In our many months of working together now, Ellen and I continue to meet babies struggling unnecessarily with one of their most important jobs in life—nursing. I say their struggle is unnecessary because in some cases (certainly not all) we find that most of their problems stem from a simple structural glitch—in very general terms—that can be easily, gently, and fully corrected through osteopathy. One of the most common “glitches” I find is a compression at the base of a baby’s skull (the occiput), which often results from positioning in utero, compressive forces during labor and delivery, and several other conditions. Compression here at the occiput can compromise the vagus nerve or the hypoglossal nerve, both of which are responsible for coordinating a baby’s suckling and swallowing movements. So, structural problems in this area can show up as problems with a poor latch, uncoordinated suck, reflux, and general irritability. When I’m able to release this compression at the base of the skull through using a gentle, feather light touch, and then Ellen adds in her pearls of breastfeeding wisdom to help these adjustments stick through positioning and other techniques, we’ve found that many babies soon learn to nurse much more effectively and comfortably, both for baby and mom. The change is often quite striking, and surprising … even for me after years of practice! And, many of our little clients leave the office peacefully snoozing away which is an added bonus for all of us (and one of the sweetest parts of my job).
It is true that many babies we see end up having different challenges—tongue restrictions (another frequent issue we address, and a very important topic for later discussion!), plagiocephaly or misshapen heads, toriticollis or side preference, and a range of other congenital issues. But, we’ve been pleased to find that for most moms and babies we meet, when we combine osteopathy with breastfeeding support, we can really shift some of these difficult problems that show up in those precious, and critical, first few weeks of life. Though studies have already shown the benefits of marrying lactation support with osteopathy (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28027445/), we’ve certainly found that our combined approach is quite powerful for many mother and baby dyads that we meet.