• Dr Michael Tebbe

My baby doesn't sleep well can Chiropractic help?

Updated: Nov 18, 2018

Over my 11 years as a Chiropractor working with babies and children a frequent report I hear from parents is “They are sleeping so much better”.  That is great to hear because when our babies aren't sleeping well it is a nightmare.  I as a parent myself of an 11 month old have gone through a few months of frequent waking up at night.  It is rough.  I believe there were thoughts of moving the crib outside of the home among other ideas.  I know there are tons of articles about tips and strategies to help your baby better at night.  This article will look what other options there are when those strategies haven’t worked.  We will also talk about what signs to look out for that could indicate a need for Chiropractic to help your baby sleep better.  


Sleep and Stress


Sleep is a very interesting process that we still don’t completely understand.  Think about it. Do you actually make a conscious decision to fall asleep or, do you lie there and it gradually just happens?  Our brain without us thinking to ourselves "sleep" does what it does and we fall asleep.  


We can interfere with the normal sleeping process.  We have all experienced our mind being busy and that makes it hard for us to fall asleep.  Of course there can be a variety of reasons our mind is busy but let’s put it under the general umbrella of stress.


Returning to babies lets assume they are drinking enough milk/formula, they are pooping well and doing there other activities normally  then they should sleep.  Let us also assume that you have tried the other strategies other articles talk about but no luck.  Then the thing to consider is something is stressing the baby and making them stressed.  


My baby is x months old how can they be stressed?


That is a great question.  There are many sources of stress but I will focus on one that is rarely discussed.   This stress is from areas in a baby's spine or cranium that are not moving properly.  In a previous article https://www.brightstartchiropractic.com/blog/why-does-my-baby-need-a-baby-chiropractor I discuss in detail how this can happen.  The negative effects this lack of movement has on your baby’s brain are many.  First and foremost it pushes a baby’s brain to be more alert, more easily startled, feeling more insecure only to name a few. Chemically there are more circulating stress hormones.  As well the fight/flight part of their nervous system is more active.  As you know yourself the more anxious you feel the harder it is to sleep.  


Signs your baby has something not moving causing their sleep disturbance


Here is a list to look out for that may indicate your baby has an area not moving well


  • Your baby sleeps less than 2 hours between feedings

  • Your baby has a preferred sleeping position

  • Your baby cries if you change their preferred sleeping position

  • Your baby will only sleep held upright or semi reclined in your arms

  • Your baby cries if you try to put them on their back

  • Your baby is generally fussy

  • Your baby prefers eating from one breast over the other

  • Your baby keeps their head tilted a majority of the time


These are all signs that indicate something is not moving properly most commonly in the upper neck area.  This can happen because of pressures/stresses that this area goes under during labor and the birth process.  


This study discusses this issue in particular detail


Kinematic imbalances due to suboccipital strain in newborns. Biedermann H. J. Manual Medicine 1992, 6:151-156.

More than 600 babies (to date) have been treated for suboccipital strain. One hundred thirty-five infants who were available for follow-up were reviewed in this case series report. The suboccipital strain’s main symptoms include torticollis, fever of unknown origin, loss of appetite and other symptoms of Central Nervous System disorders such as swelling of one side of the face, asymmetric development of the skull and hips, crying when the mother tried to change the child’s position, and extreme sensitivity of the neck to palpation/touch.

Most patients in the series required one to three adjustments before returning to normal. “Removal of suboccipital strain is the fastest and most effective way to treat the symptoms...one session is sufficient in most cases. Manipulation of the occipito-cervical region leads to the disappearance of problems....


Chiropractic and Better Sleep


First don’t be alarmed when you see the word “manipulation” from the summary of the study above.  When working with babies baby Chiropractors typically use the same amount of pressure you would use to check a tomato to see if it is ripe.  This gentle pressure helps a baby’s body correct the areas of improper movement.  This helps restore normal proprioception to the baby’s brain.  The huge benefit of proprioception is it calms down the brain and nervous system.  This is what allows the baby to sleep well again.  

Second a baby can't tell us if they have pain.  The signs listed above can help point out to us when there is a problem that a baby Chiropractor could help.


Other possible sleep aids


This is next tip is not from my direct experience but heard from a colleague of mine.  A woman under his care was having huge troubles getting her baby to sleep.  Based on work by Adelle Davis he suggested to her the issue may be one of a deficiency in B vitamins.  He suggested to her to take brewers yeast to boost her vitamin B levels and that within 2 days it would be in the breastmilk passing on to the baby.  She was highly skeptical but tried it anyway.  Within two days the baby was sleeping great.  

Another mineral that can affect sleep is magnesium.  Mom can take it orally or use magnesium oil on her skin.  Magnesium deficiency is common and will affect sleep.


Better sleep


If you see these sign/symptoms which I will repeat here


  • Your baby sleeps less than 2 hours between feedings

  • Your baby has a preferred sleeping position

  • Your baby cries if you change their preferred sleeping position

  • Your baby will only sleep held upright or semi reclined in your arms

  • Your baby cries if you try to put them on their back

  • Your baby is generally fussy

  • Your baby prefers eating from one breast over the other

  • Your baby keeps their head tilted to one side a majority of the time


Consider looking into safe and gentle baby Chiropractic for your child.  Your friends or family can be great referral sources.  Another website that may help you find someone in your area is http://icpa4kids.org/Find-a-Chiropractor/ This can make the difference between you the parent sleeping and not sleeping.  

(424) 259-1432

10801 National Blvd #340, Los Angeles, CA 90064, USA

©2018 by Michael Tebbe, DC Bright Start Chiropractic. Proudly created with Wix.com