Chiropractors can examine infants within days of their birth because their spines can shift during the birthing process. Chiropractors can check to make sure the spine is aligned to help ensure proper growth and development from their first days of life.
How soon after birth can an infant receive a chiropractic checkup?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Well, the earliest that I’ve ever worked on an infant was approximately six hours old. I had the honor of working with one of my CAs who worked for me, and we worked on her through her entire pregnancy. Then as soon as she gave birth, and it was kind of a long labor, even with the proper preparation and Webster technique, she called us, and we came up and visited her in the hospital. While I was in the hospital, because she’s heard me talk and seen me do all these things, we were just saying hello and she just smiled and she handed the baby to me and said, “Will you check my son?” My heart just melted, and it was one of the most beautiful things. I mean, the kid was six hours old.
What I want to mention here is that it’s really important to understand that adjusting infants is safer than adjusting adults because they’re born, they’re designed to be compressed to come through the birth canal, they’re mostly cartilaginous. They haven’t ossified yet, they haven’t been exposed to stress, tension, or poor postures. The only thing we’re really looking at with that infant is, if you’re lucky enough to have the baby in the head down position for four to six weeks prior to, that baby’s upside down with the neck flexed in that position for a long time and that can actually subluxate or cause a misalignment. Then when the baby is born, if the baby is lucky enough to come out head first through the birth canal, typically, sometimes the doctors will do a little pulling or twisting or turning of the neck to facilitate the baby to come out a little faster and sometimes that stress can misalign the cervical spine as well.
Sometimes you’ll see babies born with their head flopping to one side, or what they call infant torticollis, and that can be related to the birth process. That’s why it’s so important to get the first checkup as soon as possible. That’s just preemptive, just to make sure that everything’s lined up, but there can be subluxations or misalignments in the neck almost from birth and from the birth process in and of itself.
There’s no limit. I mean, I know many chiropractic doctors have attended births or gone to home births and adjusted the baby instantly, like one of the first things that happens when the baby comes out, but those are situationally present, and the moms have to be prepared and inviting for that. But most moms usually get their kids in here if we work with them through their pregnancy and usually, we see them in the first three to four weeks.
The most important thing to check is the neck in the beginning. Then when the child learns to walk, that’s usually at seven to eight months, they fall 20 or 30 times a day, that’s when it’s more important to get that part checked. When the child starts to lift up their head, usually after four to six weeks, that’s another time you want to get them checked to make sure that everything develops and grows properly and straight, because as the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Regular checkups for infants and children are extremely important.
Why should an infant be checked by a chiropractor if they were born via C-section?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: Good question, I’d like to rephrase it though. I mean, really, what we just talked about, any infant, whether it was born C-section or vaginally should be checked. A lot of people think that a C-section is a safer way to deliver a child, but actually it’s not, because what happens is when you make the incision, the incision is nowhere near as elastic as the birth canal, so then it takes a little more effort to pull the baby through that little incision and there’s no elasticity to it. It’s very important that if you’ve ever actually seen a C-section, usually, they reach in and the first thing they get is the arm, you see the shoulder and then the head comes flopping out. It can be a little bit more constraining because, again, we don’t have that elasticity, which can upset the alignment of the neck.
So, it’s really important if the baby had a difficult long birth, or a C-section, or an extraction, or a vacuum extraction, or a forceps delivery, we always want to check the neck because that’s usually what gets pulled and has a chance of getting misaligned during the birth process. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether it’s C-section or vaginal, we always want to get that kid checked as soon as possible, right after birth.
If a baby cries a lot and is thought to have colic, how could a chiropractor help?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: A lot of moms come here with infants that are very colicky, crying, not breastfeeding, all these different things. It can be so important to have a baby checked because a lot of times the first thing that a medical doctor will do is usually prescribe Prevacid or something like that if a baby is colicky. I really am not comfortable putting medications into babies, especially off-label, when they’re just weeks old. I don’t think their bodies are really able to handle that and the side effects are countless. There are natural options.
Typically, if there is misalignment or subluxation in the spine, you’re going to be irritating the nerves that actually control digestion and the processing of food. If there’s irritation to the nerves that go to the stomach and the intestines, the baby’s going to be colicky. Sometimes the gentlest adjustment can alleviate the irritation to the nerves, calm down the nerve system, and then these babies just start to digest and thrive and do everything that they need to do.
