Preach It!

No one can tell a woman what is best for her and her baby ... waterbirth, homebirth, hospital birth, doctor, midwife, Unassisted Childbirth (UC) or cesarean surgery ... it is for her and her baby to know. The best we can do is support her to access, trust, and know her own inner wisdom and communicate with the Being within her - the One whose birth it is through her womb and the man. - Janel Mirendah, Attachment/Birth trauma therapist, Filmmaker of The Other Side of the Glass.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

About Colic: Baby's Pain is Real

This week there is new article out that says Infant Colic May Be an Early Migraine. Makes total sense to me, a CranioSacral-based birth trauma and attachment therapist! 
"Nobody knows what causes colic, although people have looked at gastrointestinal pathology for clues. However, it is unlikely that colic is caused by intestinal gas."

In a paper presented by Pauline Anderson on June 27, 2014 at American Headache Society (AHS) 56th Annual Scientific Meeting. 

So, what IS colic? A migrain
eAnd, how to help? That is the pseudo quandary. I wrote about the causes ten years ago. Infant colic and infant migraine IS a result of obstetric medicine and the mishandling of the human baby's head, neck, and shoulders; and, that is a result of lack of understanding and valuing of human birth and due to the unnecessary interventions in labor.  Finally, someone in another field of research is whispering it. 

Still, ten years after I wrote the following article, and after helping countless women to Heal Your Baby, "It appears that the association between infant colic and migraine is quite robust," but we just don't know why.  

And obstetric medicine doesn't want to know, not really.  Doesn't want you to know, for sure. They don't want to stop what they - trained professionals who do NOT have to follow evidenced-based medicine - are doing. Every day. Every birth in this country, that gives us the poorest mortality rating of all industrialized nations.   

And, what about all these babies who have been put on pharmaceuticals for gastro issues? What about their long term gut health? And ongoing headaches? Their mental health and relationships with mother and father? While they - the medical and insurance establishments - don't want to nor have to support, fund, or refer babies to a leading edge therapy that works. And worse, birth attendants don't have to stop doing what causes the damage. 

From my old website, 2004:

If you are reading this page in your search of help for your crying, colicky baby, you have probably already read enough to know that current information regarding colic is grim. Estimates are that twenty to 30% of newborns are diagnosed with colic. And, yet, there is not a medical consensus on what it is, what causes it, and what to do for a newborn who is “diagnosed” with colic. There are a couple of theories about the possible causes, such as a nervous system immaturity and an over sensitivity to external stimuli, and another that it is caused by gastrointestinal issues. Most suggested remedies fall within those two categories.

This article covers these topics:
  • The experts in medicine don’t know what causes colic and how to treat it. 
  • Babies do not outgrow colic symptom and colic doesn’t go away. 
  • Birth experiences are what babies are communicating.
  • How babies communicate the story of their birth
  • Colic crying and symptoms contribute to the cycle of postpartum depression in mother, parental conflicts, and colic in babies.
  • Birth trauma is now known in pre- and perinatal trauma healing to contribute to causing colic.
  • How the experience of birth trauma can create emotional and physical restrictions that contribute to colic.
  • Why it is not true that colic symptoms suddenly "appear and disappear" and the lifelong effect of not treating 

The experts in medicine don’t know what causes colic and how to treat it. 
In spite of evidence and experience that most remedies don’t work the web is full of sites selling a multitude of devices to assist with colic symptoms. Many work on the same ideas as the traditional ideas holding positions, swaddling, ideas about mother’s diet, formula versus breast milk, taking baby for car rides, running vacuums, and placing babies on running washing machines are some of the suggestions. None are shown to be effective. A parent might find something that brings temporary relief, but rarely does it heal or eliminate the symptoms. Scientific research and anecdotal information from parents indicates that most of these and prescribed drugs don’t work at all.
Desperate parents are assured by medical professionals with information that is contradictory, patronizing, or nonsensical. For example, a pediatric researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle says, "A few remedies look promising, but there's really no evidence that colic needs to be treated anyway." 

