Doctor of Chiropractic Ingvild Naestvold (BSc, MSc) gives us the top telltale signs that your baby may be in discomfort.

Congratulations! Your bundle of joy has arrived in the world. Cue sleepless nights and multiple nappy changes – but it is worth it? As a chiropractor with a special interest in helping babies, toddlers and children, I see firsthand the huge benefits that chiropractic treatment can have on them.

Treatment for babies is incredibly gentle. The pressure and hold is akin to you touching an eyeball. It is both soft, precise and careful. In the first year or two of an infant’s life, chiropractors do not adjust the spine. We solely focus on the non-invasive relaxation or activation of certain muscles.

The first six months, in particular 2-4 weeks after birth, is the best time to identify any common muscular-skeletal problems that can be easily rectified, ensuring your baby is in top health. Babies tend to respond quickly to treatment, and parents often report an immediate improvement. Why is that? Unfortunately for us adults, we have years of bad habits that lead us to having aches, pains and discomfort. Babies do not have a bad pattern to fix, nor do they have underlying habits to change.

So how do you know if a Chiropractor can help your baby with their muscular-skeletal complaints? There are a few indicating factors that your baby has some of these problems. These can usually be easily spotted and helped, giving them a happier quality of life and  you a slightly easier ride in the early stages of parenthood. Most babies are suitable for chiropractic treatment; however if a chiropractor finds any unusual symptoms, they will always refer you to a GP or midwife.

5 signs your baby may be in discomfort

Does your baby cry when they are placed on their back?

If your baby has tight muscles in the back, shoulders or neck, this can lead to discomfort when lying on their back – just as it would for an adult. Normally, babies should be fine when placed in this position. Another indicator that this may not be a comfortable posture for them, is if your baby regularly rolls over on to their front. Although in many respects this is indicates muscle development, which is a good thing as it could also mean your baby is trying to get out of discomfort. Tights muscles tend to lead to restrictive joints in the area, and therefore imbalances. Rolling on to their tummy may alleviate the discomfort for them, but does not fix the problem.

Do you have problems with breastfeeding?

Does your baby find it difficult to latch on to the breast? If so, this could be because of muscular restrictions in their neck or upper back. Your baby needs to extend their neck in order to feed. If movement is limited, this will be uncomfortable for them. Another indication of muscular restriction is if your baby prefers a specific breast. This shows that there are muscles on one side that are clearly not activating properly, or are too tight. If your baby looks to one side in particular, this can sometimes correlate to their breast of choice – again highlighting that moving their head or neck a certain way is uncomfortable for them.

Does your baby dislike being dressed or do they fidget a lot?

It is common for babies to dislike getting dressed/undressed, but if you find that they constantly cry during this process, it could point to muscular-skeletal discomfort. In order to change their clothes you put your baby through a range of motion, as well as placing them in a variety of postures. Do you notice that they cry when they are put in a certain position whilst changing them? Perhaps you have seen that they fidget a lot not wanting to keep still? If so, this could indicate that they may be in discomfort or pain.

Does your baby dislike tummy time?

Soon after birth, you should be scheduling daily tummy time. Your midwife will tell you when you should start and for how long. Putting your baby on their stomach is an important factor in their growth. It helps to develop their motor pattern skills, builds their ability to use certain muscles, aids them to lift up their head more and improves digestion. During time spent on their front, they strengthen the muscles in their arms and core, and it also helps to contribute towards strong shoulder and neck muscles. However if your baby has tight muscles, particularly in their shoulders or upper back, you may notice that they find tummy time uncomfortable.

Does your baby have irregular sleeping patterns?

In the first 6-8 weeks, it is normal for your baby to have irregular sleeping patterns. However, from around the two month mark, your baby should be settling into a regular sleeping pattern. If you find your baby does not get into a natural rhythm from 8 weeks onwards, it may be a sign of aches or discomfort. Just as adults find it difficult to sleep when we are in pain, the same thing can be said for your baby. Monitor you baby’s sleeping patterns. If their rhythm does not settle fairly quickly, this could be an indication of muscular-skeletal problems. Chiropractic treatment can have an almost immediate improvement to their sleeping.

What does a chiropractic assessment for babies involve?

I start off by checking a baby’s pulse, respiratory rate and temperate, to know that I have a healthy baby in front of me. If all of those are okay, I then assess a variety of reflexes and movement pattern – this varies according the age of the infant. Depending on the age of the baby, which can range anywhere from 1 week to toddler age, there are movement ‘milestones’ to factor in during an assessment, for example, crawling.

If your baby shows any of these signs of discomfort, consider having a chiropractic consultation. The role of a chiropractor is not just someone who focuses on muscles and the skeletal system. They will look at you and your baby in a holistic manner, recommending tailored lifestyle changes – such as exercise, sleep and nutrition – that can aid in the development of your child, and assist your family in leading a happier, healthier life.

The London Wellness Centre, based in Canary Wharf and London Bridge, is one of London’s top Wellness and Chiropractic clinics. They focus on preventative healthcare for the whole family, and advocate a Move Well, Eat Well, Think Well philosophy. For more information please visit The London Wellness Centre