Reasons Breastfeeding can be Tricky

Reasons Breastfeeding can be Tricky

breastfeedingI was sitting breastfeeding Arlo this morning (yes, this seems to be the activity that fills most of my waking moments at present) and I was contemplating just how confident he is with this ritual. As I watched him guzzle away like a “pro,” I remembered how breastfeeding wasn’t quite so easy for Quin, our third boy.

When breastfeeding Quin made this funny clicking noise with his tongue. Unfortunately this also meant that at times, he “attached” poorly. Not every feed but reguarly enough, Quin would come on and off the boobie with the end result being I suffered with either cracked or sore nipples.

It should have appeared strange to me that a baby of two chiropractors would have challenges breastfeeding, but when I think back to this time, Simon and I were no doubt in a “post-birth fog” for a few months and we didn’t even quite realize what was going on.

It took us probably about 6 or 8 weeks (okay maybe longer) to realize that in addition to Quin’s adjustments, we needed to perform on him some in-depth cranial work . Once we had introduced these techniques to balance his jaw function with his cranials (the bones of his skull) Quin fed with greater ease and comfort.

The happy ending to this story being Quin no longer chomped on my nipple which meant that I was no longer sore and I could enjoy breastfeeding again as I had done with our other boys. Put plainly and simply – happy boobies allowed for a happy mummy and therefore a happy baby.

As I sat with these thoughts I remembered an article I’d read discussing the benefits of Chiropractic care for mother-baby duo’s having difficulty breastfeeding.

The article discusses how the ability to suckle in a newly delivered full term infant may be impaired due to mild or severe neurological or musculoskeletal problems. I have summarised these below.

There may exist any of the following bio-mechanical or muscular problems:

1. decreased excursion or movement of the jaw (mandible) preventing the infant from opening widely enough to encompass the nipple and areola

2. a decrease in the  range of motion of the neck (cervical spine), which controls their ability to position themselves comfortably in their mothers arms or at the breast.

3. a neurological deficit manifesting as a lack of suckling or routing reflexes.

4. ineffective latching-on due to altered lip or tongue action.

5. impaired respiration

6. a rapid milk ejection or over abundant milk supply might result in compensatory muscle action (clenching etc) to modulate milk flow.

These physical and neurological challenges may result from several possible scenarios relating to the pregnancy or birth which may include:

1. injury (as a result of traction/manipulation/intervention either manually or with forceps or vacuum suction).

2. premature placental separation/cord entanglement etc

3. congenital deformities like a high palatal arch, cleft palate, anatomically short tongue

4. a genetic development disorder like Pierre Robin or Down Syndrome

5. pharmacological suppression by drugs administered to the mother during childbirth

6. invasive procedures to clear meconium, or insertion of an airway which could result in oral aversion

7 . a foetus may also create a neurological in-print in the uterus by sucking his or her own thumb, fist, arm or leg thus creating nipple confusion.

8. any of a number of delays in putting the baby to breast immediately after delivery (unresponsiveness of a mother who has been anaesthetized, procedural delays, i.e. stitching an episiotomy, medical interventions for the infant) or the introduction of plastic nipples or formula supplementation due to necessary mismanagement may interfere with the nursing couple getting off to a good start.

A literature review of case studies revealed that Chiropractic management demonstrated an improvement or resolution of the majority of complaints when other intervention methods had failed to resolve breastfeeding difficulties.

An overview of the cases revealed that the infants could not open their mouths wide enough to encompass the breast tissue, could not close their mouth to form the appropriate suction or use their tongue effectively to milk the nipple for nourishment.

In a majority of cases there was

  • an imbalance in tone of musculature of the jaw and neck
  • and/or dysfunctional motion of the jaw
  • and/or Cervical vertebrae, most frequently at the occipitoatlantal complex, or the bones of the skull.


Greater than 80% of the presented infants experienced improvement in attachment and ability to breastfeed (23:25).


Subluxations of the neck and skull are one of the most important conditions to rule out when addressing difficulties with breastfeeding.

Chiropractic adjustments in the early stages of neurological imprinting safely and effectively address dysfunction and help restore natural, efficient suckling patterns for infants.

If you know a mother-baby duo struggling with breastfeeding chat to them about chiropractic today. One conversation could mean this duo persist with breastfeeding or give it up entirely. Without a doubt  breastfeeding is the best start in life for any newborn.



Vallone, S (2004). Chiropractic evaluation and treatment of musculoskeletal dysfunction in infants demonstrating difficulty breastfeeding. J Clin Chiropr Pediatr. 6. 349-368.


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