Nonetheless, physicians and parents typically rely on medical treatment for infant colic including drug therapy and formula changes.  She suggests in an interview with, "It's OK to just wait it out,” (EASY FOR HER, RIGHT?) “but you might want to try soy or hypoallergenic formula, herbal tea, and a less stimulating environment." In the July issue of Pediatrics journal she also reports many remedies such as drug therapy and eliminating dairy, were ineffective for the problem. 
So, do you know any more now than you did? Your baby is still suffering, so are you, and your pediatrician is probably just as frustrated and baffled.
Most medical experts and writers suggest to just wait it out since “colic will just disappear as mysteriously as it appeared.” And, yet, information from parents would indicate otherwise. And, doesn’t the quote above, "A baby's cry is precisely as serious as it sounds," make more sense to a reasonable person or to someone who has been up night after night with a sweet, new baby who is obviously in such emotional and physical pain? Why doesn’t it make sense to the medical community who know that pain and dysfunction have a cause?
I found only one physician, Robert W. Steele, M.D., a pediatrician who writes for, who dispelled the two conventional thoughts that colic is caused by either the immature nervous system or that it is a gastrointestinal issue, such as gas from air intake, formula, or mother’s diet. Dr. Steele is the only physician to identify baby’s crying as communication, which is consistent with pre- and perinatal psychology and birth trauma healing. He is the only one I found who did not blame the mother’s milk, diet, temperament, stress, or to deny the cries as having a real cause. He said, “The third school of thought is one that characterizes the child's crying as her way of communicating. When she begins to cry, she is trying to tell you she is in need of something. When that need is not met, she becomes inconsolable which hampers the ability to meet that need, and the whole thing becomes a vicious cycle.” (Dr. Steele is a board certified pediatrician at St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, Missouri.)
Colic is often attributed to "gas" in a newborn. Dr. Robert Lee on, Treating a Baby with Colic said, “but remember that after 20–30 minutes of colic* – going red in the face, drawing legs up, clenching fists, refusing to be comforted, passing a lot of wind and having tummy rumbles it can seem as if they have a temperature, when actually they haven’t.” Sure, after twenty to 30 minutes of screaming and gasping for air who wouldn’t be gassy? It makes me think of the horrid gas pains I would have as a teenager after jumping up and down in the bleachers and screaming and cheering for my Iowa high school’s championship girl’s basketball team. 
Dr. Steele’s is the only reference I found (consistent with Prenatal and Birth Therapy) that taking in so much air at the onset of a crying spell (caused by emotions) contributes to a full-on cycle of painful gas and uncontrollable crying leading to COLIC.
At least one other physician in my Internet search is at least asking the right question. A quote from says, “Your baby cries every afternoon for hours at a time, and the crying has worn you down to the point where you feel like joining in. What could be upsetting your child?” (emphasis is mine.)
Unfortunately, the question, “what could be upsetting your child?” goes unanswered as the doctor continued, “When a healthy baby cries like this, chances are that he has colic. Colic is not a physical disorder or disease. Doctors define colic as 3 or more hours a day of continued crying. The crying is not due to hunger, a wet diaper, or other visible causes, and the child cannot be calmed down. Colic usually goes away by 3 months of age.” 
Babies do not outgrow colic symptom and colic doesn’t go away.
Often I read that medical experts don’t know what causes colic or there is no way to treat it…and so, thank GOODNESS, it just goes away in a few months. If it’s true that babies outgrow colic, as we are told by the medical community, why do we have excessive commercials on television for prescription and non-prescription remedies for adult acid reflux and gas? Adults with acid reflux, ulcers, gallbladder, anxiety, or head and neck pain have had years of “reinforcing traumas.” If children outgrow colic, why are more children than ever before now being prescribed these medications for reflux, ulcers, and other gastrointestinal issues? It is crucial to resolve the birth experience in the early days and months of the baby’s life. 
While the experts in the medical field continue to tell parents that there is no cause or remedy and that it “just disappears,” thirty years of research and clinical practice in the pre- and perinatal field tells us that it is birth trauma that is a primary cause of crying and colic and that it does not go away. Irritable stomach and colon, repeatedly and consistently spitting up, and vomiting for unexplained reasons are symptoms of emotional and physical trauma. Whether one is four hours, four days, or forty years old and having crying spells (and acid reflux, indigestion, etc.) at the same time of day, it is a symptom of a trauma response. 

Birth experiences are what babies are communicating.
Interestingly, I did not find any information in an Internet search about colic that discusses birth trauma contributing to colic. The possibility of trauma, particularly birth trauma, associated with medical interventions was not discussed; and so, of course, neither was it discussed that there are the long term psychological, physical, and emotional consequences of birth trauma. Rarely, is the cause of colic associated with the impact and effect of drug induced labor, epidural birth, of the trauma of birthing in supine positions, and the rough handling of babies’ heads addressed (even more traumatic when scalp monitors, forceps, or vacuum extractors are used). These medically induced traumas are known in pre- and perinatal psychology and trauma healing fields to contribute to, if not cause, the physical, emotional, and psychological responses of babies. This is WHY they cry. Babies are telling their stories. Young children, teens, and adults will continue to “tell their stories” through their emotional, psychological, and psychological “dysfunctions.” Again, as Jean Liedloff says, "A baby's cry is precisely as serious as it sounds."
(Prenatal experiences are known in pre- and perinatal psychology to contribute to the experience of birth and this discussed in detail elsewhere on this site.) 

How babies communicate the story of their birth
A crying newborn or infant (who is dry, fed, and continues to cry with deep emotion) is telling his or her story of the emotional and physical reactions and memories of birth. When a baby cries for a time and it extends to hours and with much emotion, it leads to colic symptoms. Watch your baby’s gestures, postures, and listen to him or her for the emotional feeling. While you are comforting and talking with your baby, check in with yourself about what you’re talking about, feeling, or responding. Could your baby have something to say about this as well? If a baby seems angry, sad, furious, scared, or frustrated to you, trust your own feelings and seek help to understand and heal your baby. 
Your baby is communicating with you with her body. Watch for arching back, tilting and holding head to one side only. Does the baby have a favorite position? Is the spine curved the same way and head facing in one direction? Is she unable to lay on her back, or she cries when moved from a favorite position? Is she comforted when in a certain position, even though it looks uncomfortable? Does she move or gesture with one leg, hand, or arm more or is one more limited? Does she prefer to be on or to look to one side? These postures will persist for a lifetime if unresolved and do contribute to adult postural and intestinal issues. Is his head sensitive to touch or does he resist having a shirt pulled over his head? His cries are communicating to you the “what” and the “why.” Parents and professionals need to ask themselves, “what could my baby be telling me, where does this comes from?”  

Colic crying and symptoms contribute to the cycle of postpartum depression in mother, parental conflicts, and colic in babies.

