It’s national breastfeeding week! That considered there is no better time to discuss how Chiropractic Care can be a part of facilitating a healthy breastfeeding relationship. While breastfeeding is “natural”, any breastfeeding mother will tell you that figuring things out in the beginning is not always easy. Sometimes babies have things going on with their tiny bodies that can make it difficult to latch. Along with that, new mamas can experience aches and pains in their bodies as they adapt to the demands of breastfeeding. This is where chiropractic comes in! Chiropractic adjustments are all about making sure the nervous system and spine are working their best. Doing so can improve baby’s ability to latch and neck range of motion to feed. For mothers, keeping the spine and nervous system functioning optimally helps decrease discomfort and over all stress. Keep reading and I’ll share more of the particulars about exactly how this works for both mom and babies!
The Birth Process and Why Babies Need Adjustments
The birth process can be a wild and crazy ride for both mom and baby. The baby’s body is squeezed out of the birth canal which contributes to how the skull is molded, and this can also cause stress on baby’s delicate upper neck. This is especially true if baby was delivered with assistance such as vacuum, forceps, or cesarean section. The skull molding and upper neck are really important for two reasons: the neurological and mechanical aspects of the sucking reflex. The upper neck region houses the brainstem and cranial nerves that give life to the muscles of the face and jaw. (Think about how your jaw works to help you chew and drink, it’s a very similar concept). Along with proper neurological input, the bones and muscles need to be aligned properly for mechanical reasons. When babies are evaluated by a chiropractor this is exactly what we are looking for. We check that babies neurological reflexes are healthy and that there isn’t any abnormal tension or weakness in the body that can point to disrupted nerve input. After that we check the alignment of the tiny bones in upper neck, the jaw, and skull. If any of those bones are misaligned, if effects range of motion and the muscles ability to do their job. For example, if upper neck joints are misaligned the baby may not have full range of motion to turn his or her head side to side to feed on both breasts.
How Infant Adjustments Work
Once an evaluation is done and any issues are scoped out then we know where to adjust and why. The adjustment part is where most people who don’t have experience with infant adjustments can get very nervous. This is totally normal and understandable! The unknown or unfamiliar can be scary, but this is why I talk parents through everything we’re doing and also get them involved in the adjustment process. Everything considered, infant adjustments are extremely safe, gentle, and actually much different than adult adjustments. They are so gentle some babies will even sleep through them. Light fingertip pressure is all that is needed to adjust a baby because their spines have so much cartilage. There is no twisting and very little force used if at all. The goal of the adjustment is to restore normal motion in joints that are stuck, encourage alignment of cranial bones, and release any tense muscles or ligaments. Although the technique is very light and gentle it makes a huge impact!
How Adjustments Support Breastfeeding Mothers
Unfortunately in our society postpartum care is often forgotten about. However the reality is the mother is still going through so much change and healing for not just weeks but months after the birth. Specifically with nursing, the mother is adapting to the postural changes that come along heavier breasts, holding baby, and looking down often to feed her baby. In addition to all this going on, the joints are still lax due to the fact the ligaments take time to strengthen back up as relaxin leaves the system. (Relaxin is the hormone that causes the joints to loosen in order to make room for baby). Because of these new stressors on the spine, upper back and neck pain are common complaints I hear from new mothers in my office. Regular adjustments help the body adapt to these new stressors by helping the joints stabilize properly and relieving the strain caused by the day- to day wear and tear we put on our bodies.
Despite some of the challenges that can occur and the commitment that goes into breastfeeding, it is truly one of the best things you can do for your baby’s health. I could go on and on about the benefits of breastfeeding, but I’ll save that for another post! Although challenging at times, breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful and doesn’t have to be uncomfortable for you or your baby. Having a support team behind you that includes a chiropractor will make a world of difference in setting you up for a healthy breastfeeding relationship.