Dr. Natalie Bernicky
People often ask me “why would a baby need a chiropractor?” An infant is only able to communicate by crying, so it is up to the parents to interpret and respond compassionately to their distress. The most common reasons parents’ bring their baby or young child in for care are difficulty with breastfeeding, difficulty with bowel movements, and sleep issues, followed by colic and reflux. These are very different complaints, so let’s examine how chiropractic can help.
From birth to age 2 children undergo massive neurological and physical development, which we track with excitement and pride every time a new milestone is reached. This rapid growth lays the foundation for development throughout their lifetime, and for that reason it’s important to check their nervous system. The nervous system refers to the brain and spinal cord, and it is the master controller and regulator of all of your bodies’ functions. Your nervous system controls things like your heartbeat, muscle control, stomach acids, blood pressure, mood and immune function.
According to research by Dr. Michael Odent, babies need three things to develop: love, stress and microbes. Infants need our loving attention to survive, and thrive by forming their sense of self worth. When infants are challenged, they cry to express that they need our help. Or in the case of my toddler, when she feels heartsick her behavior reflects that she is challenged with too many feelings for her to handle alone, and she needs loving assistance to calm herself. Ideally we provide our nervous system with equal challenge and support, so that it can work optimally. Let’s examine stress and microbes, and their impact on the nervous system.
Every living person experiences stress, and that’s important. Small amounts of stress are healthy, and challenge us to adapt. Stress is the reason that we exercise—we want to push our body to develop healthy patterns of moving, thinking and being. We know that muscular stress develops muscular strength, and immune stress builds immune strength. One of the ways we can support a healthy immune system is by spending time outdoors, exposed to different microbes. This exposure challenges us to adapt. If we don’t challenge our system, it becomes weakened. When your child develops a fever, that’s a positive stress, it means their body is fighting off illness with their inborn intelligence. Part of our natural ability to adapt to stress is building up our microbiome.
Babies are hardwired to build their microbiome, or digestive flora- everything ends up in their mouth-and that’s a good thing. Recent research has indicated that our microbiome is closely tied to our immune system, and we need to let our immune system fight germs in order for it to be strengthened. Without this natural stress, our immune system is weakened. As Peggy O’Mara says, “Many people mistakenly believe that germs cause colds and other infectious illnesses. The state of our immune system, however, is what really determines whether or not we get sick. The specific bacteria or virus is not nearly as important as the medium in which it is allowed to flourish.” Since our immune system is controlled by our nervous system, a healthy, adaptive nervous system is the foundation to a healthy immune response.
When babies struggle with breastfeeding, digestion, and sleep, there are specific areas in the nervous system we look to where the infant may be experiencing challenge, and needs our help to restore proper function. With the pediatric population, a chiropractor’s touch is very gentle. We use the amount of pressure you would use to determine whether a tomato was ripe to assess and correct nervous system interference. We also evaluate muscle balance, infant posture, and enquire about the birth process.
Working with infants and children is incredibly rewarding, as they don’t have years of stress stored in their nervous system like an adult, they often respond quickly to care. When we remove the interference, the body is capable of self-healing.
Dr. Natalie Bernicky practices at Smiths Falls Family Chiropractic and Wellness, with an interest in pregnancy and pediatric Chiropractic care. She lives in Merrickville with her family of three.
First published in the March issue of Hometown News.