Prenatal and Birth Therapy supports a parent to hear, to be with their angry, grieving infant and to differentiate their own wounding, feeling, and stresses from that of their infant’s. The result is a healing of the relationship and the facilitation of attachment and bonding. When parents are supported to support their infant’s experience and to work through their own early wounding, amazing family healing occurs.
Conventional advice usually assures parents that colic is not their fault (with no mention of the impact of medical interventions on labor and birth) and that the baby will outgrow the symptoms. Unfortunately, however, while assuring mothers that it’s not her fault the explanations often are blaming. Not having answers causes professionals to give ineffective to down right damaging advice. For example, one Ph.D. professional in a colic center is quoted on as saying, “getting to the point—where you can say, ‘Hey, my child has a problem, it’s not me’—even admitting that your baby is a pain in the neck—is very freeing and very healthy.” Freeing? Healthy? Since when? New or old moms do not feel free or healthy thinking such thoughts about their little ones. This just contributes to a mother's feelings of failure and inadequacy and contributes to depression.
The literature in the pre- and perinatal psychology and birth trauma healing clearly show the detriment of this perspective. It does not acknowledge the level of emotional trauma and angst causing colic crying and it does not acknowledge the truth in the statement itself. The language used is so telling…“pain in the neck.” But who has the pain in the neck? The baby, the parents, or both? The consequence of parents not recognizing the very real pain of the infant is that parents and babies end up alienated and miserable. Relationship patterns are developed that will persist for a lifetime if not resolved, (Somebody in this story most likely has or still is a pain in the neck) and this is why it is crucial for resolving colic in the early months.
In Prenatal and Birth Therapy it is known that “what parents don’t deal with in their own life and in the parental relationship, the BABY will take it on and express it.”  It is difficult for a new parent to watch and hear their newborn who is expressing their anger and grief from prenatal and birth trauma. Babies’ birth experiences reflect aspects of the parents’ births. Often, in sessions, the trauma can be traced back multiple generations. It is likely that when a baby shows the symptoms of trauma that this also contributes to post-partum depression for the mother. Often the parents are feeling the depth of their own roots of their emotions of fear, anger, powerlessness, etc. A parent might feel the need to avoid their own feelings and will not be able to be present with their infant. When mothers and fathers are unable to recognize and differentiate their own feelings, and their baby’s feelings, they are unable to empathize with the baby’s birth experience. The consequence is that the child feels unheard and unsupported. Parent and infant bonding is further impaired and a lack of trust deepens. Dr. Castellino suggests these are contributing factors to the high divorce rate.
The typical response of adults to colic (trauma) crying by an infant is to bounce the baby and roughly pat the baby’s back to console them; to stick a breast, pacifier, or bottle in the baby’s mouth; and to tell them, “You’re okay, it’s okay.” These responses can exacerbate the emotions of the baby, because the baby is not being heard nor is she being validated about her experience. As adults we know it doesn’t feel good to be told, “it’s okay, it’s okay” when we know it isn’t, or to be patted on the back and told to get over it, or to have someone offer us a beer or piece a cake and be quiet.
Someone acknowledging the emotion and situation from a non-judgmental and empathic perspective is often enough to help one to move on. Otherwise, we feel unheard and eventually we stop trying to share our story when others are not able to sit with us in the painful place we are feeling. As an infant, emotional support is often substituted with the breast, bottles, pacifiers, or the baby is left to “cry it out”. This teaches the infant to stuff her feelings and use things outside herself for comfort.  By adulthood comfort is found in addictions with food, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, relationships, sex, porn, gambling, shopping, over working, etc.
Prenatal and Birth Therapy supports a parent to hear, to be with their angry, grieving infant, and to differentiate their own wounding from that of their infant’s. The result is a healing of the relationship and the facilitation of attachment and bonding. When parents are supported to support their infant’s experience and to work through their own early wounding, amazing family healing occurs. 

Birth trauma is now known in pre- and perinatal trauma healing to contribute to causing colic. 

Traditional medicine tells us that there is nothing to cause or cure colic and the symptoms will just go away. Osteopathic, chiropractic, and pre- and perinatal psychology and birth trauma therapy tell us otherwise. Crying babies are telling their stories of these experiences of birth. It is often at particular times, such as when life experiences trigger the memory of the experience, when the baby’s body is in a certain position, or when touched on the head or other parts of the body. We believe it corresponds to the point in the five stage sequence of birth. These are where outside forces disrupted the baby's process. Building potency for action through anger, frustration, or fear is an imprint from the birth experience that becomes a part of every activity encountered. This can be seen in the behavior of young toddlers, children, and adults long after colic and crying symptoms have subsided. Because it is imprinted on the central nervous system a human will continue to re-experience these emotions and imprints throughout life. (See the work of Castellino and Emerson for more on the effects of prenatal and birth shock and trauma.)
Birth is not a painless process for a baby, EVEN when the mother has epidural anesthesia. When a baby is born, she or he experiences enormous pressures as he enters the birth canal, rotating from back to front, and finally emerging with the back of his head first. Forty to 50 pounds of pressure are exerted on the infant's neck during the birth process. It is quite damaging when an outside force (hands or vacuum) force a baby to go in a direction different from their impulse. The sutures, or joints, in his skull are still flexible, and can slide over each other to accommodate the compression from the contractions of the uterus. These changes can persist after birth — not everything springs back immediately — sometimes leaving the baby uncomfortable and in pain. Nerves within the skull can be compressed. This can lead to a myriad of symptoms with hearing visual, olfactory, asthma, sensory processing, etc.
The ease and progress of a baby’s journey through the pelvis depends on many factors — the baby’s size and position, the mother’s emotional and physical status, the size and shape of her pelvis and previous traumas to her pelvis, her body position at birth, etc.  The baby's head leads the way, while his or her feet engage with the fundus of the mother’s uterus (drugs interfere with this biologically necessary process). Powerful contractions squeeze the baby’s head against the cervix. This stress, combined with the weight of the baby's head, is made worse when mother is supine (on her back) for birth. This position puts considerable pressure on the neck, spine, nerves and muscles of both mother and baby. They are no longer able to work together efficiently.
Supine position at birth is the most common in the United States and it is the most inefficient way for a woman to birth her baby. This position contributes to the increased need for interventions, and it contributes significantly to birth trauma. Many women are choosing to follow their body’s impulse and the need to be in an upright, squatting, or kneeling position during labor, but then at birth willingly or are forced (by medical people) to do birth in the supine position.  On physical, emotional, and psychological levels this is traumatizing to the baby and to the mother/child and to their relationship. Pre- and perinatal psychology and birth trauma healing fields show us this is one of the earliest imprints for dysfunctions between mother and child and that it contributes to many issues seen in our society. The reason often given to women for being forced (“forcibly encouraged with false information”) to be in this position, even when “allowed” to labor as they wished, is that the supine position is best position for the doctor to be able to “deliver the baby.” It’s not. It’s best only for the physician and nursing staff. Period. If physicians weren't inappropriately held responsible for the outcome of birth, it wouldn't be so important to them.
Nocturnal crying is often related to cranium trauma such as in birth by c-section or other situations where the baby labors without progression, where the baby births too quickly, and/or when the baby’s head and neck are mishandled or over extended at birth as in vacuum extraction and forceps delivery. Lack of progression is often a place where a prenate has become stuck in the mother’s pelvis and experienced fear and anxiety while the head has continued to push against the un-opening cervix and bony structures of the mother. This causes physical symptoms that continue through life as the body and mind compensate. For example, most adults come to massage and chiropractic sessions for relief of neck, shoulder, and back pain. In the study of prenatal and birth trauma these are known to be rooted in the physical and emotional experience of birth. 

