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The Head's Importance During Nursing

One of the main reasons infants come to see Dr. Elise is for breastfeeding difficulties, which usually includes looking at the latch. The latch is the first place providers look to help with breastfeeding difficulties because it is relatively easy to see visually and more straight forward to correct. However, everything under the surface is what impacts the latch. All the bone's, muscle's, and ligament's combined impacts how well the baby's latch is. This blog is all about the underlying structures and how they impact breastfeeding, along with how we can work on them to improve a baby's latch without directly looking at the latch. Let's dive into the head's importance during nursing.

Now you may be wondering what exactly Dr. Elise is looking at if it's not the latch? During an assessment with Dr. Elise, she looks at the cranial bones, which include the parietal bones, temporal bones, frontal bones, occiput, and sphenoid. Then she assesses the facial bones, followed by the cervical spine, and lastly finishes with looking at the mouth, both inside and out. Let's dive into each of these areas more to help you understand how each area impacts nursing.

Cranial bones are designed to be moldable for birth. They are designed to come together and slightly over lap to make the head a smaller circumference to fit better through the birth canal. Once baby is born, the cranial bones are designed to expand back to their naturally set positions to protect baby's brain. Sometimes during birth this doesn't happen in perfect harmony and the cranial bones can shift slightly putting more tension on the baby's nervous system. This can also shift the way the attached muscles are able to move and function because they are now being pulled or stressed in a slightly different way. Almost all the muscles in the head, face and neck are being used during nursing, so when the cranial bones (the bones that make up the biggest part of the head) are not allowing the muscles that attach to them function properly it makes nursing more difficult for baby.

The facial bones, just like the cranial bones, can also be stuck or not moving well, which causes the muscles that attach to them have to move or function in a different way and makes it harder for baby to nurse.

The cervical spine is really the bread and butter of a pediatric chiropractor. This is their number one priority because it directly effects the spinal cord, and everything below it, at the very first portion of it descending from the brain. All the nerves that go to the head and face come out through the upper cervical vertebrae and then go to the head and face, so if that area is not moving well you can bet the head and face are not getting their information very well either. That area is also such a small space for so much important information that if the upper cervical area is not moving well it most certainly will impact the movement of the mouth and swallowing, make nursing more difficult.

Lastly, assessing the movement of the jaw (TMJ) can make a huge impact on how baby is able to fully open to get a good latch or not. One side of the TMJ joint may be stuck and may limit baby from fully opening their mouth. Dr. Elise also assesses the strength of their jaw to make sure their muscles are even and not too tight. The cheek muscles get assessed, along with their palate, and even the tongue and lips. Each of those plays a role in allowing a baby's ability to nurse properly.

Better latch for baby nursing

I hope it has become clear why looking at the entire head and having a pediatric chiropractor is essential to helping your breastfeeding journey. There are so many factors to consider and the entire body is connected that any one of these can make a dramatic impact on the efficiency of baby's latch. We hope this gives you a better understanding of the importance of pediatric chiropractic and getting your baby checked by a knowledgeable pediatric chiropractor right after birth. We love to say that the best time to start chiropractic care is at birth and the second best time is now! Don't wait, reach out to us to see how we can help your family!


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