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Latching and Nursing Problems: When It Doesn't Come Naturally

Tiny baby looking upMany women envision a beautiful bonding experience with their baby through nursing. Others may be more concerned with the nutritional properties of breastfeeding. Whatever the motivation, nursing and latching difficulties can be emotionally devastating and extremely painful.

Babies are born with a primitive reflex for rooting and suckling. They innately know what to do. However, neurological function can be compromised thus decreasing the baby’s innate abilities. This happens when the first bone of the neck, the atlas, is misaligned and pressing on the brain stem. This can create various other problems, including colic.

The atlas can become subluxated through the normal process of birth, but especially when there is any trauma (pulling, twisting), such as the use of forceps.

If a baby isn’t able to latch correctly, it can be frustrating for the hungry baby and make the mother’s nipples extremely sore.

Inadequate latching can affect the mother’s milk supply. It is the unique motion of a baby suckling that tells her body how much milk to produce and that more is needed.

Nursing Equally on Both Sides

The baby needs to be able to nurse effectively from both breasts. But if the baby has reduced range of motion from a subluxated atlas, they might not be able to turn their head one way or the other or be unwilling to nurse on both sides. This can be painful for the mother, who will have difficulty emptying one breast. It also results in the baby not getting enough nutrients either.

As mentioned before, this subluxation could be from birth, however, as babies get older, crawl, play and fall down, they can also become misaligned and not have good enough range of motion to nurse.

When a baby can’t turn their head equally to both sides, they are uncomfortable when sleeping, choosing the same position over and over. This can lead to distorted cranial bones.

A chiropractic adjustment restores the baby’s range of motion, freeing them to nurse equally on both sides and to latch effectively. Jeanne Ohm, Executive Director of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) explains more about the benefits here.

Lip and Tongue Ties

More and more parents and healthcare professionals are seeing babies who are tongue-tied or have an extremely attached upper lip because of an overproduction of tissue. This can greatly affect a baby’s latch and how they use their tongue. Dr. Katie highly recommends having baby’s mouths examined professionally by a lactation consultant or pediatric dentist.

Chiropractic can be helpful before and after the revision of a tie, where it is cut quickly and easily with a laser. There are specific pediatric dentists who do these procedures. Dr. Katie often refers her patients to Dr. Najmeh Hannavash at Little Star Dentistry.

After a revision, babies and mom can experience a better latch, that is less painful for mom with an increased milk supply for baby. Chiropractic helps the body find a new, healthier alignment.

It is interesting to note that studies about tongue ties link them to vitamin toxicity and the overuse of synthetic folic acid. The natural version of that molecule is folate – Dr. Katie recommends checking your prenatal vitamins and getting one with folate.

Get Help

If you or someone you know is struggling with any nursing issues, there is help. Don’t hesitate to come see Dr. Katie for a consultation.

Dr. Katie Schlein D.C. is a family chiropractor located in Hillcrest, San Diego. You can learn more about her here. She specializes in prenatal, pediatric and youth athlete chiropractic care but serve families of all shapes, sizes and ages. Through mutual support and striving to understand her patients’ needs, Dr. Katie is committed to helping families reach their maximum health with the help of chiropractic care.


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