How the experience of birth trauma can create emotional and physical restrictions that contribute to colic

The fields of osteopathic and chiropractic medicine contribute to understanding the impact of birth on the skull and nervous system and the potential lifelong physical systemic consequences. We know from the osteopaths and chiropractors that the physical symptoms shift over life as the body compensates. Pre- and perinatal psychology, brain research, and trauma healing research contribute to understanding how birth trauma causes lifelong emotional, psychological, and spiritual consequences. Physical restrictions from the birth process that contribute to crying and colic are a result of the baby’s head articulating with (ramming against when there is Pitocin inducement or when the membranes have been ruptured prematurely) the mother’s bony pelvis. A common impact site that contributes to both colic and ADD/ADHD is the side of the baby’s head where it has had to drag up over the sacral bone of the mother when she birthed in a lying down position. Click here to read of one family’s story. These restrictions are much more significant when Pitocin and epidural anesthesia was used.
The other major restriction that causes colic is at the atlas and occipital joint where the spinal cord meets the skull. This is where cranial nerves pass through. At birth, the mishandling of the head results in over-extension of this joint and the nerves are impacted. The nerves are restricted by pressure until or unless it is resolved. The Vagus cranial nerve innervates the entire intestinal system and so when the head is mishandled, the resulting restrictions impede the nerve. The restriction does not allow for proper nerve activity to supply the intestinal system. This restriction is easily resolved with CranioSacral, chiropractic, or cranial osteopathic therapy; however, what is crucial for the baby’s full development is the emotional and psychological healing accomplished by Prenatal and Birth Therapy.
Miriam Mills, M.D., a pediatrician in Tulsa, OK, has completed a five-year study of the use of cranial manipulation as an alternative to medication and surgery to treat colic and chronic ear infections. Her results are published in the Archives Pediatric, September, 2003. 

Why it is not true that colic symptoms suddenly “appear and disappear” and the lifelong effect of not treating

Now that you have a new perspective on colic, you will likely agree it doesn’t just go away. Why do SOME babies stop crying and being colicky?  So, what happens if it is untreated and if the symptoms do seem to stop? Ask parents of a baby who was colicky, whether the symptoms went away or not, if that baby or child is now a peaceful, self-motivated, self-regulating child. Most likely they will describe their child as difficult, easily frustrated, easily distracted, unable to follow through on requests and tasks…see where we are going? Attention deficit disorders are common among children who were colicky as babies. Babies who resolve their emotional and physical traumas often make immediate and sustained improvement in the first session. Issues of childhood that become lifelong issues can be prevented by acknowledging the impact of birth on a baby and by resolving the emotional, physical, and psychological, and spiritual issues early.
The medical profession and others tell parents that colic goes away…as mysteriously as it came on. It is not true that colic goes away. Babies naturally complete the process of “coming fully into their body” between the second and third months of life. When a baby has experienced trauma and/or had drugs during birth this process of coming into the body is more acutely experienced. As a baby is coming into her body when there were traumatic birth experiences and drugs, she is in real physical and emotional pain in the present moment. In other words, a “colicky baby” is working very hard to be present in his or her body in spite of the drug imprints and experiences. 
The symptoms SOMETIMES ease up when an infant is three to 5 months. Often, this is not true. Either way, this is the time an infant becomes more mobile and begins attending to certain developmental tasks. The human body and mind has an amazing, self-preserving mechanism and compensates for traumatic experiences and injuries. And babies will develop alternative ways to accomplish tasks. The frustration and anxiety will be seen in how they do this. The trauma pattern/memory is still there, and as the child grows to adulthood these compensations in the body become structural issues (such as chronic back and neck pain).
The physician writer above who asked the question “what could be upsetting your baby so,” went on to say later that, “Some doctors think that colic is due to the baby's own temperament. Some babies just take a little bit longer to get adjusted to the world or a day and night cycle. This is perfectly normal, and the colic will eventually go away.”  Once one sees the impact of birth trauma one can realize that colic is much more than “baby’s own temperament.” Rather, we can know the significance of birth trauma and the first few months of life as crucial to the developing baby’s temperament. Developmental tasks coincide with the child learning that he or she is not going to be heard by her parents. Meanwhile, she or he has been integrating the birth and post-natal activities and these become ways of being and, on some level, lifelong survival skills. As the baby turns his or her attention elsewhere to play and interacting, the same frustration, anxiety, fear, anger expressed in the newborn to infant stage can be seen in interactions with parents and others and in how she or he approaches new life tasks. 
On a physical level the trauma remains unresolved and throughout life begins to manifest in other physical ways.  Ear infections, ADD/ADHD and other learning difficulties, throat infections, sensory integrations issues, biting, tantrums, levels of aggression, headaches, migraines are all thought to be symptoms of pre- and perinatal birth trauma. The crying and the symptoms of colic do not go away.   
As I begin to transition from this discussion of colic to inducing labor and the use of epidural anesthesia, I repeat that colic and crying symptoms are most likely a result of birth trauma. This is particularly true if the mother received drugs for pain, if she was in the supine position for birth, and when the baby experiences rough handling by medical staff.
The mainstream scientific literature is quite clear that the drugs given in labor and birth cross the placenta and affect the baby. Obstetrics books in the 1940’s advised strongly against the use of drugs and outlined the consequences to the baby and mother. Obstetrics and women since then have ignored this as pain avoidance has become the primary concern. Preand peri-natal trauma healing now show us how babies experience long-term effects of the drugs at birth and the lifelong consequences.
An example of an unmedicated birth with medical interventions
A woman whose birth I attended recently was told by a nurse that she was one of only five percent of women in that hospital to give birth without drugs. Babies born without drugs are fully awake and alert, their bodies stronger from the first day. Drugs are not the only issue. This mother of this same baby born without drugs, was forced to move from the kneeling position at the crowning to wait fifteen minutes for the doctor to arrive. The baby has shown us the position he was in, the restrictions in the mastoid, temporal, occipital, atlas bones. Within days of his birth he had the symptoms of colic and cried and cried, telling his story with his voice and body. The mother’s legs and pelvis had trauma from having her legs pushed forcibly towards her chest after “allowed” to proceed with the birth. The baby has shown how this position and the speed at which mother and baby were forced to adhere to, actually impeded his progress. At a point where the mother begged to rest a moment is the point where the baby showed us his shoulder was impeded. I have seen this many times with babies. Left unresolved, these traumas contribute to complications in future births.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How to Meet A Baby

