As a mom you may have heard about chiropractic care for babies. And maybe your first thoughts were ‘Why in the heck would I bring my baby to a chiropractor?’ ‘Is it safe?’ ‘Should I bring my baby to a chiropractor?’ A lot of questions and concerns may come up and it is my intention to clear up the misunderstanding and confusion so that you can make an informed decision as to whether chiropractic care is right for your baby.
The Birthing Process
Let’s take a step back and talk about your baby’s journey entering this world. This was hard work (for baby and for mom!). These babies are in their mother’s womb for on average 9 months and then go down this small canal to join their loved ones. Most often, mom is on her back in the typical birthing posture. This is not an optimal position as the baby now has to go against gravity. Mom’s sacrum (the inverted triangular bone) goes into the birth canal by up to 4 cm making even less space for baby to get through the pelvic outlet.
There may be special interventions used such as forceps, vacuum or a C-section. These may be required which can affect the baby’s spinal alignment tremendously. Even if it was a perfect stress-free birth, we have no idea the exact position of baby for the entire gestational period in mom’s womb and what their postural patterns were.
It’s been shown that just 80 lbs of pulling pressure can cause spinal misalignments in a child. A recent study by Viola Frymann, an American Osteopathic doctor, studied more than 1500 babies across an 8-year period and found that 90% of babies have at least one spinal misalignment just from birth alone. Researcher G. Gutmann has written that ‘The trauma from the birth process remains an under-publicized and therefore significantly undertreated problem.’ This is why chiropractors always encourage newborns to at the very least get checked by a chiropractor.
Common factors that can cause birth trauma in infants
- Short or long labour
- Forceps or Vacuum used
- Birthing posture
- Pulling or twisting the infants’ body in the birth process
As mentioned even a perfect, relaxed birth can still cause undetected traumas in your baby.
Baby is born!
In your newborn’s 1st year of life – their spine grows by 50% which is the fastest it will ever grow in their lifetime. Their nervous system develops by 65% and their spinal curves develop! These babies grow at a rapid rate which means most of their energy goes towards feeding, digesting, and sleeping. Eat, sleep and poop!
The body is run by the nervous system which is broken down into parts. Humans rely on the parasympathetic nervous system which is a part of the autonomic nervous system. This system shifts the body into a ‘rest and digest’ relaxed state. In this stage of feeding, digesting and sleeping, you need your baby’s parasympathetic nervous system to be functioning at its optimal level.
When there is any interference to this system which can occur from birth, medications, spinal misalignments, digestive issues, chronic sickness etc., the infant will be in a state of ‘fight or flight’ which makes the sympathetic nervous system dominant which is not ideal for anyone, especially a rapidly developing infant.
Infants that struggle to consistently stay in this ‘rest and digest’ relaxed parasympathetic state will typically only be able to sleep for short periods of time and the sleep will not be very deep. This in turn can also affect digestion, colic etc.
How can Chiropractic care help?
Chiropractic care beginning early on in life may help and prevent certain common childhood conditions:
- ADHD (behavioral issues, acting out)
- Bed wetting
- Sleep issues
- Digestive issues
- Ear infections
- Chronic sickness (weakened immune system)
- Acid reflux
- Latching with breast feeding
- Aids in normal health development etc.
What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic means ‘By Hand.’ Chiropractors are great at assessing the functions of the skull and spine and how it relates to the nervous system. They can tell the pattern your baby prefers and whether that is the ‘rest and digest’ state or ‘fight or flight’ state. This is based on how the spine is moving and its alignment, the babies muscle tone, general demeanor etc.
When there are shifts or misalignments in the spine, this causes interference in the nervous system and can inhibit function. The ‘rest and digest’ parasympathetic nervous system is housed in the skull, upper neck and pelvis which is typically where chiropractors find misalignments which can lead to an increased activation of the ‘fight or flight’ response. This can then lead to a more unsettled baby, which means less restful sleep for baby and carers, potential colic, digestive issues etc. The misalignments can typically be traced back to the birthing process as previously mentioned.
The initial assessment
Chiropractors take great care in taking a thorough history to find out how the pregnancy was for mom, how the labour was and how your baby’s first days, months, years of life have been with specific and detailed questions asked. Space is also provided for mom and dad to add any additional information or questions. This is a time to really dive deep into your baby’s patterns and a time for your chiropractor to really connect and get a great overall picture of your baby’s health.
We then move onto the physical examination where primitive reflexes are checked based on the child’s age; the cranium (skull) is checked; overall muscle tone is checked; the abdomen is palpated and hips are checked for any ‘clicking’. Finally the spine is checked for any misalignments and any postural patterns that may be present. The chiropractor essentially checks to see what postural patterns have been engrained such as a head tilt or rotation, favoring of one side, general unsettled baby, etc.
Everything is explained to the parents throughout the exam and recommendations of care are given based on what was found in the exam.
Treatment and Safety
Chiropractors use light fingertip pressure to release these misalignments. It is extremely gentle as infants’ spines do not need much pressure to create big change. When chiropractors remove these misalignments and interference to the nervous system, often times an unhappy, unsettled infant becomes relaxed and happy. They are finally in the ‘rest and digest’ relaxed state. Babies and parents are happier!
Chiropractic is gentle, safe and non-invasive and has been treating infants for over 100 years. The beauty is that chiropractic can create great change in a natural way for the body to heal itself without the use of drugs. A long-term study showed that children who were under chiropractic care tended to have fewer tantrums and had decreased night time waking even 2-3 years later. Why? Their nervous systems were finally functioning at the optimal level.
Even as babies, compensatory patterns show up in the spine and nervous system. The longer these patterns are there they become established by the brain as ‘normal’ and are harder to correct. So, the child may become used to digestive issues, poor sleep patterns, inability to concentrate, chronic illness etc. The nervous system is ingrained with these patterns and they are harder to change the longer they are present.
This is why chiropractors encourage parents to have their children checked to make sure their bodies are working at the optimal level because at a young age changes can be made at a more rapid rate. We also encourage parents (especially MOMS!) to get checked because even though your patterns are more ingrained, change can still be made. It just may take longer.
As a new mom you are supported. You have the hardest and most fulfilling job on the planet. We hope that this information was helpful and helps you to understand the value in chiropractic care for children. Feel free to ask us any questions and let us know if we can support you in any way.