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A Mother’s CFT Journey for Her Newborn Daughter

This is the story of my most challenging newborn. Our goal in our Facebook group is to keep the work real by not cherry-picking the low-hanging fruit. I am so grateful for Krystil in sharing the ups and downs of the Gillespie Approach. This journey surely tested the family’s resolve; I am blessed that she trusted the process.

Picture just having a very tight newborn with a huge traumatic onion and all of the hardships to get to Philly from NYC and LAX with your baby—alone. She showed incredible patience and persistence in seeing her baby through to completion. A super mother went to the max to have a happy baby.
Dr. Barry Gillespie

By Krystil McDowall

How I Became Acquainted With the Gillespie Approach

I’m a mom who knows how important CFT is for babies to have optimal health. I initially found Dr. Gillespie and the wonderful life-changing practice of CFT. When my son was born in 2015, he had torticollis, which was diagnosed at birth. A few months after looking into therapy within the medical model, I was frustrated and sought answers elsewhere. That’s when I learned of CFT. It worked well for my son and the treatment and science made so much sense to me. So when we got pregnant with our second baby, I knew I would head to Dr. Gillespie for CFT as soon as I could after the birth.

My Second Pregnancy

My pregnancy with our second baby was uneventful. I had an office job for most of it and kept up my regular gym routine. I eat fairly healthy and continued to do so throughout my pregnancy. My birth was also quite smooth and uncomplicated. I had an unmedicated home birth with my midwife, and our daughter was in a normal position when she came into the world. I’d had a lot of CFT myself, mostly releasing strain in my back, neck and shoulders. There was little strain in my pelvic region. In other words, my body was in better shape for my second pregnancy due to all my CFT after the birth of our first baby.

CFT With Our Newborn Daughter

While I assumed our second child would have some fascial strain at birth given that 90% of babies have some, I was totally unprepared for our CFT journey. In total, our daughter ended up having about 32 hours of CFT with Dr. Gillespie. I should add that our daughter wasn’t diagnosed with any disease, disorder, condition, or abnormality at birth or in any subsequent pediatric visits. But she was incredibly tight.

I called Dr. Gillespie shortly after she was born, and we made our first appointment to see him when she was six-days-old. Three days after she was born, I noticed she was lightly wheezing and also hiccupping three to four times a day. To me, this just confirmed some strain, and I was confident these issues would be addressed with CFT. I was happy we had already booked an appointment with Dr. Gillespie.

In our first visit to Dr. Gillespie, he found some pelvic strain that pulled into my daughter’s back and diaphragm and some shoulder strain that pulled into her left eye. We then visited Dr. Gillespie two to three times a week over the next five weeks. We didn’t really start to see any meaningful improvement in my daughter’s breathing until after about nine to 10 hours of treatment.

Audrey at 4 months old - Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy

The journey was hard, both emotionally and physically. While I have had easy and quick recoveries from both of my births, I was nonetheless still recovering from birth. Each visit we had to rent a car and drive four hours round trip, as we lived in NYC at the time. I know the value of CFT, but when you don’t see any progress towards addressing the issues that are of concern, it’s hard to keep making that trip for more therapy.

I also feel like my daughter’s symptoms actually got worse before they got better. We went through a period of a week or so where it seemed as though she was starting to choke a little on my breastmilk—almost like she didn’t have enough room in her throat to swallow it. So I had a brief period where I had to feed her sitting up. She also couldn’t sleep on her back comfortably. Breathing was difficult and she kept waking herself up so I laid her tummy-to-tummy on my chest, which is generally a much easier position for babies with breathing issues.

After about 10 hours of CFT, I started to see improvement in her breathing, but by this time, I was totally worn out. Why was it taking so long? And how much longer did we have to go? Dr. Gillespie told me that he’d never really worked with a newborn longer than 10 hours. Here we were at 10 hours and we only just starting to get to the strain that was causing her breathing issue. I was devastated and defeated with it all. I started crying at one of the appointments because I was just sick of seeing my newborn daughter cry. It hurt seeing her releasing the strain and it felt like any progress being made was minimal and limited.

In the early weeks of our daughter’s life, my husband was offered a job in California; we jumped at for the opportunity to be with our kids in a more outdoor environment. We had about a month until we moved and I just assumed if we were persistent, we would finish CFT before we moved. I mean, she was a newborn with no diagnosed issues, so this seemed very possible. By the time we moved, our daughter had 15 hours of CFT. There wasn’t much strain left in her throat during our last appointment pre-move, so I assumed we were done.

Issues After 15 Hours of CFT

Not long after we moved to California, my daughter became fussy during feedings. She’d stop feeding part way through for no apparent reason and just cry her eyes out. She became difficult to put down – she always wanted to be held and it was exhausting. Over the next weeks, she became increasingly displeased in her own skin and with the world around her. At this point, my faith in CFT plummeted. I did not have a happy baby.

