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Breastfeeding: Its importance and how chiropractic can help

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children be exclusively breastfed for approximately the first six months of life.  They recommend that a mother continue to breastfeed beyond six months (even up to the child being about two years old and beyond) while introducing other nutritious foods to begin complementing the diet.  This recommendation has been made due to the many known health benefits of breastfeeding for the child and the mother.  Let’s first take a look at some of the benefits for children.


It’s All About the Kids…

Here is a short list of some of the many benefits that children gain from breastfeeding:

  1. A large reduction in risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

  2. A large reduction in general infant mortality.

  3. A reduction in a slew of various diseases, such as lower respiratory tract infections, persistent or severe diarrhea, ear infections, asthma, eczema, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, childhood and/or adult obesity, diabetes (type 1 and 2), and leukemia

  4. A more robust immune system through shared antibodies from the mother and improved gut health.

  5. Higher functioning nervous system


…But Don’t Forget About Mom!

Here is a short list of some of the benefits that a mother can gain from breastfeeding:

  1. Saving more money for retirement, or a night out with the girls (breastfeeding is free!).

  2. A reduction in risk for hypertension, diabetes (type 1 and 2), breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, and thyroid cancer.


Sometimes Breastfeeding Can Be Tough

Breastfeeding can be tough for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, a woman has a hard time producing enough milk or her letdown may be slow.  Maybe she is having a hard time juggling the logistics of work, pumping, and bottle feeding.  The mother may be struggling with neck pain, upper back pain, and/or shoulder pain from constantly maintaining a slumped posture while holding the feeding baby.  She may even be experiencing low back pain from an increased amount of time sitting while breastfeeding.


Tongue Ties

Other times the mother isn’t the problem at all.  Sometimes, there are complications on the child’s end that are making breastfeeding difficult.  One common scenario is when a baby has tongue ties that have gone missed or unaddressed.

Tongue ties are fairly common in newborn babies.  A tongue tie is when the tongue is “tied” down to the floor of the mouth or the cheek.  Children can have upper lip ties that can affect breastfeeding as well.  In this scenario, the upper lip is “tied” down to the gums and doesn’t have the ability to flip up while breastfeeding.  

Some ties are obvious; many are subtle and can sometimes go missed.  If your child is currently having or did have trouble breastfeeding, it may be worth getting them evaluated by a chiropractor that has some experience with identifying tongue ties or a pediatric dentist.  Tongue ties that go unaddressed can lead to speech problems, decreased oral hygiene, sleep issues, and neck tightness in children and adults.  If a tongue tie is found, it may be appropriate to have it released.


Chiropractic and Breastfeeding

Another very common scenario that can make breastfeeding difficult is when the breastfeeding child cannot rotate their head to one side or the other.  In this case, the child will most likely favor feeding on one breast but not the other.  As a result, the mother has a hard time emptying the one breast, oftentimes leading to engorgement, pain, and overtime, a lack of milk production in the avoided breast.  Sometimes, this issue makes breastfeeding difficult enough to where the child cannot get an adequate amount of nutrition through breastfeeding alone, forcing the mother to use a breast pump to feed the child expressed breast milk or use formula.

This inability to rotate the head is frequently due to the child’s upper neck needing a chiropractic adjustment.  Our upper neck is where we gain the majority of our ability to rotate our heads side to side.  When a child develops what chiropractors refer to as a subluxation (a bone that isn’t moving well)  in the upper neck, it becomes more difficult for them to rotate their head either left or right.  All the child needs is a simple, very low force adjustment where the chiropractor places the same amount of pressure as the weight of a nickel on one of the bones of the upper neck (normally the very first bone of the neck, known as “C1” or “atlas”) to unrotate the bone.  This adjustment frees the upper neck and allows for proper head rotation side to side, giving the child the ability to breastfeed freely and comfortably on either breast.

As mentioned previously, mothers are sometimes struggling with neck pain, upper back pain, and/or shoulder pain from constantly maintaining a slumped posture while holding the feeding baby, or even low back pain from an increased amount of time sitting while breastfeeding.  The pain symptoms are many times experienced due to dysfunctions within the joints and soft tissues of the spine and extremities as a result of the increased demand on the mother’s body.  Chiropractic care can help to make the spine and extremities functional again, thus reducing the symptoms experienced.


If you or a mother you know has a child that is struggling to breastfeed well, or you or a mother you know is experiencing musculoskeletal pain symptoms because of the breastfeeding process, consider trying or recommending chiropractic care.  It’s non-invasive, gentle, cost-effective, and may make all the difference for your child’s health!  If you have any questions, you can reach the Ollis Chiropractic team at (502) 412-8580 or [email protected].  

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