The moments a mother shares with her child during breast feeding are unique, bonding and intimate. However, for many mothers breast feeding is a source of much stress, discomfort, worry and self-blaming.
Breastfeeding is the natural feeding preference of the newborn, however there are many things that can make it difficult or impossible for a mother to supply milk to her baby. This can often have negative effects on a mother’s self-esteem, bonding with her baby and can even contribute to symptoms of post-natal depression.
Although many mothers feel lost or disheartened if their breastfeeding is not going well, there are many ways in which Osteopaths can help to ensure breastfeeding goes as smoothly as possible. These include treatment and management of mum and baby to ensure all contributing factors to breastfeeding issues or discomfort are assessed and managed as best as possible.
- difficulty latching due to restrictions through the neck and jaw (often caused by the birth process or a traumatic birth) can create undue friction on the breast and nipple, leading to discomfort. This can also contribute to baby not getting enough milk (or getting tired during a feed) and result in irritability or sleeplessness. Your Osteopath can help to release restrictions through the jaw, face and neck to ensure baby can get a proper and pain free latch.
- lip and tongue ties are naturally occurring variations in the mouths of babies. Babies are usually born with these variations however they can also develop with teething. These ties can significantly affect baby’s ability to breastfeed. An Osteopath can assess for these oral variants and either help to relieve these with manual intervention or refer you to a trusted specialist who can help to relieve the ties with laser therapy.
- discomfort from colic, wind and reflux can affect how a baby feeds. Osteopaths assess and treat babies as young as a few days old and can help in determining the cause of these symptoms. Often times it is due to tension through the neck, ribs, lower spine or sacrum which causes improper functioning of the gut, leading to digestive disturbances. Your Osteopath can assess your baby to check for these variations to determine whether your baby’s symptoms have a musculoskeletal cause. With gentle treatment most babies find more relief and comfort with feeding and digest more easily than before.
- often mums have trouble breastfeeding due to not knowing where to hold the baby or how to get a proper latch. Your Osteopath can help assist you by showing you what a good latch looks like, where the nipple should sit in your baby’s mouth and how to hold baby in a position that is comfortable for both you and your little one.
- for baby to get a good and comfortable latch on the breast they need to be in a comfortable position. For the mother this means there needs to be full and pain free range of motion through the shoulders, neck and upper back so that both can find a comfortable sitting position. Your Osteopath can assist in releasing any restrictions or tightness through the upper shoulders and chest to ensure baby and mum find comfort during breastfeeding moments.
- mastitis (inflammation of the milk ducts) can often develop when milk ducts become blocked. This makes breastfeeding very painful for mum and not as smooth or enjoyable for baby. Your Osteopath can help to relieve the symptoms and pain of mastitis by assessing the breast, chest and upper spine mechanics. Any restrictions through these areas can contribute to mastitis. Your Osteopath can help to gently restore good and free lymph and fluid flow through the breast, helping to ease the occurrence and recurrence of mastitis.
- stress, worry and anxiety can significantly affect milk supply and ease of breastfeeding. Care of the mother is exceptionally important in providing proper care to the baby. Above all a mother must feel supported, nourished and cared for during her time with her newborn. If a mother is feeling stressed, unsupported and lonely during her breastfeeding months it is likely her supply will not be as full as it could be. Your Osteopath will be able to discuss these aspects of your home life with you as well as assist in balancing your nervous system and replenishing your energy stores with gentle, indirect treatment.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful and special time in a baby and mothers time together. There are often obstacles to overcome in achieving comfortable and smooth breastfeeding. However, with a little persistence and helpful assistance from your Osteopath, we can help you settle into a comfortable and rewarding feeding rhythm with your baby.
By Ellie Watts (Osteopath)