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A Chat With An Osteopath - Breastfeeding for New Moms

Starting your new journey as a breastfeeding mom can sometimes be a struggle. We speak to Osteopaths Ashleigh and Lucy from City Osteopathy & Physiotherapy Clinic to shed some light on how Osteopathy can help new moms on their journey through breastfeeding.

1. What are some contributing factors to breastfeeding difficulties that moms and babies may face? 

Breastfeeding for new mothers and their babies is a whole new skill that needs to be learnt by both, like any new skill it can take time to find out what works best and to get used to, what will hopefully be, a wonderful part of their new relationship. Often there may be factors that can contribute to breastfeeding difficulties, unfortunately these are not talked about enough prior to the birth of a baby so can take mothers by surprise. It is most commonly thought that breastfeeding difficulties are due to issues with the mother, however, just as commonly there can be factors making breastfeeding more difficult for the baby.

In babies we often see issues such as the baby struggling to gain an efficient latch perhaps due to a high palate, a tight jaw, a tongue or lip tie, or tension in their neck or head, making feeding positions uncomfortable for the baby. Strain or tension in a baby’s body may be a result of the physical pressures of their birth, from sustained positions in the womb or they may be suffering from reflux or colic making them more tense. An inefficient latch may present with a shallow latch e.g. baby not taking in much breast tissue and falling off the breast often, they may also take in lots of air while feeding. The baby may be clamping down on the nipple causing pain for mum, only latching on one breast or more efficiently on one side, this is common with neck tension. You may also find that they cannot suck efficiently therefore, either can’t drain the breast completely or take a very long time to feed.

New mothers may struggle with issues with their milk supply, whether that be too fast, too slow, too little or blocked ducts which left untreated could lead to mastitis. They could also struggle with the shape or size of their nipples or breasts. Finding the position that works best for both mum and baby.

2. What is cranial osteopathy? 

Cranial osteopathy is a gentle, safe and effective approach to treatment for a wide range of problems in the whole body. Cranial treatment is most commonly known to be used for babies and small children, however Osteopaths can use cranial treatment for any patient.

Cranial osteopathy is the name given to a subtle and refined therapy approach that follows all the same principles of structural osteopathy, and may be used throughout the body not just in the head. The name ‘cranial osteopathy’ simply refers to the fact that it includes the structures inside and around the head. It can also be called craniosacral osteopathy or cranial sacral therapy.

Cranial osteopaths use a highly developed sense of touch to feel subtle changes of tension and tissue quality in the living anatomy of the whole body, and to diagnose areas on a deeper level than purely muscles and joints.

3. How does osteopathy help with breastfeeding?

Osteopathy can help address issues that may arise with breastfeeding by identifying and then treating the cause of tensions the baby may have that might affect their latch, comfort in feeding positions, or their efficiency of feeding. Once the cause of the issues are identified the osteopath can use techniques such as gentle cranial release, gentle joint release and soft tissue massage or stretching. The osteopath can also help advise mum and dad of things they can do at home to help, such as home massage or stretching, carrying techniques, repositioning techniques, or exercises to do with the baby to help relieve their tension. After the assessment if necessary the osteopath can also refer to additional support if needed for example to a lactation consultant, especially if these difficulties are to do with mums milk supply or demonstrating various breastfeeding techniques and hand expressing etc.

4. How do you check for tongue-tie in babies? 

One of the common causes of new mums having breastfeeding difficulties is when a baby’s tongue is tied.  This means the membrane under the tongue which connects to the floor of the mouth (the lingual frenulum) is too thick, too short or malformed in some way. Tongue tie can restrict the movement and flexibility of the baby’s tongue therefore they may struggle to properly latch and suckle.

Checking for tongue tie will involve taking a thorough case history of the baby’s symptoms, their birth and their general story so far.  If observing the baby trying to feed is possible, this can provide important clues, for example audible clicks, excessive drooling, dribbling milk, gumming and chewing at the nipples, can all be signs of a tongue tie.  An examination of the head, neck, jaw, and tongue will then follow. If tongue tie is present the tongue may have a heart shaped appearance, may be anchored down when the baby cries, have a dip in part of it or seem short, e.g. baby cannot stick it out of their mouth.

The osteopath will then examine the ability of the tongue to move around the mouth and whether the frenulum under the tongue feels thickened or too short. After feeling the movement of the head, neck and jaw, all of this vital information gives the osteopath a more comprehensive picture of what the baby is going through and be able to provide a diagnosis and treatment and management plan. Some tongue ties, due to where they are located, may be difficult to diagnose, in this case if suspected the osteopath may refer you to either a lactation consultant, paediatrician or paediatric dentist specialising in this area for further assessment. 

5. What happens during the treatment session? 

Osteopathy is a gentle, safe and enjoyable form of treatment that is particularly effective for babies as well as children through adolescence.

