A little while back my cousin Keri was talking to me about chiropractic care for infants. I had not yet read or heard about this – I was surprised by it. I have not visited a chiropractor myself and so I feel uneducated about the practice. She told me that when she has a baby, she would like a chiropractor on hand to adjust her baby shortly after birth. I was more surprised that I hadn’t heard anything about this either.
A couple of weeks later, I happened to see an online post from an acquaintance, Jenna Tregenza, that included an adorable photo of her infant son Miles seeming quite pleased during a chiropractic visit. I was further intrigued. I wondered why Miles was visiting the chiropractor? And, why hadn’t I heard about this therapy for babies? Should all babies have a chiropractor? So, I made contact with Jenna who led me to Dr. Heather Somers of Byron Village Chiropractic Centre in London, Ontario. Here is what she shared.
Q & A with Guest Blogger Dr. Heather Somers
Until recently, I hadn’t heard about infant chiropractic – what are the benefits for infants?
Chiropractic care for infants and children is gaining increasing public awareness and acceptance. In my experience there are really two types of issues that chiropractors most commonly see and treat. The first group of issues are the more obvious musculo-skeletal problems. During the birth process, especially when interventions are used such as forceps or vacuum extraction or even during C-section deliveries, there is a great deal of force being put on the baby’s spine and joints. Some babies are born with neck injuries – this can present as torticollis or a ‘crick’ in the babies neck that prevents them from moving their head freely to both sides. This can cause a great deal of discomfort for the baby and can make breastfeeding a huge challenge. It can also lead to flat spots developing on the baby’s head if they are favouring one side. Other areas that can require treatment include shoulders and hips.
These kinds of conditions respond beautifully to chiropractic care. Usually after a few gentle treatments I see huge improvements. We’ve got to remember that babies feel pain just like anybody else. It’s important to watch for signs of physical discomfort and look into options to help relieve that pain.
The second area that I work on involves injuries affecting the nervous system. When our spine is injured it affects the way our nervous system is functioning and this can lead to a huge variety of problems. For babies this often manifests as digestive discomfort. All babies deal with some gassiness as their digestive system grows and develops but I see many babies who have more involved issues with gassiness, leading to major discomfort, trouble sleeping and sometimes constipation. I have had huge success improving gastric function with some gentle spinal care and this often results in a more content baby. Colic is another area that chiropractic has been proven to be highly effective. I always encourage any parent I know who is struggling with a very unhappy baby to consider chiropractic care because this treatment can often correct the underlying cause of the problem and then everybody wins!
And then of course it is important to remember that these tiny humans are growing and developing so rapidly and it never hurts to have someone check to make sure everything is aligned and functioning properly – the earlier we can find and correct any issues the easier everything is on the parents and the child!
Is it important to take your baby to a chiropractor?
Well, clearly I am completely biased on this one but my answer is a resounding YES! I believe that every baby can benefit from some chiropractic treatment – including my own kids! I have two daughters, ages 1 and 3, and they have both received chiropractic treatment since they were newborns. I always recommend that my patients bring their baby in as soon as possible after they are born. This way I can assess for any injuries caused during birth and correct them quickly. This usually takes only a handful of treatments. Then I like to check in with the baby as they go through their milestones. The spine starts off very flat without any of the natural curves that we see in the adult spine. The curve in the neck develops when the baby starts to hold their head up. The other curves develop when the baby starts to sit, crawl and walk. We want these curves to develop perfectly. Injuries or imbalances can cause distortions in these curves as they develop that may have long lasting effects. It is so much easier to prevent issues by catching them early, rather than waiting and needing to correct a major issue after it has had months or years to develop.
What would a visit involve?
In my office I see babies all the time so I’ve got a wonderful treatment routine that works best for the parents and the baby. Chiropractic for infants is different than chiropractic care for adults. For babies I use very light touch and pressure. Babies require only a gentle rhythmic rocking of the spine to re-establish balance. In fact most of the babies I treat sleep through the majority of their treatment!