Now, I want to say that chiropractic is not a treatment for colic and it’s not a treatment for anything, it’s just a way of removing nerve interference and allowing the nerve system to function properly. Because colic isn’t normal, indigestion is not normal, but if you irritate the nerves that go to those organs, to the stomach and the intestines and the esophagus, you can see difficulty swallowing, irritation to the stomach, gastritis, colicky, gassy babies. It’s so important to get these kids checked, to try to alleviate that.
If the natural methods don’t work, yes, there’s always the medical doctor and options for treatment there, but try the natural stuff first, see if you can get that kid on the right track and ensure that their nerve system is healthy and that their body is functioning properly.
If an infant has minor gastrointestinal or digestive issues, could a chiropractor help?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: You know, Liz, we’re really asking the same question, the gastrointestinal digestive issues are kind of like the colicky baby. So same things, again, if the nerves that exit the spine that are going to the stomach are irritated, or the baby is in constant stress and we’re in what we call sympathetic overdrive, when we’re in sympathetic overdrive, our body’s cranking out cortisol and adrenaline and a lot of its energy is used just for fight-or-flight. It’s very metabolically expensive to run that immune system and when we’re in fight-or-flight, it conserves all the energy just for fight-or-flight, not really focusing on the body’s digestion and healing and those types of things. Again, the same MO. If the bones are misaligned and irritating nerves, and you can remove that nerve interference that goes to the stomach or to the intestines, then you’re going to alleviate some of the irritability to the digestive system. Generally, those kids are going to do better.
The long and short of it is, it’s almost as if we asked the same question twice, that the colicky and the gastrointestinal digestive issues all go hand in hand and a similar cause.
As infants grow, develop and get stronger, why should parents bring them to get checked by a chiropractor?
Dr. Gregg Rubinstein: You know, I think we said it earlier in this blog, as the twig is bent, so grows the tree. You want to watch the kids through every stage of growth and development, because if you have proper alignment, you’ll have even pressure on the growth plates, everything grows nice and straight. That’s really important. Then as your kids get stronger and develop, they start to get into more aggressive play. If you ever watch a kid learning to walk, how many times a day do they fall, 20, 30 times a day? Then as they get older, they start roughhousing with their brothers and their sisters, and they start playing sports, they crash their bicycles.
At every stage of growth and development with a child, it is so important to make sure that they get checked, to make sure you have proper nerve system function and proper development. I don’t care how old the kids are, you’re never too old and you’re never too young to start caring for your spine and nerve system. The things that we do that are important, we should be doing for the rest of our lives. We joke around in our office because we do a lot of maternity and pediatric and family care and we work with older adults as well, it’s from the womb to the tomb. You want to make sure, as long as you’re alive, you’re going to take care of your spine.
As a matter of fact, I always ask people when they’re like, “Oh, well, I’ve been here for six months, can I stop coming? When can I stop coming?” and I’m like, “Well, when are you going to stop seeing your dentist? When are you going to stop brushing your teeth? When are you going to stop exercising? When are you going to stop eating healthily?” These lifestyle habits that keep you healthy need to be done for a lifetime, not just when you’re in pain or not just when you’re having issues. By maintaining a healthy spine, you maintain a healthy life and that’s what’s so important. It’s not about, oh, we need to wait for this. You always want to stay ahead of it. You don’t wait till you have a cavity and then start brushing your teeth like crazy.
It is much more important to be preventive and watch the kids through every stage of growth and development. I’m working with young girls now that are playing volleyball, kids are in dance. They put these kids in aggressive ballet and gymnastics at three and four years old when the spine is not really developed and able to handle that. If you take a six year old kid on a tumbling pass, it’s going to put stresses and strain on the spine. If you take a kid and teach them ballet and teach them centering and these postures very early, the spine’s going to develop in those different postures. Very often, a ballet career, what does it run to, age 30, 35? It’s because of the stresses and strains that we put on the spine early, especially if they’re not taken care of and maintained.
You want to just stack the deck in your favor, get the spine adjusted, keep it in good alignment and keep it healthy throughout the course of a lifetime. One doesn’t wait for their engine to seize before they change the oil. You change the oil, you maintain the moving parts to make sure and maintain the lifetime and the performance of the car. The body’s no different. If there’s moving parts, it needs to be maintained. That’s what I preach and teach in my office. Chiropractic care for a lifetime and a lifetime of health.
To speak with Dr. Gregg Rubinstein, visit www.ChiropractorMidtown.com or call (212) 977-7094 to schedule an appointment.