My first born's first born was six months old the first time I met him. I was so excited. Every grandma can tell you how over the moon it is to see your baby's baby.  The holidays will be a time when many babies meet their grandma and grandpa, and aunts and uncles for the first time - and many of them all at once. It can be very overwhelming and tiring time for the baby and mother, and father.

I'm an attachment and birth therapist and I support babies in the womb, newborns, and infants and their mother and father to resolve issues of disconnect.  In time for the holidays, I'd like to share the story of how I met my own grandson and to suggest ways that you might use to meet your grand babies and other children during the holidays or anytime. The newborn baby is communicating in the womb and immediately at birth. Toddlers who say no to kisses and hugs need to be honored and validated. Let me tell you why it going to help you in the long run to honor this.

My grandson happened to be six months old, but if he were six hours old he would need the very same respect from me (and everyone) of his boundaries and protection of his need: Mama. And, I would do it the very same way – except that I, as prenatal and birth psychologist, knowing what I do about the critical time of attachment development for first forty days, I would not expect to hold the newborn, even my grandchild, unless it was needed. A newborn baby will “check out” when in arms of even grandmother if her energy is too much, if she is too needy, and what I share will help you to hold a baby being present with the baby.

I am a craniosacral based therapist and I “work with” babies of any age; and, as a therapist, it is key that I only touch or hold babies who ask or grant me permission. EVEN the newborn baby is capable of responding as I describe here. If you try what I suggest here, with your grandchild, friend's babies, or even offering your baby to be held by other, and if you watch the newborn baby, you will see it: the baby's "no". A newborn baby will communicate clearly with body and facial language to others: “No." "Don't touch me." "Get out of my face” or space.

And, yes, oh yes, there IS a special undeniable connection between grandmothers and grand babies, and grandmothers should engage with their grand babies. It is wired in us and we grandmothers are meant to serve an important role. A critical, vital role. That is why is important to not create disruption for the mama-baby but to build trust. We women just need to learn how to do this honoring of mother-baby-grandmother again. Grandmothers, in relationship with father, and in their absence, were always  - and we still have instinct to be - the protectors and the keepers of the sacred mama-baby bond. In the fifteen year journey of healing the disconnect with my newborn son (he was 25 when I started!) I've learned what he and I needed is what I can give his son and mother. I have chosen to break the cycle of mama-baby disruption.

I would not want to be pregnant and have me as a mother-in-law, I more than half-joked. I suggested, and we agreed, that I would share whatever I wanted with my son and he would pass along what he thought was appropriate.  I was already so aware of the confabulation of emotions and needs of my own (from traumatic birthing of my son) and how it intersected with their rights to their decisions and plans.

When my daughter-in-law and Jackson were in labor 800 miles away there was nothing to but go to bed at midnight. Later I startled awake, sneezing about six times and so loudly that I woke my daughter. I coughed and coughed. I looked at the clock as I was so accustomed to since my other son was deployed. 2:48 am. I knew my son's son was here.At six a.m. my son texted that the baby was born about 2:45 a.m. and everybody was good.I later learned he had been suctioned, a fear of mine since my whole film emerged around my daughter's son rough, unnecessary suctioning. Oh, yeah, we are connected.

Six months later I was finally going to meet my grandson. Whooohoooo!! Everything in me wanted to squeal with delight and grab him ... like Grandmothers often do, because we are madly in love already, and because our babies were grabbed from us.  I was upstairs when my son, his wife and new baby arrived at my daughter’s house. My new grandson met his two aunts, two cousins, age three and 10, and his uncle before I came down.

