“When Lily was born we noticed her head was only moving to the right. She also was unable to latch during breastfeeding. We brought her into Dr. Chris to restore neck range of motion & from that she is now able to breastfeed.” -Dr. Lauren

Breast feeding has so many benefits to not only babies, but also to mothers, that everything should be done to support new mothers in their endeavor to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is natural and the perfect food for a developing baby, but unfortunately, breastfeeding doesn’t always happen naturally! Thankfully the tides have turned since the 60’s and lactation consultants and La Leche League are on hand to help smooth the way for breastfeeding success.

Another avenue to consider for success with breastfeeding is craniosacral therapy (CST) and chiropractic. Proper positioning is needed for proper latching on and feeding, but if there are restrictions in your newborn’s cranial bones or vertebrae of their spine, they may not be able to get into position to nurse comfortably.

Try this: sitting in a comfortable position, swallow repeatedly. No problem, I hope! Now tilt your head back and try to swallow – it’s hard to do, right? Now twist your head –even harder to do. The point I am trying to make is that if your baby’s neck and/or head are not in an optimum position then it may physically be uncomfortable for them to nurse.

Possibly you are thinking, “How does my baby’s head and neck get out of alignment?” Birth is really the first traumatic event we all endure! During labor, your baby’s head repeatedly pushes against your perineum, with his or her neck and head acting like a battering ram! If everything is lined up perfectly, then the neck and head are designed to withstand this pressure. But if your baby’s head was tilted up, down or sideways, then the stress would be magnified and possibly cause a vertebra or more to become “subluxated”, or misplaced.

Modern day obstetrical practices also include the doctor pushing and pulling down of your baby’s head in order to quickly birth the shoulders. This “hands on approach” may cause tractioning of the spine with an incredible amount of force, which may also cause subluxation, or even nerve damage, to occur. When there are spinal misalignments you might notice that your baby prefers to hold their head to one side or they nurse on one breast better than the other.

During labor, as your baby descends in the birth canal, the cranial bones in their head slide over and under each other to facilitate birth. If there are uneven forces due to altered positions, then the bones in the skull may become “stuck” and restrict movement of the dura, which is the lining that covers the brain and the spinal cord. Your baby may arch when you try to nurse (or change their diaper) and you may notice ridges along their skull or areas of flattening.

Many people think that because babies born by cesarean section are “cut” out that they don’t have as much stress to their spines and cranium. They are mistaken! Although vaginal births are traumatic, any interventions to a vaginal birth potentially cause more stress to your baby’s nervous system. A cesarean section is major abdominal surgery with the associated risks; with a vaginal birth there are benefits to the pressure applied to your baby’s head and body as they are born which do not occur with C-section.

“La Leche League identifies chiropractic as an effective modality for babies damaged by vacuum or forceps, whose muscles and bones are not working well together so that the baby is in pain, or is a poor feeder. As a poorly feeding baby does not drain the breast sufficiently, the dyad suffers the secondary impact of reduced milk production.”1

Gentle chiropractic care helps to restore normal motion of the spine so that your baby can get into the proper position for nursing. Interference is removed from the nervous system, which controls all the functions of the body, including sucking and swallowing. Adjustments are modified for newborns and infants so that there is a slight fingertip pressure used with the same force you would check the ripeness of a tomato.

Craniosacral Therapy releases any restrictions in the craniosacral rhythm, allowing proper motion of your baby’s dura and facilitating the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which bathes the brain, spine, and nerves. Babies who have restrictions in their cranial bones often need to be rocked continuously to keep the CSF circulating! Craniosacral therapy can also help if your baby seems to be clamping down on your nipple instead of bringing the nipple deep into their mouth – this can be due to an issue with their jaw. Craniosacral Therapy is a non force, energetic technique which is extremely gentle. As the dura “unwinds” your baby may twist and turn and often babies get into the position they were in when the trauma occurred.

Being proactive can help you and your baby have success with breastfeeding! Instead of waiting for there to be a problem with nursing, it is advisable that you bring your newborn baby in for a spinal and cranial check up as possible after they are born. A pediatric chiropractor and craniosacral therapist can check your newborn’s spine and head and detect subluxations and restrictions, even without any symptoms or problems.

Dr. Christine Anderson, DC has had an additional 3 years training in pediatrics and became Board Certified in Chiropractic Pediatrics and Pregnancy (DICCP) in order to become highly proficient in diagnosing and treating problems with breastfeeding and other issues with newborns, infants and children. Dr. Anderson learned how to do craniosacral therapy CST during her pediatric training, but she continued her CST training through the Upledger Institute in order to advance her skills. “Dr. Chris” has over 23 years of practical experience in clinical practice. Personally, she is the mother of 3 children, all of which she breastfed for 3 years (each!)

References & Links

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