Osteopathy & Lactation Consultation, A combined approach for successful breastfeeding.
Lactation consultants understand the biomechanics of sucking- trained to assess feeding difficulties, correct positioning, and provide emotional support to mothers.
However when biomechanical sucking difficulties persist in infants despite advice- it may be beneficial to look at the infants musculoskeletal profile.
Osteopaths and lactation consultants have been working together for years, and research has started to emerge to support this combined approach.
A randomised controlled trial in 2017 highlights that osteopathic treatment coupled with lactation consultationsfor infants younger than 6 weeks old with biomechanical sucking difficulties, is more effective to improve latch and sucking than lactation consultations alone.
Specifically - osteopathic treatment was found to enhance the infant’s ability to open the mouth, extend the tongue, seal the lips around the areola, move the jaws rhythmically, and extend and rotate the head to grasp the breast.
Interestingly- in this study, 97.9% of infants presented with an occipital dysfunction, a consistent finding amongst osteopaths working with feeding difficulties.
The occiput forms the base of the skull and at birth, the occiput is in four parts. Positional lie in in utero, lengthy engagement, or the birth process itself places multiple forces through the infants skull. Even a vaginal birth without any intervention involves:
1. forward bending of the head and neck to get in to the pelvis,
2. rotation (to one side) to get though it, and then
3. backward bending to finally exit the birth canal.
From the above it is evident that the four parts of the occiput (and the infants entire, flexible skull) are exposed to multiple and complex forces in utero and during birth. Compression, torsion and strain are commonly observed in osteopathic practice, and thought to contribute to altered muscle function, altered joint mobility and irritation of the nerves in that area.
Osteopaths aim to address any physical imbalances that may contribute to feeding difficulties, using no more pressure than would be used whilst holding or dressing an infant.
Need more information about how osteopathic treatment may help babies and children?
If you have any questions please call us on 03 9687 3040, or make an appointment using our secure online booking tool.
Reference: Herzhaft-Le Roy, J., Xhignesse, M., and Gaboury, I. 2017. Efficacy of an Osteopathic Treatment Coupled With Lactation Consultations for Infants’ Biomechanical Sucking Difficulties: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of human lactation, 33 (1):165-172