapist, Matthew Appleton, has worked with babies for 25 years helping them to heal from the effects of birth.
“Birth can be stressful and traumatising for babies, but it is natural. Sometimes they can become overwhelmed with feelings of rage and panic and disassociation during the birth,” he said.
About twenty years ago he realised babies were trying to communicate something that he wasn’t understanding and he began studying with Karlton Terry, founder of the American Institute for Pre and Perinatal Education which led to his work in integrative baby therapy.
“The work is not something new. It is something that is understood in other cultures but has been lost. Many conditions that babies routinely suffer from, such as colic, fractious behaviour breathing difficulties, reflux and feeding problems can be the result of unresolved birth trauma,” he said.
Matthew said to begin to address the impact of birth on babies it is important to distinguish between needs crying and memory crying.
“Needs crying is when a baby is expressing a present moment need, such as being hungry, uncomfortable, overstimulated or tired. These are basic needs and when they are met the crying stops,” he said.
We ask Midwife Cath if a fear of vaginal birth or having a traumatic natural birth is a good enough reason to have a caesarean. Post continues after audio.
Memory crying is when the baby is experiencing sensations and images that related to an earlier experience, such as a moment in the birth that was overwhelming. Memory crying is when nothing else works and the baby is probably trying to tell you a story. It is often a high-pitched cry and often parents instinctively know something is going on.”
According to Matthew this crying will be associated with what he calls baby body language.
“They will touch the same place, generally the head, again and again and this is showing us where they got stuck during the birth,” Matthew said.
“There are three basic emotions associated with baby body language; anger through to rage, sadness through to intense grief and anxiety through to terror.”
He said there are also different expressions associated with the different interventions that may have occurred during the birth. Helping the baby to heal from the birth is simply a matter of showing empathy and understanding.
“If you had a bad day you would want to talk about it when you got home. But imagine your husband says, ‘shush it’s ok’, or ‘you are just hungry, have something to eat’. But then imagine if you could feel listened to. You would feel the stress again and maybe become emotional and you would reach an emotional apex and then you could relax,” he said.