The birth of a baby can be one of the most stressful events of its life; this process, along with the positioning during development inside the womb, can inflict stresses and strains on a baby’s body. If these stresses are strains remain unresolved, they may result in asymmetries in the baby’s body, discomfort for both baby and mum and long term potentially affect the development of the baby.

Baby osteopaths use gentle, non-invasive, and often indirect techniques in combination with a detailed case history in the treatment of children. Paediatric Osteopaths have a highly developed sense of touch which they use this to find and treat restrictions in a child’s body.

At the first consultation, the osteopath will ask questions regarding what the parents’ concerns are, whether that be for a general check-up without any symptoms, or if they have concerns or troubles with breastfeeding, sleeping, tummy pains, movement restrictions, or flat head syndrome.  

After a thorough case history is taken of the baby’s journey both in their mother’s womb and since birth, the osteopath will begin observing the baby's behaviour, check their movements, feel the mobility of the limbs, back and neck, examine the tongue, jaw and their abdomen.  Once the practitioner has built up an in-depth picture of how the baby is, they will be able to provide information on the diagnosis, things mum and dad can do at home to help and (as long as appropriate) commence treatment involving gentle cranial and soft tissue release techniques.  A treatment or management plan is formed and follow-up recommendations are advised accordingly.

6. How would osteopathy benefit moms in their breastfeeding journey? 

Osteopathy can provide much needed reassurance and relief during a mother’s breastfeeding journey.  This could be by enabling mum to describe their whole story so far and addressing their concerns; providing treatment to improve baby’s ability to latch efficiently and feed unimpeded by neck or head tension, or struggle with the discomfort of colic or reflux.  

Mum can also benefit from treatment; pregnancy, childbirth and caring for a newborn baby all takes its toll on a mothers mental and physical wellbeing. All those hours of holding their new baby, staring down at them, getting into awkward positions to feed or comfort them and the lack of sleep can create many physical strains on the body. Common issues osteopaths see in new mums are neck, shoulder and back tension, headaches, wrist or thumb pain, tingling or numbness in arms or hands, or pelvic pain or imbalance post birth. 

Some osteopaths can also use massage and ultrasound therapy to ease blocked milk ducts or aid in cases of mastitis in addition to manual lymphatic drainage techniques. If blocked ducts is your primary reason to see an osteopath it is recommended you inform reception when you make an appointment to ensure you are booked with a specialist in this area.

7. When should you bring your baby for an osteopath assessment?

As soon as mum and dad are ready, there is no need to wait to consult an osteopath.  Practitioners can treat babies from the day they are born so there is no minimum age for baby’s first osteopathic treatment. Osteopathy was after all designed with a preventative methodology and ideally, we can help them feel as comfortable as possible and enable their own body’s health mechanisms to work as best possible for the best start in life.

The baby’s head has the ability to mould and change shape to cope with the normal forces of labour and birth. The distortions in the head that result are usually released naturally afterwards, however there are many reasons, including a difficult and stressful labour, when these strain patterns may not be able to fully self-resolve by the baby alone. If these stresses remain unresolved, the baby has to adapt to and accommodate accordingly as they grow and develop.  This may cause the baby to be physically uncomfortable and therefore unhappy, or to develop in an asymmetrical way; one of the many possible consequences being breastfeeding difficulties.

These strains can usually be treated very effectively and quickly after birth but become progressively more difficult to eliminate the longer they’re present, hence bringing your newborn in for an osteopathic consult is beneficial to do in their first few weeks of life.


About the Osteopaths: 

Lucy Moore

A British-trained Osteopath that recently moved to Singapore, Lucy specializes in aspects like Craniosacral Osteopathy and Paediatric Osteopathy.

Lucy enjoys practicing a diverse range of osteopathic methods including structural, visceral, fascial and cranial, to treat patients including those with joint aches and pains; headaches, pre and post-natal mums; and babies, according to their individual needs.

Ashleigh Mitchell

Previously based in New Zealand & Australia, Ashleigh moved to Singapore in 2016. She specializes in General Osteopathy, Paediatric Osteopathy and Craniosacral Osteopathy.

She has a particular passion in the pre and post-natal care of women, and finds the treatment of babies and children incredibly rewarding. She has experience in treating babies from as early as four days old for a variety of issues including latching or feeding difficulties, birth trauma, misshapen heads and many more.

City Osteopathy & Physiotherapy Clinic

City Osteopathy and Physiotherapy provides the very best bio-mechanical assessment, manual therapy, rehabilitation, and complimentary general healthcare.

They use a multidisciplinary approach by offering Osteopathy, Physiotherapy, Sports Therapy and other physical therapies. Find out more about City Osteopathy and Physiotherapy here:

Tel: +65 6314 4440
Address: 1 Fifth Avenue, #03-02 Guthrie House, Singapore 268802