Infant Chiropractic Case Study: Head Position & Nursing Support

HLB-Tx1Let’s call him Zach. Zach was born about 2 weeks ago. His Mom (let’s call her Elena) was under my care during her entire pregnancy. I think she came in the day she heard that she was pregnant. She was very excited, as excited as Elena gets, as she is quite a quiet person. This was her second pregnancy. Her first had gone very well and she gave birth at home to a girl, in a water bath, with the midwives from Malachite. We began Webster care immediately. The pregnancy went smoothly, unremarkable really, except for about a 6-week period in the middle where she experienced quite severe hip pain. Elena was totally faithful to the Webster chiropractic protocol, coming for check-ups and minor pelvic corrects every single week during her last trimester.

Elena went into labour on her due date, remarkable as that is. Her labour progressed much faster than her first delivery, as it most often the case. Within 6 hours, she was ready to push.

Zach was in a hurry. In 6 pushes his head was crowning, but then came the slow-up. Perhaps because he came so quickly and didn’t have time to dance his way down, his shoulders hadn’t fully turned for best angle into the pelvic outlet. His left shoulder became stuck behind the pelvic rim. The midwife, doing her important job, had to use her hands to guide the shoulder into the birth canal.

Zach passed all post-birth exams with flying colours. He pinked up, nursed well, and had no obvious ill affects from his birth. However, a few days later, it was noticed that his head was tilted and his face turned predominantly one way. When in his car seat, he always resumed this constant posture (shown in the photo above). It was very obvious. At a glance, this may not seem odd if you are thinking that kids can sit as they will and maybe his is “looking at something”.

HLB-Tx2First of all, babies this age can’t see very far. They have only one focal distance, that being about the distance of their face to that of their Mom’s when in the nursing position, so they don’t gaze around their world when only 2 or 3 days old. So that wouldn’t account for this posture in the car seat. This was more of a persistent pattern that one-time happenstance.

Additionally, Mom reported that he didn’t seem to nurse as well on her left breast. Another clue. Her left breast was, indeed, “lumpy feeling” to use her words. My interpretation of this would be that is was harder for Zach to nurse on this side; he was trying his level best and was a very keen feeder, but chances are that he was not as strong in his latch and suck and he was not draining Mom’s left breast. In a matter of time, this could easily lead to a case of mastitis for Mom or milk production issues down the line.

Other than that, Zach was doing very well. He was eating, drinking, peeing, and pooing, which is about all any baby does at a few days of age.

I set to the task to determine the subtle yet powerful causes to his head tilt, face rotation, and poor left side nursing. At AltaVie, we check out the entire spine and pelvis of babies such as these all the time. We are looking for areas where the spine is not free, fluid and loose, areas of congestion where there can be minor (yet very significant) nerve irritation; we like to use the words “facilitated” and “inhibited” to describe the nervous system information in these areas. Too much or too little energy or flow is going through these areas.

Treatment #1 went well with baby Zach sleeping through most of it. I worked on his skull and on the inside of his mouth and we worked very gently on the place where the skull sits on the upper neck, behind the ears. He left sitting, not perfectly, but much straighter.

HLB-Tx3-PalateTreatment #2 just 3 days later, he was still very cranked, face to left. He was latching better, so the mouth work helped, but I had not yet found all the source of the head position. We (the three chiropractors of the office) had been away to San Francisco for an instructional seminar, so I had some new information and techniques to work with. Applying this new approach, I managed to balance the rhythm between the bottom and top of his spine; it is kind of like a very soft and shallow breath in and out. Then I worked on the skull itself and the junction between the skull and the top vertebrae. Again Baby Zach slept through his treatment.

Treatment #3 See the photo of him arriving on the day of treatment #3 (in blue jump suit). See how balanced he looks now. His nursing was going well and he no longer had a head tilt or face rotation. To my scrutiny, though, he still has a slightly smaller eye on the right.   This is something parents may not even notice, but as pediatric chiropractors, we do notice these small differences and details and they do matter. It comes with looking at a lot of baby faces!

Treatment #4 he arrives in the black shirt and socks in his car seat. Now that IS a thing of beauty! Do you see the symmetry? See his little hands on his little knees and his tiny feet touching at the heels. This is symmetry! I gently worked on him attempting to make his balance and skull as perfect as possible and told the mom to go home and just feed and enjoy her baby.

In these early weeks and months, a little care and some time can go a long way, as changes are happening so rapidly. However, the reverse is also true, if the care does not happen, growth and changes still occur rapidly, making total correction much more difficult the more time that goes by. It is such a rewarding stage of life to work with. Removing tiny barriers to thriving and letting the little babe do the rest of the work.

HLB-Tx4Key Takeaways from this Blog Post Case Study:

  • Symmetry is key in your baby. He should sit balanced, should be able to move his head equally left and right, and should not have any rigid postures. She can flop to one side, but if you move her head another way it should easily rest in a new position too.
  • Early intervention makes the results faster and easier to obtain, resulting in overall less care, less cost, and fewer appointments. Meaning fewer trips out for a new mom.
  • Take your baby to a chiropractor trained in pediatrics. This is very fine and detailed work and requires a very soft touch and special knowledge base. You can check the website for a list of trained doctors in your area.


*Note: I have mom’s expressed and written permission to share this story and these photos. Feel free to share this blog post, but please do not replicate or “borrow” these photos without consent.

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