04/19/2022 by Dr. Michaela Peterson
Chiropractic Care for Infants
You may be surprised to learn that chiropractic care is not just for adult back and neck pain. Chiropractic can also be beneficial for babies experiencing colic, constipation and tongue tie, as well as some other musculoskeletal conditions.
While it may seem unusual to think of babies receiving chiropractic care, it's actually safe and effective. Many parents are unaware that chiropractic treatments can provide relief for their baby's discomfort.
How does chiropractic help babies?
Babies' bodies are just like ours, they can get tight muscles and have misalignments. Chiropractic care helps both big and small bodies by restoring motion to the joints and relaxing tight muscles.
Chiropractic worked for a baby in my family.
My niece was 6 months old when I met her for the first time in 2017. I asked my sister-in-law how the baby was doing and she sighed. “She cries a lot, and breastfeeding is really hard, but I keep trying each day.”
You could tell my sister-in-law was exhausted.
My niece was colicky and favored the left breast when feeding. I was the Vice President of Michigan State University’s Pre-Chiropractic Association at the time. I suggested my brother and sister-in-law take her to the chiropractor at their local VA hospital, as my brother was in the military.
Chiropractic helped both baby and parents rest and recharge.
After my niece’s first visit, she was able to turn her little head more each way. She was finally able to feed on the right breast. She slept so soundly that night, giving my brother and sister-in-law much needed rest.
Chiropractic can help with many of the issues facing new parents and their babies.
Birth trauma and difficult feeding.
Birth is traumatic for both mom and baby. During birth, your baby transitions from a zero-gravity environment to feeling the full effects of gravity. Feeling the forces of the world for the first time acutely affects their nervous system. Labor and birth can leave your baby feeling tense and may lead to difficulty with feeding.
Some babies will present with difficulty turning their head to the right or left. This often means trouble switching between breasts, as their neck cannot completely turn to face the breast for proper latch. Parents often notice their baby is favoring one side, and this could be the reason. Chiropractic can help.
Chiropractic for colic.
Colic is a medical condition in which an infant's stomach becomes swollen, leading to extended periods of crying. Crying is typically considered excessive if it lasts for more than three hours per day. Colic may also result in excessive intestinal gas build-up.
Chiropractic treatment can be effective in managing colic by targeting specific areas, such as the the back of the head and sacrum. Gentle adjustments to these areas can help promote relaxation after stressful events.
Cranial work can also stimulate baby's relaxation response, helping relax intestinal sphincters and ease symptoms.
Chiropractic for tongue-tie.
Tongue-tie is a medical condition that limits a baby's ability to move their tongue. A shortened, thick or tight band of tissue called the lingual frenulum is the culprit. This band of tissue tethers the tongue's tip to the floor of the baby's mouth, restricting its range of motion. This tether can make breastfeeding a difficult task for the baby.
Chiropractic care can help relieve tension caused by difficult feeding in tongue-tied babies. Since tongue-tied babies use other muscles instead of the tongue to extract milk, they can get tension in their jaw. Chiropractic adjustments help ease that jaw tension.
Chiropractic and infant constipation.
Babies with severe constipation may show symptoms like increased fussiness, abdominal pain and vomiting. Unfortunately, there are limited treatment options available for infants. Many new parents don't want to give their baby medication, and that's where gentle chiropractic can help.
Chiropractic adjustments often produce instant results. Sometimes babies have a large bowel movement before they even leave our office. Baby's bowel movements often become more regular for hours, and even many days after they are adjusted.
Do chiropractors "crack" babies?
Infant adjustments are much gentler than those given to adults.
Infant spinal adjustments use light, sustained pressure to correct any misalignments. To get a clearer picture of that pressure, imagine the amount of pressure you use to touch your eyeball.
Infant cranial work involves gently shifting baby's cranial bones to help the head form well. It also activates your baby's parasympathetic nervous system, helping to regulate their rest and digest cycles.
Infant intra-oral work assesses for ties, quality of latch, and any need to perform cranial work to open the soft palate.
What do chiropractors look for when they examine a baby?
I do a detailed health history, then I examine the baby's range of motion, especially at their neck.
I also look for issues that affect your baby's ability to feed. I assess their latch using a gloved finger. It's important to check for tethered oral tissues — tongue and lip ties. I'm also looking for a shallow palate at this phase of the baby exam.
If I determine that the baby has tethered oral tissues, I will refer you and your baby to a dentist for revision.
What should I expect after my baby's chiropractic exam?
As I always tell parents, babies react pretty "explosively" to chiropractic care. You may see a blow-out diaper, spit-up, or a big nap after chiropractic treatment. Those are all normal, healthy reactions.
With cranial work on the head and palate, it may take some time to see results. Infant cranial work slowly and gently encourages bones to shift to an ideal position. With babies, it's all about being gentle and effective over time.
What can I do at home to keep my baby happy and healthy?
Abdominal massage helps move along any gas in their little digestive system. Breastfeeding moms should consider modifying their diet if allergies are suspected.
Allow your baby tummy-time to build strong neck muscles. Tummy time also helps avoid developing a flat spot at the back of their head.
Think your baby could benefit from chirorpactic care?
Bring your little one to our Aptos office to see Dr. Michaela. Schedule your appointment online.
Where can I learn more about chiropractic for babies?
The International Chiropractic Pediatric Association website has tons of information. You may also want to subscribe to their publication Pathways.