It’s usually Mom who brings the baby in to see me (although I love it when Dad comes too so he can see firsthand what the whole thing is about!) I will often dim the lights to make the baby nice and relaxed. I have Mom hold the baby throughout the whole treatment so that the baby always feels safe. We start with babe face down on Mom’s chest so I can gently work on their back. I use my finger tips and a small amount of pressure to assess the spinal joints and the pelvic joints. Then I have Mom hold the baby in a cradle position so I can gently assess their neck. There is no twisting or turning. Just light fingertip motion through the joints. This is the move that almost always puts them to sleep! As they baby grows I adapt my treatment – soon they are able to lie on the table by themselves. I have a series of pillows and props to make them comfortable. But Mom is never far away and usually has a hand on the baby the whole time.
Do you have some specific success stories that you could share?
YES! Many! The first thing that comes to mind is pooping!! I have helped so many babies and toddlers and even older kids with pooping trouble. Chiropractic care is so effective for constipation. In fact the babies I work on will often have a nice big poop the same day we treat or even in the car on the way home!
I have had a lot of success with neck issues as well. If a baby is born with a small neck injury they won’t want to turn their head to one side. You will notice that they always lean towards one side or sleep on one side. You might find they don’t like to nurse on one side and as time goes on they will develop a flat spot on their heads. This kind of issue responds beautifully and in no time we can improve that range of motion and remove any discomfort the baby is feeling. This is a classic example of how important it is to catch these problems early. The longer they live with this the more they learn to compensate and the tissues start to grow to accommodate the imbalance and it gets more complicated and harder to correct.
I have heard that some parents have a chiropractor on hand shortly after the birth for an immediate adjustment – how can this help a baby?
This simply comes down to finding and correcting any issues that might be present as quickly as possible. This is a great idea. Catching these problems early makes everything so much easier. I usually tell my patients to get in with their baby as soon as they can. I understand that the first few days after a baby is born are hectic and magical and obviously it is not always possible to run out to another appointment. If everything is going well and the baby is latching and feeding well then there’s no problem taking a bit of time. If they can get in within the first few weeks, that’s great. But if there are issues with nursing or the baby seems quite distressed or the birth was particularly traumatic then the earlier the better for everyone!
What are the most common concerns that you hear against baby chiropractic visits?
I think a main concern is fear for the safety of the baby. A baby seems so delicate that parents are often afraid of what a chiropractor will do to their little bodies. This comes down to lack of knowledge about what we do. When it is explained to them, and they see how gentle it is, then that fear leaves very quickly. Also, there have been many research studies on this topic and there has never been a paper showing any ill effects at all! It’s one of the safest, most non-invasive, most natural things you can do for your baby. And like I said before, it is often extremely effective after only a few treatments. I honestly find it hard to imagine how anyone could be against a treatment like this.
Some people have the idea that babies or children in general simply don’t need care for their bodies. Often, my adult patients are surprised to learn that I treat babies. They can’t imagine why they would need to see me. But, small bodies get injured just like big bodies, and babies and kids lead a rough and active life. If you fell as often or banged your head as often as your little ones do, how would your body feel? Almost all injuries that adults get, I’ve seen in children as well. Fortunately, their young, perfect little bodies heal much faster and respond to treatment so quickly which is great!
I think often there is misinformation and misunderstanding surrounding chiropractic work – any thoughts you would like to share with readers about chiropractic work?
I think chiropractic care is amazing. Becoming a chiropractor requires 8 years of post-secondary education. We are a highly educated group and are very skilled at providing treatment to the muscles and joints of the body. There is a mountain of research supporting the effectiveness and safety of chiropractic care. We have one of the highest patient satisfaction rates of any health profession!
Every day I help people with all kinds of issues. From headaches to low back pain. I do a ton of work with pregnant patients to help with pain and to improve their labour outcomes. Chiropractic can have a huge impact on a baby’s development and growth and continues to have value as a child becomes older. The care I provide is gentle, hands-on and skilled. In our world today there are many treatment options available and the onus is on the patient or the parent to do their own research and see what’s out there. Don’t make up your mind about something before you actually try it. Talk to a chiropractor, ask questions and try some treatment to see what chiropractic can do for you and your family!
If you have any further questions or would like any additional information please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Dr. Heather Somers
Byron Village Chiropractic Centre
1240 Commissioners Rd. West
London ON N6K 1C7
Amazing stuff, right? I am so glad to have this new knowledge.
Thank you again Heather so much for your time and for this wealth of information.
And for all of you readers, definitely visit Heather’s Facebook, WordPress blog or website for more information and if you have any more questions, give her a call or send her an email. She would love to be in touch.