Whether it’s sleep issues, tummy issues or colic, many parents have reported that their babies have found relief after visiting a chiropractor. The good news is, it’s safe for newborns within the first few weeks after birth and the benefits are relevant for babies born via C-section or natural birth.
What does a chiropractor do?
A chiropractor is qualified to work with the body, using gentle manipulations to help restore normal nervous system function, so the body can heal itself, says registered chiropractor Dr Douween van Staden, who practices at the Centre for Holistic Health in Fourways.
“Sometimes, little ones are fussy or irritable from various factors including impaired sucking or incorrect latching, an immature digestive system, food allergens in breast milk, acid reflux, a slow digestive system, ear infections or slight tension in the spine. And although a chiropractor can help to improve or resolve many of these issues, they are not qualified to cure specific diseases. This makes it important to work with your paediatrician, nurse or other healthcare provider to eliminate any possible causes of pain or unhappiness,” she says.
How can babies benefit from chiropractic treatment?
Boost recovery after birth
Gentle manipulations in certain key areas of your baby’s body can help to ease tension and strain, as well as correct nerve problems that may arise after a C-section or natural birth. The birth process can be traumatic for both mom and baby and affect the nerves in the body.
Help at hand: A chiropractor is trained to align the spine and ensure that there’s no nerve disfunction as this can lead to colic symptoms, reflux, or breathing and sleeping difficulties in babies.
Soothe colic symptoms
Colic can have many causes and your baby might be diagnosed with colic by your paediatrician if all other medical conditions have been ruled out, explains Douween. “Colic may be linked to an immature or underactive gastro-intestinal system, leading to indigestion and gas build up. An immature digestive system might not cope with the gas build up, which is a natural result of digestion, leaving the gas trapped in the gut to cause bloating and pain. Your baby might also pull his knees up and strain to move the gas with little success.
Help at hand: Gentle manipulations can stimulate nerve flow to the small intestines and increase peristalsis – the wave-like motion of muscles in the gut that pushes liquid and gas through.
Enhance the immune system
Apart from proper nutrition and rest, the immune system relies on a healthy spine, says Douween. “Our nervous system runs through our spine and any misalignment can cause the nerve pathways to become irritated. This will affect all systems in the body,” she adds.
“Our immune systems are made up of lymph nodes; the thymus (which is a lymph organ in the neck responsible for releasing cells to boost the immune system) and our spleen, which are all connected to the brain by nerves running through the spine.
Help at hand: Studies have shown that with just a few spinal adjustments, the body becomes better at releasing disease-fighting cells to areas of the body where they’re needed the most, giving the immune system a boost,” she says. This is critical for all of us, including children and babies.
Reduce general fussiness
It’s not always easy for parents or doctors to pinpoint the exact issues that might be causing little ones to become fussy and irritable. However, once sickness has been ruled out, chiropractic sessions can help.
Help at hand: Douween says that numerous studies have shown that chiropractic treatment helps to reduce fussiness which could be the result of mechanical restrictions in your baby’s spine. These restrictions can lead to headaches, muscle spasms, increased nervous irritability, sleeping difficulties and crying. This is often why parents notice such a marked difference after just a few sessions at the chiropractor.
Support physical development
A baby is born with primary spinal curves (known as sacral and thoracic kyphosis) and in the first year of life, the spine doubles in length while the secondary curves (neck and lower back lordosis) form, explains Douween. This is a lot of change in a little body in such a short amount of time! “When your baby starts lifting his head the neck curvature forms; when he learns to sit, the lower back curvature forms. However, without proper alignment during these important milestones, there’s a chance that your child’s spinal curvatures may not develop properly.” This could hamper your child’s physical development and slow the rate at which he reaches his milestones.
Help at hand: Gentle chiropractic manipulations can help to align your baby’s spine and improve his overall posture.
Assist in treating ear infections
The eustachian tube drains the middle ear from excess fluids, but it can become blocked due to allergies, colds or recurrent sinus infections, says Douween.
Help at hand: In certain cases, gentle manipulations to the vertebrae of the upper neck help to dilate the eustachian tube, which assists drainage of the middle ear. However, it’s important to take your baby for a medical check-up too, as ear infections often need to be treated with antibiotics.
2 common myths debunked
Myth: It is not safe for babies.
Fact: “A paediatric chiropractor doesn’t crank or adjust your baby’s spine, like they would an adult spine. Instead, a soft pressure is used to make gentle alignments. The treatment is gentle and safe for little ones,” says Douween.
Myth: Spinal adjustments hurt your baby, which is why they cry during the appointment.
Fact: There may be sensitive areas on your baby’s spine and it may cause mild discomfort when your little one is being examined. However, adjustments themselves aren’t painful and children often cry because they’re held in a position they’re not used to.