You probably know to find a pediatrician or family practice doctor for your new baby. You might also seek out help from a lactation consultant when you have a new baby and are struggling with breastfeeding. That might be all you do, though.
You might not know that there are other health care practitioners that work with babies and can also be really helpful with specific problems. A chiropractor usually sees people at any age or stage of life, and for any number of reasons. When you think of chiropractic care, you might picture a spine and people with back problems. While that is also true, some of the things that chiropractic care can be useful for might be surprising. I recently interviewed a local Austin, TX, area chiropractor specializing in pregnancy, postpartum, and new babies!
Laine Morales of Pure Light Chiropractic provides chiropractic care for all, but mostly sees women during pregnancy, and babies and families post-birth. As a child, Laine had chronic ear infections that were so severe that she had multiple surgeries to insert ear tubes and even artificial eardrums. After years of pain and medical care, she finally saw a chiropractor, and that is what finally put an end to the chronic infections. After that, Laine knew she wanted to be a chiropractor, and she knew she wanted to help children be healthy and stay healthy. Laine is a chiropractor, a massage therapist, a Reiki practitioner, and a mom. After having her first child and experiencing some of the difficulties of pregnancy, birth, and being newly postpartum, she decided to specialize in that area of care.
I was very interested to learn about how chiropractic care can benefit breastfeeding. Not all babies have trouble breastfeeding. Very often, a new parent might just need a little support to figure out how to get started breastfeeding, but then they get it figured out quickly with the help of their baby. When things get trickier, lactation consultants would be the first line of support for breastfeeding. Fortunately, most people can get this kind of support in the hospital or in a birth center immediately following birth.
But then we go home, and we might find that things get more difficult or complicated. That might just be because the milk supply naturally changes after a few days, or you might need some time to get into a new routine. Sometimes babies go through super hungry phases or super sleepy phases, and it will pass. Seeing a lactation consultant in the outpatient setting is a great thing to try first. Most people have insurance benefits to cover this care!
When to see a chiropractor
Very often, if you’re having trouble with breastfeeding, a lactation consultant can help you figure out what is going on. They may offer some suggestions for positioning or ways to help your baby get a better latch. Sometimes things get better, but you still might notice some difficulties. Other times, a lactation consultant might spot a problem that needs a different kind of support. Chiropractic care might be something to try if there are certain barriers to breastfeeding and a lactation consultant might direct you to some resources for this. If you haven’t been referred to a chiropractor, but you suspect that something is not quite right, here are some things to look for.
- Your baby is very hard to soothe.
- Your baby gets very frustrated at the breast. They might reject it sometimes, or just seem to never be satisfied.
- Your baby shows a very strong preference for one breast over the other.
- Your baby has a lot of trouble or fussiness during tummy time.
- You notice that your baby has trouble turning their head.
- You have nipple pain that is not going away.
Sometimes these issues can indicate a problem that can be solved with chiropractic care.
What kinds of things might affect breastfeeding?
Sometimes there are problems with the nervous system. Babies are born with a pretty immature nervous system. They can’t even make their arms and legs do what they want! Some of their reflexes are ready when they’re born, but occasionally there could be problems.
A chiropractor might work on the nerves at the back of the neck and jaw that affect a baby’s ability to suck. They will make sure your baby has full range of motion in the head and neck as well. Sometimes babies get stuck in one asymmetrical position in the womb and are born with tight muscles on one side of their neck or the other. They will need some help to soften and lengthen those muscles and strengthen the muscles on the other side to compensate. This might mean some gentle head turning and stretching.
A chiropractor might also look for any mechanical problems in the baby’s mouth. If a baby has a tongue-tie or lip-tie, that might also interfere with breastfeeding.
Do babies like it?
Chiropractic treatment for babies is very gentle. Treatments usually take about 10-15 minutes, and involve very light touch and gentle movement. Laine describes the techniques used for newborns as no more force than you would use to test a tomato for ripeness. At the first visit, the chiropractor will want to know what is going on and will likely ask you a lot of questions. They will examine your baby and make some assessments.
Once they have a good understanding of what the issue might be, they can start treating the problem and recommend a care plan. With most things affecting breastfeeding, they’ll want to get in the treatments as quickly as possible so your baby can eat better right away! You might take your baby for treatments twice a week for two to four weeks to complete the treatment plan, but you might notice improvements almost immediately depending on the issue. After a few quick treatments, you might notice a lot of improvement.
Is chiropractic care expensive?
There are insurance plans that cover chiropractic care so it’s always a great idea to check your benefits. If you have to pay out of pocket, it might be more reasonable than you think. Since this kind of care usually requires more than one visit to complete the treatment, they will usually offer package prices. For example, Laine offers a package that is $100 for the initial assessment and first treatment, then follow-up treatments are around $45 per visit after that. That is very reasonable when you consider the value of the care. It can save you a lot of time and energy and even money if the treatments make it possible to continue breastfeeding without pain or need for supplementation or extra care.