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Breastfeeding Difficulties

13 April, 2020

Breastfeeding Difficulties

Approximate reading time: 4 minutes

The average newborn breastfeeds for 12 - 67 minutes, 4 - 13 times daily. In total, that’s anywhere up to 13 hours a day!

No wonder you are experiencing cracked, sore nipples. Your baby’s jaw could be feeling tight and tender just like your shoulders, neck and back.

Newborns require frequent feeds. They need lots of energy for all the incredible things they are learning. Their weight doubles in the first five months. Their brains’ develop quickly.

Breastfeeding has countless advantages for mother and child. You’ve heard it before and that makes you anxious why breastfeeding is so difficult. You aren’t alone!

In fact, only 15.4% of Aussies are able to exclusively breastfeed at 5 months. The world health organisation suggests exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age.

There can be lots of reasons for this.

Breastfeeding difficulties can present in different ways. For example:

  • Feeding only on one side
  • Feeding in only one particular position
  • Inability to latch on or stay latched on
  • Distressed baby during or after feeding 
  • Limited milk supply (rare)
  • Painful and cracked mother’s nipples
  • Postnatal anxiety & depression

Babies may have tensions which can contribute to breastfeeding difficulties. Your baby’s muscles and joints around the jaw, skull, neck and spine may get a little jammed up. They are constantly in use with their regular feeding. Just as your neck, back and arms are whilst you are feeding your gorgeous bub.

Thorough assessments of your baby’s movement patterns, such as

  • If they favour or avoid one side
  • Muscle and joint tension
  • Sucking reflexes and internal mouth examination

A scientific study found irregular movement patterns were more common in babies with breastfeeding woes. This included:

  • Jaw joint restrictions or gliding over to one side
  • Tight sucking & neck muscles
  • Restricted movement of the neck & skull

After the assessment, we will have a better idea if there's musculoskeletal tension contributing the breastfeeding difficulties. Paediatric chiropractic is beneficial for some but not all babies’ breastfeeding ability.

If chiropractic isn’t predicted to benefit your child, then your chiropractor will refer you to the best practitioner. As an assessment has already been performed, you will be referred to someone who has the specific skills and knowledge best suited to you and your child.

Chiropractors regularly work with lactation consultants / counsellors, dietitiansnaturopaths and dentists to provide specific advice and support.

If baby chiropractic is thought to be helpful, we’ll explain what’s going on and how we can manage it. Tension in young babies can be gently eased through baby-specific techniques. This does not involve any “cracking” but rather light pressure, baby massage, cranial therapy and home advice.

Appointments available in Moonee Ponds or online.

About the Author

Dr Cassie Atkinson-Quinton - Paediatric-Trained Chiropractor & Paediatric Sleep Coach

Dr Cassie is a paediatric-trained chiropractor, sleep coach and, most importantly, mumma to Master H. She loves seeing newborns grow into inquisitive toddlers and busy school kids. She assesses for neurological development (primitive reflexes), posture, sleep health and movement patterns. She's an eager learning just like the kids she sees.

"It's better to grow healthy children than fix injured adults."

Dr Anthony Lugara - Paediatric-Trained Chiropractor

As a kids-trained chiropractors, Dr Anthony has a passion for using cranial therapy, soft stretches and baby massage to assist the development of kids’ bodies and brains. He's both undertaken postgraduate paediatric chiropractic certificate and continue to attend conferences and seminars in family health.

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  • Alcantara J, Alcantara JD & Alcantara J (2015). The Chiropractic Care of Infants with Breastfeeding Difficulties. Explore (NY). 2015 Nov-Dec;11(6):468-74. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2015.08.005. Epub 2015 Aug 20.
  • Arcadi VC & Sherman Oaks CA (1993). Birth induced TMJ dysfunction: the most common cause of breastfeeding. Proceedings of the National Conference on Chiropractic and Pediatrics. Oct, 1993 Palm Springs, CA. Pub. International Chiropractors Assoc., Arlington, VA.
  • Author Unknown (2019). Breastfeeding: The Australian Government is committed to protecting, promoting, supporting and monitoring breastfeeding throughout Australia. Page last updated: 02 August 2019. Accessed via on April 8 2020
  • Hawk C, Minkalis A, Vallone S et al. (2018). Manual Interventions for Musculoskeletal Factors in Infants With Suboptimal Breastfeeding: A Scoping Review. J Evid Based Integr Med. 2018; 23. doi: 10.1177/2515690X18816971
  • Hewitt, EG (1999). Chiropractic care for infants with dysfunctional nursing: a case series. Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1999.
  • Holleman AC Nee J & Knaap SFC (2011). Chiropractic management of breast-feeding difficulties: a case report. J Chiropr Med. 2011 Sep; 10(3): 199–203. Doi: 10.1016/j.jcm.2011.01.010
  • Holtrop DP (2000). Resolution of suckling intolerance in 6 month old chiropractic patient. Journal Manipulative Physiol Therapy 2000 Nov-Dec;23 ( 9):615-618
  • Kent JC, Hepworth AR, Sherriff JL, Cox DB, Mitoulas LR, Hartmann PE (2013). Longitudinal changes in breastfeeding patterns from 1 to 6 months of lactation. Breastfeed Med. 2013. 8, 401-7
  • Kent JC, Mitoulas LR, Cregan MD, Ramsay DT, Doherty DA, Hartmann PE (2006). Volume and frequency of breastfeedings and fat content of breast milk throughout the day. Pediatrics. 2006. 117, 387-95
  • Krauss, L (1994). Case study: infant's inability to breast-feed. Chiropractic Pediatrics Vol 1 No. 3 Dec. 1994.
  • Sheader, WE (1999). Chiropractic management of an infant experiencing breastfeeding difficulties and colic: a case study. Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics, Vol. 4, No. 1, 1999.
  • Vallone S (2004). Chiropractic Evaluation and Treatment of Musculoskeletal Dysfunction in Infants Demonstrating Difficulty Breastfeeding. Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics, 2004; 6(1):349-61.
  • Vallone S (2016). Evaluation and treatment of breastfeeding difficulties associated with cervicocranial dysfunction: a chiropractic perspective. Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics. Vol. 15, No. 3, Dec 2016
  • World Health Organization; UNICEF Tracking Progress for Breastfeeding Policies and Programmes: Global Breastfeeding Scorecard 2017. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization; 2017