By Dr. Alyssa Shepherd DC
Chiropractic Care For Babies: Why They’re A Winning Recipe For a Healthy Start In Life
Babies: Cute, adorable, squishy, magical creatures of wonder and bliss, starting out on the epic adventure that will be their life here on earth.
Chiropractic: Gentle, effective, health-optimizing, non-invasive, drug-free, holistic, safe.
Combine the two and you have a winning recipe for a healthy start – and what better gift for your baby than optimized health from the get-go? However many people remain in the dark about the numerous benefits of chiropractic care for babies, so let’s delve in and start turning on the light of knowledge! J
Postural stresses in utero
Ask any pregnant woman and she will tell you that the end of pregnancy is hard – as a result of being relatively cramped near the end of pregnancy, babies can end up in postures that may stress muscles and joints – even before they go through the process of birth. Luckily, babies are resilient, and with manual care such as chiropractic, these stresses can be rectified.
Birth is hard. It’s a physical effort for both baby and for mom. Studies have shown that 80-90% of babies end up with subluxations of the upper cervical spine (aka the upper neck) and/or cranial bones. Why? Well because baby is being propelled forward through a narrow birth canal by strong uterine contractions, whilst baby’s head angle and position changes to allow safe passage. Despite being natural and necessary, this can place quite a bit of strain on baby’s neck. Use of interventions involving force such as forceps, vacuum extraction or manual pulling or twisting of the baby should increase the likelihood of subluxations, which clinical evidence supports. Subluxations of the upper cervical spine in infants have been found to show a high correlation to infections of the ears, nose and throat, many of which improved once the subluxations were re-aligned.
Colic, at least for some infants, is thought to be baby back or neck pain. Crying is the only means that babies have to communicate with us, so if something is wrong – if they’re too hot, too cold, hungry, wet, or in pain, they cry, until they feel better. If they don’t feel better, they keep crying. Many infants with colic experience quick resolution within a few visits to a chiropractor.
Breastfeeding and digestive issues
In order to effectively breastfeed on both breasts, baby must be able to turn his / her head to the right and left. Most of our ability to turn our heads comes from the upper neck region – the most common area for subluxations in a new born. Other impediments to breastfeeding can result from misalignments of the jaw or cranial bones. Misalignments lower in the spine and pelvis can create or contribute to common digestive issues such as reflux and constipation. Everyone knows chiropractors can help fix the spine, but we also look at all the other joints in the body – head, shoulders, knees and toes – as each individual case warrants.
Many babies (as well as toddlers, children, teens and adults) see their chiropractor even in the absence of symptoms and dysfunction, because it helps them thrive rather than just survive. Similar to taking your car for an oil change or a wheel re-alignment, humans (babies included) function better when their spine is aligned and their nervous system functioning at peak. Plus potential problem areas can be spotted and addressed before they fester and become deeply entrenched – and as the saying goes: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
What to expect
The initial appointment involves a history, discussing elements such as the pregnancy, birth, post-natal health, and any traumas, as well as a physical examination where reflexes are checked, muscles palpated and joints checked for alignment. After this, an individualized treatment plan is recommended, and may consist of both in-clinic treatments and homework. Treatments in the clinic focus on normalizing muscle tonicity and removing subluxations via gentle and specific adjustments using the level of force you would apply when touching your eyeball (i.e. very gentle). Homework can consist of stretches, gentle massage, dietary investigations / changes, and individual approaches to help your child on their developmental journey.
Dr. Alyssa Shepherd is a Guelph based Chiropractor with a special interest in helping babies and moms spring back healthfully from the challenges of pregnancy, birth & beyond.
Gutmann G. Blocked Atlantal Nerve Syndrome in Babies and Infants. Manuelle Medizin. 1987; 25:5-10.
Fryman VM, Springall P. Effect of Osteopathic Medical Management on Neurologic Development in Children. JAOA. 1992; 92: 729.