Monday, October 22, 2012

Chiropractic Care for Infants

Today, after our third trip to the chiropractor for J, I posted on Facebook:
"We are now two for two on fussy babies turned normal/easy with gentle chiropractic care. Highly recommend!"
A friend asked me to elaborate, and I've got way too much to say to respond in a facebook comment, so it ends up here! I hope my experiences will help my friend, and any others who are struggling with fussy babies. I had no experience with chiropractic care before I tried it with L, and I would have like to have read all about someone's experience, so I'm going to go into great detail. Feel free to skim!

When L was born, he was "sunny side up" (occiput posterior), and at some point during pushing - or maybe slowly throughout... the details are fuzzy! - the doctor manually rotated L's head, so that he was facing the right direction (occiput anterior).

L woke up from the sleepy newborn phase at 3 weeks, and he was none too happy about it. Apart from times when he was nursing, he was rarely awake and content, and he had a terrible time getting to sleep. I would rock him for hours and sing the same three songs on repeat, because I was too sleep-deprived to remember the words to any other songs. He cried hysterically and often, but usually I was able to soothe him within ten or twenty minutes, only to have him start up crying again, either spontaneously or when I changed his position, a few minutes later. Because he wasn't crying nonstop for several hours, the pediatrician told me it sounded like a mild case of colic. In hindsight, I should have paid closer attention to the triggers of the crying, but I was too exhausted to put it all together.

Colic is supposed to get better by three months, so I anxiously awaited that day. The crying, however, continued, and I began looking for a solution. When Lincoln was almost four months old, I came across a study that concluded that 95% of colicky babies who are not helped by other means (gripe water, gas drops, etc.) are helped by chiropractic care. The average length of crying per day was 6 hours before the treatments and 3 hours after. (I must have read a detailed summary of the study somewhere, but the abstract can be found here.)

That was enough for me. I decided it was worth a shot. I got a recommendation from a friend and made an appointment with Dr. Mears of Edmond, OK. Dr. Mears was as gentle as could be. He had me lay down on my back on the table, with L face down on my chest, and then he adjusted L with his pinky fingers. L slept through the whole thing, and he didn't sleep through anything, so I knew it must not be hurting him. It was so gentle I thought it was probably not going to be effective. Dr. Mears said that the vertebrae in his neck felt out of place, which confirmed my suspicions of a birth injury.

After the first appointment, L got even fussier - which I had not imagined possible! However, I'd heard that it could get worse before it got better, so I was willing to give it another try. We went back a few days later, and after that second appointment, he was like a different baby. So much more content! We continued adjustments once or twice weekly for a couple of weeks, but before long, I knew he felt so much better that I didn't feel like we needed to continue adjustments.

J's birth was nothing like L's so I didn't expect that he'd need chiropractic adjustments. He rotated himself into the right position, so I wasn't worried about his neck. He was an easy-going baby. He slept for long stretches in his crib, able to soothe himself when he roused. Then all of a sudden around 5 weeks, he changed. He only wanted to sleep on me. I could lay him down, but after about 5 minutes, he'd wake up, crying inconsolably. I tried everything - white noise, swaddling, the swing, the bouncer, the car, the car seat on the dryer, silence, commotion, one of my shirts in his crib, etc. Nothing helped. This was especially hard on L. In addition to the stress of having to hold J every minute of the day, I had to keep up with L, who was feeling so neglected that he was determined to make me blow up. After several days of me bursting into tears as M walked through the door, M suggested the chiropractor. M said he'd noticed a couple of times that J was fussing and then began to cry harder (as if in pain) when M picked him up. I hadn't noticed this, but the mere mention of it was enough for me to call and make an appointment.

I used Broadneck Chiropractic for myself when I was pregnant, and knew that they specialize in pregnant women and infants, so I felt very comfortable taking J to them. Their method of care is a little bit different, which I expected. Having seen a couple of different chiropractors for myself, I've learned that each one has a completely different way of assessing the body and implementing treatment. Dr. Carrie uses a thermal scan to figure out what is going on in the spine, because small changes in temperature can indicate a problem. They rolled the scanner up J's back, and it showed a thermal spike in his neck. She held him over her lap, and used an activator on its gentlest setting along his spine. Then she used her fingers to gently massage certain places on his neck and head. She showed me some simple massage techniques to use a couple of times a day to relieve the pressure on his spine.

