By Marcy Prendergast, LMT
Taking care of a newborn can overwhelm parents - with love, worry, exhaustion, joy, confusion, and a whole lot of other feelings all at once. Being a newborn can be pretty overwhelming as well. Just imagine going from a cozy, familiar environment, to being pushed out into the world where everything is a brand new experience. The process of being pushed through the birth canal itself (or even more so an assisted birth or C-Section) is often a tight fit that can strain their little bodies and get things out of alignment. Add that to the rapid growth babies experience in their early stages, and it can lead to some aches and pains from postural deviation, among other problems like difficulties feeding and sleeping (which is pretty much all babies do early on in life). Our providers here at Washington Park Chiropractic are here to help parents and babies adapt and get the best start in their new lives together!
When should I start bringing my baby in for care?
We recommend to bring baby in for their first exam at around 2 weeks of age. You can even start sooner if you have any specific concerns, like the ones listed here.
The frequency of treatment depends on your kiddo's needs. We typically treat symptomatic infants 4-6 times to resolve any issues they are experiencing. If there are no issues, they may not need any initial treatment, but we still recommend getting your baby in for wellness visits as they reach milestones like crawling and walking. This will ensure they are growing and developing properly. These rechecks would be about every 2-3 months.
What conditions can you help my baby with?
If your baby is having feeding difficulties, such as ineffective latching or other challenges with breastfeeding, they may benefit from chiropractic care. Our docs can check for and correct misalignments in the upper spine, jaw, and palate (roof of the mouth) that may have resulted from the birthing process. Delivery can be just as stressful on baby as it is for mama, even when labor and delivery progressed naturally and without intervention. Gentle adjustments can make a huge impact on baby's ability to eat comfortably, and therefore on their growth and development at this crucial stage when adequate nutrition is so important.
Another condition our docs help babies with is ear aches. We receive referrals from many area pediatricians for ear aches and ear infections. Chiropractic adjustments can decrease severity and frequency of ear infections by improving drainage. Our doctors will utilize cranial and TMJ techniques as well as gently positioning vertebrae in the neck and upper back to reduce compression in the eustachian tubes.
One of the main concerns parents bring their babies in for is plagiocephaly or brachycephaly, more commonly known as flat head. This comes from babies frequently sleeping in the same position and putting pressure on the same part of their skull, which at birth is made of several pieces that will fuse together as they grow, by about age two. This condition can be worrisome because it can cause pain from pressure in the head, and lead to significant milestone delays. There are some things parents can do at home to prevent or correct this, like spending more time holding baby, changing the position they sleep in, and practicing tummy time more frequently. Our docs can help by doing gentle adjustments to the head and neck to get things moving in the right direction. Massage can also loosen tight neck muscles, which may be the reason baby has been constantly sleeping with their head facing the same direction. This combination of treatments will allow baby to move more freely and sleep more comfortably in a variety of positions, helping their head shape develop more optimally.
Also known as wryneck, this is a problem common to newborns who were in a cramped or abnormal position in the womb, such as breech or transverse positioning. It can also occur as a result of the birthing process during assisted births (forceps, vacuum, manual or cesarean). This causes tightness in the neck muscles and leads baby's head to tilt down or to one side. Sometimes, torticollis is not evident at birth but becomes noticeable as baby gains more strength in their neck. Babies with torticollis can benefit from massage as well as gentle chiropractic adjustments to the cervical spine. Releasing the tension in this area can help the neck to stabilize and grow properly.
This is a big one! This word alone can strike fear into the hearts of new parents who have heard horror stories from their friends and relatives who have been through it. Colic in babies is when they cry unconsolably for hours a day. They may also arch their back, clench their fists, kick or scrunch their legs up toward their tummy. Colicky babies are healthy overall and still eat well and grow, but their relentless crying can certainly be stressful for parents. The specific cause is unknown, but factors effecting their underdeveloped gastrointestinal tract are thought to be the main instigators. Some contributors are milk protein intolerance, allergies or sensitivities to food mama is ingesting and passing through breast milk, gas and reflux. These can all lead to abdominal pain and pressure that can get so intense it interrupts sleep, making baby even more upset when they are overtired. But don't panic - babies typically outgrow this by the time they are 3-4 months old, and in the meantime, chiropractic and massage can help with the symptoms. Chiropractic care for babies has been shown to relieve symptoms of colic by stimulating nerve flow to the small intestine and increasing peristalsis (the wave-like motion that our gut muscles make to move liquid and gas through the digestive tract). Massage also relaxes babies and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps them "rest and digest". Our massage therapists can even show parents specific massage techniques they can use at home when they suspect baby is gassy or constipated.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (or GERD) causes babies to spit up frequently or be fussy after feeding due to acid backing up in their esophagus. Babies with reflux may refuse food even when they are hungry because they are so uncomfortable. Gentle adjustments of the spine and neck create space for more optimal digestion and stimulate the nervous system, which improves the control of the upper valve of the stomach, stopping acid from escaping.
And Many More...
These are just some of the conditions our providers can help your little one with. Come in to see us and see the benefits - we can ease a variety of discomforts and improve feeding and sleep for a calmer, happier, healthier baby.
Marcy Prendergast, LMT, specializes in Deep Tissue, Sports Massage, Trigger Point Therapy, Cupping, and Active and Passive Release Techniques. She enjoys working with patients to find the root of their pain and dysfunction and get them feeling and moving better.