 I waited a few minutes for them to all settle. I did what I do working with babies, that I've learned is a way of being present with: I managed my own nervous system. (you can see this in the Chapter 10 excerpt in my film - Healing the relationship after traumatic birth), me with working with babies to support the mama-baby attachment.

I came downstairs and into the family room where my son was holding his son. They were about twelve feet away from me.  My son excitedly said, “Jackson!! here’s your Graannny!” I had stopped in the doorway and Jackson turned to me. He had a look of recognition, a little gasp and a smile. Then he did what babies (newborns) will do. He looked at his dad.  Babies seek security with eye contact with their caregiver. I lowered my eyes, looking away so that Jackson could check me out. This is what babies need. Babies are overwhelmed by adult energy and eye contact, and adult's emotional expectations.

Jackson looked back, shyly.  

I said, “Hi, Jackson.” As I looked away. I slowly moved closer looking at him briefly and looking away to allow him to see me.  Babies can not handle too much adult energy and eye contact. (Babies learn early to accommodate adults but that is not right.) At one point about six feet away his comfort level changed. He was no longer excited. His breath changed. He kept his gaze with his dad, and he “hunkered” in against his dad.  This is communication. It is so subtle, yet so obvious when one realizes it.  I stopped and I said, “Oh, I’m too close. I’m sorry.”  I stepped back. Checking in with him first, and then looking away.  This whole thing was only a minute or two in duration.  When Jackson’s body relaxed and he smiled, I moved closer again and he was comfortable with me. When I was a few feet away I did not touch him. I never, ever touch babies without their permission unless to keep the child from harm - even when mothers ask me to. His dad was so excited to introduce his son and mom. 

My son said, “Don’t you wanna hold him?”

And, I said, “Not yet. I want him to let me know when he wants me to, when he is comfortable.”  

My son laughed, “Oh, geez, you are so weird, Mom.” 

"Well, yeah," I laughed. We had determined that years ago. We sort of grew up together.  He was born when I was still 18.

I'm not the eighteen year-old mother he was born to 16 years before, thanks to him.  I am the evolving mom, woman, and grandmother he has helped raise and inspired.  I'm known as the Baby Whisperer, the Baby Keeper, and even Baby Lorax now. I just listen to babies. Honoring my son's son and his mama is part of me healing with my son.

I “moved my attention” from Jackson, telling him that I was doing so - because babies his age are hurt by our attention that just disappears (often when adult has met their own needs). I turned my attention onto my collective family.  That was all Jackson was ready for and I respected his needs.  We had a family brunch and during that time as I engaged with my other two grandsons, and with my family, I would catch Jackson watching me with interest. I would smile at him. Then I would look away and let him watch me, so he was comfortable.  Yes! It is almost like flirting.

After brunch we went to my older grandson’s football game. By then it has been two or 3 hours. 

At some point during the game, I was standing by my son who was holding Jackson, and we were just chatting.  I felt Jackson’s foot and I looked down and then at his face. He showed me a teasing smile. He reached out with his foot and poked at me again.  Touching us is one of the ways that babies let us know that it's ok for us to touch them. It is very often with their foot. Engaging us with eye contact and vocalization is another. A newborn has the capacity to do this - will look at you and even reach to you. A newborn has the ability to say no. A newborn will look away, or checkout and appear to be sleeping. It is instinctual to seek connection with the mother. So, there is no reason for anyone who is not a primary or secondary caregiver to hold a newborn except to support and provide love and comfort. The baby can be admired in the mother's arms, and believe me, the baby is feeling and sensing and hearing your presence, so the most respectful way is to open your heart, honor the mama-baby, and speak softly, introducing yourself.
I smiled at Jackson and with much joy, but softly, said, “Oooooah, are you ready for me to hold you?"  At that moment Jackson literally leaped from his dad’s arms into mine. I almost lost my balance. As I caught him he came in for a big goobery kiss all over my face.  Then he pulled back and we looked at each other.  Gazed into each other eyes. (actual picture of this). My baby's baby. The eyes are the window to the soul.  This was our moment of deep, respectful connecting; and, it was determined by Jackson’s needs and his pacing rather than my need to recapture something missed between his father/my son and me. (
If we have not processed our baby's birth and the disruption of our own attachment that is nearly 100% occurrence in hospital birth, this is part of our emotional need.)

It was my intention, above my excitement as a grandma, to be respectful of his boundaries and needs from our first moment, and to honor his need for his mama.  I held him for awhile ... maybe ten minutes.  I continued to follow his lead and not expect him to respond in a way to make me feel okay, or fulfilled. Adults often need babies to smile or respond to feel fulfilled: "The baby likes me if I can get baby to laugh or make eye contact," and most often the adult overwhelms and intimidates the baby, and can even feel - be - disliked by the baby. I witnessed a older man in restaurant make a huge effort to get my friend's 16 month old son to engage and respond. The boy didn't want to. After three or 4 attempts by the man, I saw this boy give the man a fake response. Immediately, the man turned his attention and left. How rude!  It happens all the time. His mother knew how to support him. That is a key take away here. How to protect your child from anyone and how to repair it when people don't know how to be with a baby.

When an adult does this or says to child, "Gimme me a hug", this is a huge signal that the adult is expecting the child to take care of their emotional need. If they demand it or expect the mother or father to force it, they are very wrong.  When the adult says that, or feels hurt that a child doesn't want to be held or near them, the ADULT needs to STOP-DROP-AND-ROLL ... because they are on big emotional fire.
The adult needs to STOP.  Take a pause and a breath. 

DROP into their own emotional state and own it. Ask, why do I need this child who needs only his or her mother? Settle their own nervous system. Breathe, feel their own emotions and claim them. Decide to do what is needed to heal one's own needs.

And, ROLL. Decide to honor the child. Observe. Follow the child's communication – body cues.

