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Babies, Breastfeeding and Osteopathy

For a process that is considered absolutely 100% ‘natural’, breastfeeding can feel anything but!

As ‘breast is best’, most mums persevere through excruciating pain, hours of frustration, thrush, mastitis and resulting colic and reflux, only to wonder just how much breastmilk their baby is actually getting and whether the stress of the whole may be able to help.

Let’s start at the beginning…well, almost the beginning – birth. When a baby travels down the birth canal, their skull bones cross over one another in order to make their head deliverable. This is possible due to a newborn’s skull being more of a membranous balloon with the bones suspended in connective tissue. Upon delivery, the bones begin to return to their normal position, which can take a few days or so. This moulding process can aggravate cranial nerves that innervate the processes involved in breastfeeding (sucking, swallowing etc) as well digestion.

The birth process is not the only culprit. The baby’s position during pregnancy (breech, transverse, engaged early) can impact moulding. Additionally, stress at any time (pregnancy, birth or after) or any positional restriction during pregnancy can affect primitive reflex development that in turn impacts breastfeeding. So caesarean babies can have breastfeeding issues too.

So how does Osteopathy help?

Osteopaths that treat babies have been trained in gentle techniques that assist in reducing tension in the connective tissue (the membrane suspending the bones). This may help with moulding issues and cranial nerve tension which in turn may impact breastfeeding, digestion and various other common newborn issues.

In the last few years, there has been an increase in diagnosis of tongue and lip ties. Often the surgical release of these ties, provide breastfeeding success, but sometimes the results are minimal. For those with residual breastfeeding issues, it is hypothesised that despite the tongue/lip tie release, the baby’s mouth and jaw are still functioning as though surgery had not occurred. Osteopathic treatment aims to improve mouth and jaw mechanics as well as neural and connective tissue function to ensure a new muscular feeding pattern can develop.

Osteopathy can also assist with milk supply, engorgement and mastitis through treatment of the hard-working, ever-exhausted mum.