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Breastfeeding and Chiropractic

Newborn chiropractic assessment

Breastfeeding can be one of the greatest sources of pride for a new mother. It can also be one of the greatest sources of stress. Why does it come so easy with some babies and yet can be so challenging with others? Breastfeeding is amazing in so many ways. Your body creates food that is absolutely perfect for your baby. Research shows that there is no replacement for its health benefits. Most women (70%) breastfeed their child at birth, but only half of them are still breastfeeding or nursing at 6 months of age. Lack of proper resources and support causes this healthy breastfeeding relationship to often fall short. Many of these babies have difficulties that respond very well to lactation counseling and specific chiropractic care. Let’s talk about what can be done to help!

Indicators of difficulty with breastfeeding:

- Weak or improper latch
– Latch that keeps falling off
– Babies who are only able to successfully nurse in one position
– Chewing or damaging the nipples
– Excessive pain for mother
– Babies who aren’t able to express enough milk/slow weight gain
– Milk dribbling from side of baby’s mouth
– Clicking noises during sucking

Things pediatric chiropractors can check to help with nursing:

1. Can your baby turn his or her head to nurse?

In order to successfully breastfeed on both sides, your baby needs to be able to turn its head with no restriction or discomfort. The birth process was just as hard on the baby as it was for you! The pulling, turning, stretching, and twisting out of a small opening creates stress in the delicate bones of your babies’ neck. Research has shown this to be the case in over 95% of babies immediately after birth. The stress in their neck will make it difficult to properly turn to a comfortable position to successfully nurse. Chiropractors that are specially trained to work with kids and infants can work to correct this stress with very gentle adjustments.

2. Is their palate and jaw aligned properly?

The roof of your babies’ mouth is supposed to be smooth and curved just enough to create a proper seal. If the bones that make up the roof of their mouth are not aligned properly, it can create a loss of suction and subsequent frustration from you and the baby.
The jaw is also another important joint that needs to be working properly for healthy nursing. It moves in little rocking motions when nursing and can be difficult to tell if it isn’t working properly.
Chiropractors that are specially trained to help with cranial and latch issues will be able to identify and resolve these issues.

3. Do they have a rooting and sucking reflex?

The sucking and rooting reflex are supposed to be present at birth. These are normal reflexes that are part of why a baby can instinctively nurse.
Rooting reflex: Any time something touches your baby’s cheek, your baby should naturally move their head to that side and start looking for something to latch on to. You can test this by gently stroking the cheek towards the mouth and seeing if they turn and try to latch on both sides. If this reflex is absent, it can often be retrained. In our office, we stimulate the reflex by brushing the cheek several times per day. Over time this will help to “wake up” the reflex and help it respond the way it is supposed to.
Sucking reflex: This reflex is triggered when something, like a nipple or pacifier, enters your baby’s mouth. It is why they will naturally suck on anything for the first few months, your nose, their fingers, their foot, etc. If this isn’t working the way it should it can cause your baby to lose suction shortly after the initial latch. An easy way to check for this is to brush a pacifier along their bottom lip until they start to pull it in and suck on it. If it isn’t working, we stimulate it the same way as we test for it several times per day.

4. Do they have a tongue or lip tie?

A tongue tie is an abnormally short or tight band of tissue that anchors the bottom of their tongue (called the lingual frenulum). A lip tie is similar, when the frenulum on the upper lip is abnormally tight. These ties can make it very difficult for a baby to correctly nurse, swallow, suck, and breathe. Later in life they can also cause other issues like speech delays or impediments, headaches, behavioral problems, teeth crowding, and more. Our lactation counselors are trained to evaluate these problems in your baby. If there is a problem, we strongly recommend a consultation with Dr. Brielle Renz with All Smiles Dental. She is the only provider in our area that uses a water laser that allows for faster healing and precision accuracy.
After a revision, it is very important to be evaluated by a specially trained pediatric chiropractor. They can make sure the function of the surrounding nerves, joints, and cranial bones are working the way they are supposed to for maximum healing and benefit.

At Maximized Chiropractic in Bismarck, ND, we are a specially trained team of pediatric chiropractors, nurses, lactation counselors, and doulas. We are happy to help you achieve your breastfeeding goals!