We need to learn to do this because babies DO want to engage with us; however, children are not meant to resolve or take care of adult's needs - to put out their emotional fire and fix what broke them. What we do, so children learn. So children do learn to interact in this boundary violating way. It is "what's wrong with the world" - boundary wounding.  And we must remember that they are learning from their interactions with us.  STOP-DROP-AND-ROLL. It's a quick way to learn to be attuned to the other person, newborn to elder.

Because I intended to be attuned to Jackson and I wanted to support him to feel secure, I felt him become uncomfortable after ten minutes. TEN MINUTES!? In six months!? I am the Grandmother, after all!! SO WHAT!?  I'm the adult. He is the baby.  HE NEEDS his mama. He'd had enough time away from his mama.  Had enough of me. Seriously, folks, when you just have to hold that baby, believe me, it's very unlikely that the baby wants you and you are on emotional fire.  Nature programmed us to want mama. I felt/saw my daughter-in-law's unease too and her wanting him. I felt/saw he wanted to nurse and I said to her, “He is becoming uneasy and wants you. I think he wants to eat.” (what his dad calls breast feeding! and I said it to validate her.) She said she was about to say that he wanted to eat. He actually just needed the breast to reconnect with her. She was so relieved - she didn't want to have to fight her instincts for her child vs her mother-in-law's on-fire emotional needs.

Many people in the generation who are grandparents now were not breastfeed and did not breastfed their children. Women were taught to feed baby every four hours, to let baby cry it out, and that it was better for baby to be in institutionalized care of others so she could focus on financial equality. THIS, my friend, is a source of FIRE for everyone, especially grandmas. 

So many times grandparents feel this "constant breastfeeding" is an “excuse” by their daughter or daughter-in-law to “not let them hold the baby.”  Sometimes it may be, that a mother does not want even her family member to hold the baby. But the truth is that babies need to nurse on demand, frequently. The truth is - eons of doing it and now research confirming it - that mama is "home base" and where babies feel safe. This is especially true in gatherings.  They feel safe because the mother's body - her heart and nervous system - are still assisting baby to self-regulate and to adjust to the world. Breast = safety.

The truth is that babies need their mothers, and nature has provided for her to provide that.  This new (but old) way of caregiving is not thee way most grandparents learned and believe is "normal."

Forty years of science has confirmed what we know: Babies are programmed by nature to attach to a primary caretaker. They are meant to be exclusively in their mother’s arms through the first nine to 12 months of age. This is now known to be the “last trimester” where important brain development around secure attachment needs to happen - for us to be optimal humans. I am sorry that many of you did not get this as a baby nor knew to do it. THAT is on society. 
Babies really do not want or need to be held by anyone but people who will be primary and secondary caregivers. Grandmothers were meant to be secondary caregivers, so the engagement of the grandmother early on, in a way that promotes and secure mama-baby attachment is vital. But she can not be on emotional fire.

If you are meeting a new grandchild, a new niece or nephew, please try the process I shared here to meet your new family member. ANYTIME you are with another person's baby, child or even teen, STOP-DROP-AND-ROLL. Don't project your stuff. Don't violate their boundary.  This is critically important for the newborn and mother relationship; and, your support now will pay off in big ways later if are you in baby's inner circle.  In the long run, if you use the process and you respect the baby's boundaries, if you regulate your own adult emotions, and if you respect the energy of eye contact, then the relationship you foster with your baby family member will be one of great trust of you. When it is time for the child to expand his or her circle, you will be the secure and trusted ring around him or her.  You will be a  safe person in their world.  Nothing could be more important.

Three years after Jackson was born his sister joined us. Elise was also about six months old when we met. Her mama lead the way in introducing us, in part based on the experience with Jackson and in part because she is so awesome. She said, “I know you want to let her come to you.”

Several hours after we met.
We met over the huge ottoman.

Update, 1-9-2014.

I've lived 1000 miles away until a few months ago, since I wrote this in November. I have seen Jackson and Elise on Thanksgiving and Christmas and a couple of times a month.

Last week when Elise knew I was coming, she did a "Graaaannnny is coooomiiinnng" dance. Upon my arrival, she did an adorable dance around the room. Even though my heart may be popping, I still wait until she comes to me. I don't grab her.  Maybe your grandchild or niece comes running to you. Awesome. The point is for you the adult to moderate yourself, in relationship to the child and respond to the child's communication to you.  Child communication is often behavioral, non-verbal. When they do begin to speak we need to honor them.

While I was there last week I sat by Elise as she was watching a video on a Kindle. She was not eating the blueberries in a bowl between us. I asked, "May I have a blueberry?" She looked at me, then the berries, and then eye to eye again. She said firmly, "NO." I smiled and said, "Ok." She went back to her video. Yes, she IS almost two!!  It thrills me to honor her "no" and her boundaries, and "let her" have "the power."

It saddens me that there was a time, with my own children, and I see it all the time, that adults, in this situation, will feel threatened or upset, and then tease making a game of seeing the child's responses of being upset. Laugh at their response to be teased and their no overridden:  "Ooooh, I'm gonna take one!" or with pouty face, "Why can't I have one? Don't you wanna share with me?" "Grandma can't have one of your berries? You are so mean. Grandma is gonna cry," while enjoying seeing the children's painful reactions. You are teaching the child passive-aggressive behavior. It's actually teaching bullying. Or the adult will chastise the child, making child feel guilty, or force the child to share. Or guilt their adult children to make the child comply.

Please, please do not do this. You are on emotional fire when you do. Your own childhood is the fuel source. Stop-Drop-and-Roll. REGULATE YOURSELF, and remember that your goal and purpose as grandmother or friend or stranger is to support, nurture, and protect a young child who is learning from you. Follow the baby or child's cues.  I call this "being present with" and it is a way of being with present with anyone of any age or relationship.

