One of the most common reasons why our paediatric chiropractors see infants is due to complaints of difficulties with breastfeeding. Although the birth process is a natural process, it is still a stressful process. The compression and pulling of the birth process can easily cause joint irritation to the child’s upper neck. In fact, research has shown that this is not a rare occurrence. A large study showed that it occurred in the majority of the babies that participated. The only problem is that they can’t tell us!
If that neck irritation is significant, it can contribute to difficulties with breastfeeding due to the resulting discomfort of the surrounding muscles and joints. It is also important to note that the nerves that exit the spinal cord from the upper neck supply and control the muscles of the jaw and mouth. When those nerves are irritated, it is more difficult for a baby to coordinate mouth and jaw function for effective breastfeeding.
When our paediatric chiropractors address these joint restrictions in a baby’s neck the technique is extremely gentle. In fact, babies often continue to sleep through the whole adjustment! For infants, the adjustment is done with a light and gentle sustained hold of the fingertip at the joint. There is no twisting, pulling, dropping, or popping involved… in case you were wondering!
There are several clues that we watch for in babies that may suggest spinal joint restrictions are present. Here are some of the main clues to watch for:
- Very fast or very long birth
- Difficult birth (stuck, twisted, cord around neck, etc.)
- Baby positioning such as breech, transverse, or “sunny-side up”
- Birth interventions such as induction, forceps, vacuum, or c-section
- Head often tilted or rotated in one direction
- Feeds easier on one breast than the other
- Asymmetry of the eyes, jaw, ears, skull
- Very fussy or very sleepy
- Repeated backward arching of the neck and back
If you know a baby that is experiencing difficulty with breastfeeding, a chiropractic assessment by one of our paediatric chiropractors will reveal whether spinal joint restrictions in the neck may be contributing to the problem. Please share this information with others. Many parents are very stressed about these difficulties with breastfeeding and they often do not realize that chiropractic care may be able to help. The sooner these issues get addressed the better; and there is no minimum age! We often see babies soon after birth as this is the crucial period when breastfeeding gets established.
It is always an honour to adjust a newborn. We love helping babies get off to a good start!
By: Dr. Janice Oldham, CACCP – Paediatric Chiropractor