Most of us are aware of the many benefits of breastfeeding and while some mothers and their babies take to breastfeeding instantly, others can find it a challenge. What you might not know is that Chiropractic care has been reported to help with many breastfeeding issues.
Breastfeeding difficulty can often be traced back to undetected biomechanical injuries (subluxations) to the spine and cranium at birth. Babies can be in restricted positions inside the uterus for up to 10 months which can contribute to feeding difficulties. Whether baby is born via C-Section or Normal Vaginal Delivery (NVD), whether the delivery is uncomplicated or assistance is needed (forceps, vacuum extraction) this can cause significant stress to the cranium, spine and nervous system of a new-born.
During an NVD the cranium goes through what is known as the moulding process, this is important for two main reasons: it impacts the neurological and mechanical aspects of the baby’s development including the sucking reflex.
The upper neck region houses the brainstem and the cranial nerves that control the muscles of the face, neck and jaw. The bones of the spine, cranium and TMJ are all needed along with the brainstem and cranial nerves in the process of latching and sucking. Misalignment of those structures caused by the birth process can impact feeding. Chiropractors call these misalignments subluxations.
An infant who is having difficulties nursing may have a subluxation in one or more of these areas. For example, if the upper neck joints are misaligned this could affect range of motion of the neck, which can prevent baby from turning his or her head from side to side. This could prevent them from feeding effectively from both sides.
One study of 1000 new-borns being treated for difficulty with breastfeeding found that the most common cause was dysfunction of the jaw. In 99% of those cases, Chiropractic adjustments resulted in excellent outcomes.
Most of the care providers that you would turn to for help with breastfeeding problems are unaware of these biomechanical disorders. This can lead to incorrect conclusions and therefore inadequate recommendations and care plans are made. This results in mothers becoming disheartened, successful breastfeeding is not achieved and mothers stop trying out of frustration.
It has been found that when an infant gets adjusted, the obstacles that were standing in the way may be corrected and normal function can return. Some Chiropractors, including ours, have had additional training in specific paediatric cranial adjusting which infants benefit from hugely.
Chiropractic care is a conservative approach which appeals to many parents. It is safe, gentle and effective. Adjustments can be so gentle that some babies will even sleep through them! Light fingertip pressure is all that is applied and only baby’s own body weight is used if needed. The goal of the adjustment is to correct what the body cannot self-correct.
It’s not just the baby who can benefit from Chiropractic care for a successful breastfeeding journey.
When a baby is born the needs of the mother are often neglected even though she is going through so much change and healing for months after birth. Most nursing mothers experience postural changes that come with heavier breasts, holding baby and the contorted positions that they often get themselves into to breastfeed. Not to mention that the mother’s body structure is still trying to recover from carrying and birthing a baby! This can often lead to aches and pains as she adapts to the demands of being a mother. Getting adjusted helps a mother’s body to adapt to these new stressors, recover faster and protects her against the regular everyday stress that we put on our bodies.
Although breastfeeding can be challenging at times, it should not be painful or uncomfortable for you or your baby.
We would encourage all parents to consider including a vitalistic Chiropractor to your care team as a necessary part of mother and baby’s health checks. As well as the many benefits of Chiropractic care for infants, the ability to successfully breastfeed has lifelong consequences for your child’s health potential.
Some of the most common indicators of difficulty with breastfeeding are:
- Babies who cannot latch firmly
- Babies who can latch and not sustain sucking
- Babies who are unable to smoothly coordinate suckling, swallowing, and breathing
- Babies who can feed in only one position
- Babies who seem dissatisfied when nursing or who remain fussy and distressed throughout the day (often referred to as colic)
- Babies who chew and damage the mother’s nipples
- Babies who may not feed any better from other devices
- Babies who have the need to suck 24/7
We are aware that breastfeeding is not an option for all mothers and while this article’s focus is on breastfeeding, some of the issues discussed can also be seen in infants who are fed by other means.
Arcadi, VC, Sherman Oaks, CA, Proceedings of the National Conference on Chiropractic and Pediatrics. Oct, 1993 Palm Springs, CA. Pub. International Chiropractors Assoc., Arlington, VA.