We must, especially as mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, and others, think about how WE wanted and needed to be treated as a baby, toddler, and child or teen. If you can't, then just think about how you want to be treated today. That is what a baby and child wants and needs; not how we were treated.
Click on pic to enlarge
 Recently, a colleague/friend in child abuse/CPS activism posted this blog on her FB with this status:

"My DEAR friend ("The Babykeeper") has such important things to say about meeting the new baby. I have kept this in my heart & mind since she first clued me in. I cannot count the number of times a parent has thrust a baby into my (or others) arms when they clearly weren't ready. This just happened at a park. I asked the baby's permission and waited to receive it - everyone thought I was weird; but when the strangers baby was ready for me, we had the most amazing interaction. I am a HUGE BELIEVER in respecting the baby."

Nicole: Thank you for all you do for our voiceless little beings L Janel! You are changing the world!

L Janel:  With your help! How have you noticed your interactions with child and adults since seeing the sentience of babies and honoring their only need - to be near mama?

Nicole:  I have changed beyond measure because of you! In the past, I'd be the first to scoop that baby (love) right up. Not any more. Having their permission is SOOOO worth the wait. Another day at the park had me feeling so sad and protective. There's a mom (who you have heard me talk about) that takes anyone's baby right out of their arms if they don't know how to say no. She just did it a few days ago, and the little guy clearly didn't want to be with her - his body language was CLEAR! There really wasn't much I could do -- except, get close enough and talk to him, "oh little guy, you want to be with mommy, I hear you. I'm sorry no one is listening to you! I am, and I'm sorry." He always catches my eye and gives me the sweetest little look. He (and several other babies) have the same reactions to me vs the baby-mojo-stealer. She is so clueless AND selfish, I'm hoping she will eventually pick up on the message I'm trying to convey. You know I am outspoken, but sometimes, I know saying something so direct will make things worse so I'm trying to set an example. At least the babies feel my respect for them; I hope it's enough to help.

L Janel: It's ok to speak on behalf of the baby -- and talk to her about it. When we realize it is for the baby and the mother would want to know ....  And you nailed it .. right on about how to talk to baby.

Nicole:  Janel, here is an interesting part of one of the baby interactions I wanted to share: we were at a park in Santa Cruz and I was sitting next to and having a lovely chat with the baby girl's mom (as our boys played). The mom did offer to let me hold the baby, and I asked the baby if I could hold her and her body language was clear, "NO!" I didn't push it, and i did not take it personally. I am a stranger, she wanted to stay comfy in mommy's arms. She was only 4 months old. About 30 minutes of sitting and chatting and also acknowledging baby calmly, her mom tried putting her in my arms and I said, "i don't think she wants to, it's ok, let's respect her wishes". Her big brother, Cole's age (5) came over, and took the baby into HIS arms and we both spoke lovingly to her. Her entire demeanor changed, and her "big" brother looked at me and said, "she's ready now, do you want to hold her now?" It was amazingly intuitive of this little boy. I was so impressed with him. He handed me the little baby girl, and she relaxed immediately in my arms. It was a beautiful moment for all. Ok, i will admit, when they handed me the baby bottle to feed her i had an incredible urge to want to nurse her LMAO!!! I haven't fed a bottle to a baby in i-don't-know-when and it was strange. But we figured it out. She cuddled and snuggled more and more INTO me and fell asleep. YOU would have been proud.

Janel: I am so  proud ... you know it ... oh my gosh.. you are so amazing. Such an amazing story all around with big brother. My heart is so full ..

And once you start seeing this a whole new world opens up and you see that these souls are so there.

Buy It!

Part One: The Other Side of the Glass: a Birth Film for and About Men officially released in digital download format on June 2, 2013. Go to to purchase a digital download.

Men have been marginalized in birth for a long time. The old joke is that a man was sent off to boil water to keep him busy. I believe they were making the environment safe. Birth moved to hospitals and for forty years women were separated from their partners who was left to wait in smoke filled waiting room. Finally, he would see his baby from "the other side of the glass." Now a man can go in the birthing room and even get to hold his partner's hand during surgery. But they are still marginalized and powerless, according to the fathers I interviewed around the country.

Historically, birth has been defined by the medical establishment. The midwifery and natural birth movement now advocate for need "to educate and prepare men to protect their wife and baby" in medical environment. Seems logical ... if we process with the same illogic that got us here.

Through the voices of men - and doctors and midwives - men share heart-touching stories about how this is not workin' out. A man is also very likely to be disempowered and prevented from connecting with their newborn baby in the first minutes of life.

Now is the time for men to take back birth.

The film is about restoring our families, society, and world through birthing wanted, loved, protected, and nurtured males (and females, of course). It's about empowering males to support the females to birth humanity safely, lovingly, and consciously.

Donors, check your emails or email me at for info to download. Release on DVD is not planned at this date.

FREE online! watch Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 10 at

"Doctor's Voices" - Stuart Fischbein, MD - Part 1

Doctor's Voices - Michael Odent, MD

Human Rights Violations

Resources - Healing Birth Trauma

"The Other Side of the Glass" has the potential to open up feelings that have been denied and ignored for a very long time. How to heal the trauma of birth at any age will be addressed in the film. Meanwhile, these are pioneers in the field.

Raymond Castellino and Mary Jackson -

David Chamberlain, Ph.D. -

Judith Cohen -

Myrna Martin -

Karen Melton -

Wendy McCord, Ph.D. -

Wendy McCarty, Ph.D. -

And, many, many more all over the world at
In both relationships and life trust begets trust.
Generosity begets generosity.
Love begets love.
Be the spark, especially when it's dark.

--Note from the Universe,

"Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so children have very little time with their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world." - Mother Theresa