Support for the Breastfeeding Baby: The Chiropractor’s Role

Lactation Consultants of Great BritainSession Content 2015

Joyce Miller, BSc, DC, PhD

Little is more important to the long-term health of the newborn baby than breastfeeding. All health care professionals must use their individual skills to assist the mother and baby to achieve a successful breastfeeding dyad.

Mechanical forces during intra-uterine life and during birth may negatively affect the oral-motor function of the newborn. Although it is difficult (if not impossible) to precisely establish exact reasons for these problems, assisted births such as forceps, vacuum extraction and cesarean sections have been implicated.

It is the job of the chiropractor, who provides manual therapy for structural problems in the human skeleton, to detect these physical problems and to work to maximize their functional effectiveness. An examination of the infant must be performed to detect any musculoskeletal problems that may affect the infant’s feeding efficiency. A common example is an injury to the sterno-cleido-mastoid muscle either due to restricted intra-uterine position or to minor injury during birth. This may result in a head tilt seen in the child as well as reticence to feed on the “uncomfortable” side.

The chiropractor is one of the many professionals ready to support and assist the breast feeding dyad toward success so that the child may continue to feed in the long term. In a recent study of infants referred to our chiropractic clinic for treatment of sub-optimal breastfeeding, most children improved and were able to go on to exclusive breastfeeding. The goal of this presentation is to illuminate the types of problems and treatments for biomechanical problems implicated in suboptimal breastfeeding.