I turned to a number of other people for answers: I went to a breastfeeding cafe and the consultant said my daughter was likely crying at feedings because I had a slow flow and she was impatient. I went to a pediatrician who didn’t ask me much about the feeding, but just made a throw away comment that my daughter probably had reflux and I could give her Zantac. I subsequently hired a lactation consultant, and she quickly labelled my daughter’s fussiness as reflux and recommended Zantac. I also saw an “expert” myofascial release specialist, who did little to address any of her issues.

I knew little about reflux, but it never quite felt like the right diagnosis because although my daughter was fussy with little spit up. I was at my wit’s end and found the whole process maddening. Nothing anyone said ever felt quite right. But given two people had diagnosed her as having reflux, I got back in touch with Dr. Gillespie as I recall reading a number of his website stories where otherwise strain-free babies subsequently developed reflux. So I bought a plane ticket from LAX to Philly as soon as I could.

Audrey McDowall - Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy testimonial
A happy baby, Audrey McDowall celebrates her first birthday in April 2019.

First Interstate Visit to Philly

Over the course of my visit to Philly, my daughter underwent a further 10 hours of CFT (on top of the already 15 hours she’d had as a newborn). During the first day, Dr. Gillespie found quite a bit of strain in her psoas muscles. At the end of the first day of treatment I mentioned to Dr. Gillespie that I found it surprising there wasn’t more strain in my daughter’s mid-region given she was diagnosed with reflux.

The next two days Dr. Gillespie continued to work on her neck and throat areas. The core of her strain was in her neck and throat – what we ended up finding was significant strain pulling from the back of her neck into her lower jaw and larynx. If left untreated, I believe this would have been diagnosed as lower jaw retrusion at some point down the road. There was also still a lot of shoulder strain pulling into her left eye.

Although the last thing I ever wanted to do was board a plane to Philly, the series of appointments just confirmed to me that my daughter’s issues and continued fussiness weren’t in my head – she had substantial strain left in her little body. After this round of treatment, I returned to California and I noticed my baby girl was more at peace with herself and the world—we could put her down for longer stretches of time. She was happier. But it quickly became apparent that there was little improvement in her feeding. She would still pull off during a feed in tears: it was simply too hard for her. All this indicated to me was that more strain needed to be released.

Second Interstate Visit to Philly

A fortnight later, I boarded another plane to see Dr. Gillespie and prayed that we would get out whatever remaining strain in my sweet little girl.

This time we did about seven hours of CFT. At this point, the only strain left was in her neck and jaw. The main strains were in the back of her neck pulling into her lower jaw and in her shoulder pulling into her jaw. Again, this just confirmed that the feeding issues and fussiness I was seeing wasn’t in my head—there was still a lot of strain to be released. Thankfully, by the final day of this visit Dr. Gillespie couldn’t find much strain—we were finally done!

It was after this visit that my daughter began to nurse like a normal baby. It didn’t happen instantly. I think all the times she tried to feed but it was too hard really affected her. But over the course of a week or so, we had a normal feeding routine.

Lessons Learned from my CFT Journey

No matter how quickly you want your CFT journey to go, it has to run its own course. You can’t hurry it up. Dr. Gillespie is probably the most efficient CFT practitioner around but even he couldn’t magically release all the strain our daughter had, as much as I wish he could have. My newborn baby had about 32 hours of treatment and there wasn’t anyway to speed up that process.

I learned from my daughter’s journey that CFT comes to an end when your practitioner can’t find any strain left. All of my family members (me, my husband, my son, and daughter) have seen Dr. Gillespie, and each time we have gone until he cannot find any more strain. Expecting the journey to finish on some sort of timetable will only lead to frustration and disappointment.

The journey for me was very difficult, and I lost my faith in CFT at a couple of different points. While I assumed our daughter would have some fascial strain in her body when she was born, I just assumed we would be able to address whatever it was relatively quickly given I knew about CFT and was willing to go get treatment so soon after birth. But this was not how my journey went.

At a couple of different points, I remember resenting CFT. But when I analyzed my own thoughts, it wasn’t CFT that I resented; it was the fact that I had a baby that needed so much treatment. I just imagine how much worse she would have been if we didn’t have access to this wonderful treatment. I imagine our lives would look very different right now, and not in a good way.

To all of you wonderful people practicing this very important work, I salute you. The world needs this work so much and I am grateful from the bottom of my heart that this work is in the world today.

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Dr. Barry Gillespie

Dr. Barry Gillespie founded Gillespie Approach–Craniosacral Fascial Therapy, which provides patients with a freely moving brain, spinal cord and fascial web, all critical to optimal health. Dr. Barry Gillespie also created the Baby Brain Score and discovered effective therapeutic techniques for newborns and infants. Read more about Dr. Barry Gillespie.

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