In one of our last Journey to Motherhood articles, we talked about the fact that pediatricians aren’t the only options for a baby to get a checkup and be set on the path to health. Chiropractic care was mentioned, but people don’t normally associate baby’s first checkup with a visit to the chiropractor. Why is chiropractic care important for your baby, and how does it change as they get older?

We sat down with one of our Wellness Way doctors and asked some questions about exactly that.

Question: Why is adjustment in general important?

Answer: There is no way to stay away from the stresses of the world completely. What is important is your body’s capability to deal with those stresses. Your body works like a finely-tuned Swiss Watch. When one part of your body is subjected to physical, mental, or chemical stress, it impacts your entire body. If you stub your toe, it impacts your heartbeat and blood pressure. If you break your ankle, it impacts how you walk and which parts of your body have to compensate, adding to the pressure being put on them.

Getting adjusted and making sure your structure and nervous system are functioning properly eliminates stress and inflammation on and inside of the body. This is good, because the fewer stresses–physical, chemical, and mental–that you put on your body, the better your health is going to be overall.

Question: Why is it important to get babies looked at and adjusted by a chiropractor?

Answer: When they’re born, babies are pretty much nothing but a neurological system firing signals back and forth, and an innate immune system. They haven’t developed the processes really needed to perceive and think critically about how to interact with their environment. Everything is solely based on how the body is responding to the world around them–the reflex that’s telling the child what to do. All of Baby’s initial reflexes are based on irritation or stimulation–telling Baby to move towards Mama, to drink Mama’s milk. When those nerves and neurological communications get disrupted, the signals controlling Baby’s reflexes don’t get sent properly, stopping them from functioning properly.

Birth puts a lot of stress on both Mama’s and Baby’s bodies, and this can lead to disruptions of those signals and structural misalignment. Baby’s body then responds with their innate immune system–creating inflammation to help heal the interruption. Inflammation isn’t inherently bad–it’s a process used in the way the body heals itself. Chronic inflammation, though, along with damage, and even what we’re putting into the body can create a parasympathetic response. That parasympathetic response, when it comes to babies, is any interruption in what babies are supposed to do–eat, poop, pee, sleep, and cry.

When Baby gets adjusted, those structural and nervous misalignments bring everything back to where it should be, and let Baby’s body keep working as it should, just like when an adult gets adjusted. That realignment normalizes the digestive response, development of normal microbiome in the gut, normal stomach acidity, and normal pancreatic response. Getting Baby adjusted is also what’s going to allow the food to be to be moved through the digestive system in the way that it’s designed to. This is why adjusting after birth and continuing on through childhood is important for keeping Baby growing strong and healthy.

Question: How often should Baby be getting adjusted?

Answer: This will largely depend on Baby themselves, and the initial assessment of things like range of motion and how breastfeeding is going. These are important, because if Baby only feeds from one side, that can create an imbalance in their structure. A good suggestion is that Baby should get adjusted right after birth, two weeks later for a follow up, and then every month or so. Although, again, this will largely depend on what the chiropractor finds during that first assessment.

Question: When does that suggestion change?

Answer: As Baby grows, they’ll start moving around in ways that can lead to more physical stress, and they’ll also start getting colds or sniffles. When Baby starts rolling over and being a little bit more mobile, they’re using new muscles; they’re understanding how their body relates to their environment. Things will happen and they’ll bump into objects and move through things. These bumps and tumbles of everyday life cause stresses on their system that can cause misalignments or disruptions in the nervous system. These misalignments and disruptions are easier to adjust out in babies because they don’t know how to fight the process. Trying to avoid the brief jolt of discomfort from an adjustment is a learned process that babies don’t know yet. That’s why it’s easier to move Baby and make sure they’re healthy in the beginning than it is to address these misalignments further down the line.

You should continue to get Baby adjusted any time that you see signs of discomfort. These signs can come in a variety of forms depending on Baby. Maybe Baby is fussy or colicky. Maybe they have acid reflux, or trouble pooping, sleeping, or they even just hold their face all scrunched up. When this happens, there’s something irritating those systems. Is it something to do with the spine that needs to be adjusted? Is it food they’re eating? What is in their environment; are their exposures to some other stresses–physical, mental, or chemical? Control what you can control. An easy thing you can do is to get assessed properly to see where there may be some irritation on the nerves. If that’s not what’s going on, you’ll likely be given some other suggestions as to what it might be that you can look into.

The body doesn’t see a difference between physical, chemical, or mental stress–it just sees stress. So as your child grows and their immune system develops through coming into contact with colds and coughs, adjustments also help relieve the stress of that illness. The adjustment accordingly helps the immune system be able to fight the illness better.

Question: Do babies that are adjusted when they’re young tend to take adjustments easier when they’re older?

Answer: a lot of the times, they will. When they’re introduced to it when they’re young, a lot of the time it’ll be easier to adjust them as they get older. That doesn’t mean it’ll always be easier–kids will still be kids. Fighting the discomfort of an adjustment is normal for a child. This is when being their parent and not their friend is important.

How is adjusting a baby different from adjusting an adult?

With babies, adjusting is all about the tension in the balance you feel as they turn from one side to the other. All you need to do is nudge that area back in. It’s not a full-on, wrenching crack, as most adults think of chiropractic. Baby’s muscles aren’t so strong as to be able to resist and fight it, so it doesn’t need to be. As Baby starts crawling and picks their head up to look around them, and as they start turning and moving, those muscles start to grow and build. At that point, more controlled pressure on the adjusted area starts to be needed, because now they can kind of fight you. The pressure still won’t be as hard as it would be for an adult, however, because they’re not as strong. The chiropractor will likely have the child’s head in their hands and help guide and push and move in the way that the toddler needs to.

The time of the adjusting changes and the style of adjustment mostly change together, but they’re still independent of one another. Children and toddlers haven’t had their bones fuse. They haven’t developed like they do as the child grows and develops. There’s still a lot of cartilage and the growth plates are still open, so until the child gets to be somewhere between three or four, the style of adjustment doesn’t change much between babies and young children, except for the movement becoming a bit more intentional.

Getting your child looked at by a chiropractor after birth, as well as throughout their childhood, is important. To get your child looked at and adjusted by a practitioner, contact a Wellness Way clinic today!