It can be incredibly stressful when baby has a hard time latching, or even worse if it causes pain for mom. Unfortunately, a baby that is having difficulties latching onto the breast can be pretty common and there can be a few reasons why it's difficult for them to latch. The good news is that there are ways to help and give relief to mom and baby.
First, let's talk about what you might be feeling or seeing to determine if baby needs more help to latch. Pain for mom with breastfeeding can be an easy first sign. There is a small portion of time that there is a learning curve and mom's body will adapt to breastfeeding, so there may be some natural soreness at first, but if pain persists or is excruciating that is a good sign there may be a latching issue.
Another sign can be when baby is nursing they dribble milk. If you see milk dribbling down the sides of their cheek or chin that typically means their latch is not tight or secure. If baby seems gassy or has tummy pains due to gas and are not able to pass it easily, then you might have a baby with latching difficulties. When baby doesn't have a secure latch around the breast air can seep in and get swallowed along with milk. This causes a build up of air in their digestive system, which should be easy for
Third sign of latching difficulties can be clicking or noisy nursing. A clicking sound during nursing can be a sign that the tongue or other structures are not working the proper way. Nursing babies should suck 3-4 times then swallow, this is the cadence for optimal breastfeeding. If you noticed baby is not staying true to this cadence while feeding then it can also indicate the function of the mouth may be off.
These are the most common and easiest symptoms to spot, but there can be others too.
Chiropractic care is our favorite way to help with these symptoms and resolve latching difficulties. It may be an uncommon way of treating latching difficulties, but it is highly effective and noninvasive.
When babies come in to see Dr. Elise for breastfeeding difficulties, she does a thorough exam of the head, neck, face and inside the mouth to really assess how all those areas are functioning. She looks for areas of the body (joints specifically) that are not moving well. We adjust those areas that are not moving well to help them move better then allow the body to do the rest (function properly).
So in the case of latching difficulties, the first and biggest area we see that isn't moving well is the TMJ. If the TMJ isn't moving properly then all the muscles attached to it wont be able to move well either. This is when we see lots of cheek engagement and tightness. The tongue, which is also attached to the bottom jaw bone, can be effected by the function of the TMJ too.
Inside the mouth exam looks at the position of the palate, tightness in the cheeks, tongue/lip ties, and strength of the jaw. All of these areas inside the mouth can play a big role in the mobility of the tongue and cheek muscles in latching.
When looking at the cranial bones there are a few that relate to swallowing and feeding directly. Dr. Elise assesses the sphenoid bone, which is behind the eyes and dips down into the throat. This cranial bone can affect swallowing. The occiput is another key cranial bone that Dr. Elise assesses because it articulates with the bottom of the sphenoid bone and can impact the function of nursing too. There are also the temporal and facial bones that are assessed.
The neck can also play a big role in how baby is able to nurse or eat. The articulations between the occipital condyles and the top bone in the spine (atlas) can impact how baby rotates their head and also impact swallowing/nursing. Because that area is so compact any changes can decrease functionality and motion making things harder for baby. This area can also limit baby's head rotation and there may be a preference to nurse on one side more.
Once assessed, the areas that were not moving as well as they should get adjusted to free up those joints and allow those muscles to work properly again resulting in improved nursing or eating. A comprehensive look at all the areas that impact nursing can drastically change the breast feeding experience for mom and baby.
We would love to help you continue your breastfeeding journey, so if you'd like more information on how chiropractic may help you, please reach out to Dr. Elise or visit the ICPA4kids.com website to find a pediatric chiropractor in your area.