J's first appointment was on a Friday. He was his normal fussy self all that day, and on Saturday, also pretty fussy. I didn't notice that it was worse, like I had with L, just the usual. Then on Sunday, J slept almost the entire day (and night). He had a few periods of alert time, but he was content. There was still crying, but it was explainable crying - hungry, tired, diaper change, burp. That stuff is much easier to deal with - it's the unexplained crying that we want to reduce. Monday and Tuesday, J was awake more and similarly content. He had long periods of time where he was happy to lie on a blanket and wiggle around while we were nearby - something he would not have done the previous week. After two more adjustments, he is still doing great. Lots of happy awake time. On the sleep front, he sleeps in his crib again, and I don't have to use any tricks to make it happen. He is also able to settle himself when he rouses, just like he did before. I feel like the treatment has been very effective. I'm not going to take him back until I see he needs it again.

It's clear to me that something happened that hurt him (maybe a big brother?), and he was in pain. He was crying and needy because he was uncomfortable, not because he was working the system or because I was doing anything wrong. And as soon as this gentle treatment made him feel more comfortable in his new little body, he didn't need me nearly as much, which is good for the whole family!

If you are considering chiropractic care for your baby, Yay! I hope it works as well for your baby as it has for mine! A word of warning though: Not all chiropractors are gentle! I learned that one the hard way. When L was a baby, I once took him to a chiropractor who was closer to our home to avoid the long drive to Dr. Mears. I was HORRIFIED as I watched the chiropractor yank my 4-month-old's head from side to side. I scooped him up off the table and walked out the door, never to return. In fact, I took him to Dr. Mears the next day to make sure the other guy hadn't done any damage.

So before you make an appointment, ask to speak with the chiropractor, and ask this question:

What is your approach to treating infants?

Words you want to hear: 
activator on lowest setting 
...and probably other things I don't know about

The point is to talk with them so that you're comfortable with the care your child will receive. You can even ask that the chiropractor demonstrate their techniques on your arm, so you can feel and be comfortable with the amount of pressure that they'll be using. Be smarter than I was - I got lucky with our first chiropractor, but because I was too timid to ask, I didn't know beforehand that he was going to be great.

Have I answered all your questions? Feel free to ask more, and I'll answer in the comments, and/or edit the post to reflect your suggestions.


Sarah said...

Now I'm thinking back, wondering if that would have helped Benjamin, who was also "mildly colic," or just inconsolable and clingy. I would have never thought about chiropractic care at the time, but I'll keep that tucked away for the future!
I love the FHE exchange with L. I'm glad J is back to being a happy baby and L is back to being himself again. It sounds like you're over the worst of the adjustment! No pun intended. ;)

Gwen Knight said...

I actually didn't know that infants can get chiropractic care! I thought that adults are the only ones who are allowed to take this procedure. Your blog post really gave me an insight about this. Thank you very much! I'm sure that a lot of people are now informed about this and they would seek chiropractic care earlier for their kids and for themselves as well.

Willow Laflamme said...

It is advisable to take your baby for chiropractic spinal checkup after the delivery to ensure he/she has a healthy nervous system and is highly capable of fighting off diseases. Usually, newborns have an unhealthy spine. This is because, sometimes, the birth process is traumatic for them. This is why chiropractic adjustment is highly recommended to ensure the baby’s good health condition. #Willow Laflamme

Victor Barnes said...

I know it may sound odd for some that there is a chiropractic treatment for pregnant women and infants, as the sessions would usually involve a somewhat painful manipulation of spine. But just like any other treatment, Chiropractic is completely safe, given that you’re consulting with certified professionals who are trained for this body work. I’m glad you’ve found one, and your chiropractic sessions worked for both of you and your baby.

Victor Barnes @ Spine Boy

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