Considering Chiropractic Care For Infants

    Chiropractic treatment has been receiving more attention in the pediatric arena in the last 20 years.  Some research has been completed and more is underway that demonstrates its effectiveness with a variety if pediatric illnesses.  Unfortunately, little research has been done in the area of breastfeeding problems and chiropractic therapy.  In the absence of research, there are numerous anecdotal cases where use of chiropractic techniques have been effective in adding infants with breastfeeding problems.
    Many parents do not consider chiropractic treatment for their children because they don't have a good understanding of it.  Some may believe that it's only meant for adults with bad backs.  Others may be concerned that the manipulation used for adults are the same as those which would be used on a baby.  There are, however, many conditions in infants which can be effectively treated by chiropractic techniques.
    Following are some common indications when a baby suffering with a physical problem may be helped by a chiropractor:
    If the child shows abnormal cranial moulding after birth.  (Specifically if there is a dent or uneven bulging in the skull or a sutural line that is prominent.)  This may affect the ability of the cranial bones to move properly and may alter the sucking response or make the child uncomfortable in certain positions.
    If there was birth trauma such as forceps, vacuum extraction or damage to the head, neck, arms or any other part of the body.
    A long labor since it may increase pressure on he neck or skull of the child causing stress on the nerves that affect sucking, swallowing or the ability of the baby to comfortably hold its head in certain positions.
    A baby with colic may not nurse well because of gas caused by poor digestion.  Poor digestion may result from irritation to the vagus nerve in the neck or the sympathetic nerves in the thoracic spine caused either by labor and delivery or simply due to the position of the baby during pregnancy.
    A breech birth causes some of the dame structural stress as when a person falls and may cause discomfort to the baby when held in certain positions.
    A baby who cries when you turn its head or raise an arm.
    A baby with Erbs Palsy or Duchenne Palsy.  These usually indicate trauma to the brachial plexus and/or to the cervical spine.  These are conditions that are readily apparent to the pediatrician. 
    Poor sucking may be caused by a weakness of the tongue muscle or by not being able to form the arch of the hard palate.  The movement of he hard palate depends on the smooth movement of all the cranial bones.
    Infants have a posture that originated in utero and it is important to keep in mind that anything that happens to them during the vulnerable pre- and post-partum period is amplified and will have a potentially stronger effect on their systems than on an adult's.  The gentle and subtle manipulations used during pediatric chiropractic may restore the infant to a more normal and comfortable body posture which will result in more effective breastfeeding.
    Generally, an infant should show improvement in sucking within 4-6 chiropractic treatments.  If significant improvement is not seen during this period, other avenues of medical assistance should be sought.

Klougart N et al.  Infantile colic treated by chiropractors: a prospective study of 316 cases. Journal of Manipulative Physiologic Therapy  12(4): 281-88. 1989

(Editor's note:  Breastfeeding specialist report seeing an increase in the number of healthy, full-term babies with sucking problems.  Many explanations for this phenomenon have been presented and the following information provided by Warren Bruhl, D.C. a chiropractor from Glencoe Il who specializes in pediatric chiropractic offers another perspective on this issue.  Chiropractic treatments for colic have been used successfully in Denmark for years where 20-4- percent of babies receive treatments [Klougart 1989] and may hold the answer for some breastfeeding problems as well.)

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