Infant Spinal Care

Did you know that prior to 2 years of age the human brain can create 1.8 million connections every second?1

This is an incredible amount of information, but when you think about it, your baby is learning how to move their arms, or coordinate their breathing, or look at you and smile. Or pass gas. All for the first time in their lives. And that’s the incredible part of this journey, is at this stage it truly is the first time they are experiencing things. 

I have to admit, I love watching babies develop. When they first come out, they are a reflection of a very primitive part of their brain and really running on reflex – crying, breathing, even feeding are all automatisms we have hard-wired into our system to help us survive the first stages of our lives.2 It is not really until three months of age that we start seeing the brain truly wake up, and this is where the “4th Trimester” term derives; babies would be too big to be born at 12-months gestation, so our compromise is to come out a bit earlier and be a little more immature. 

So how do we develop if we come out a little undercooked? Well, the body is a clever thing. It utilises sensations from the world around us.3–5 Smell of a parent during a feed. The sight of a parent during a feed. Even the fluctuations in our pitch of voice can drive proper brain development. But do you know what one of the biggest stimulations is? 


And this is where the importance of spinal care comes in. What if there was a change in the normal motion?

Well this is something that my colleague and I looked at not so long back.6 We wanted to see if changes in motion in different parts of our spine associated with certain infant behaviours, and we were not disappointed. We found that unsettled behaviours, difficulty with sleeping, breastfeeding difficulty, and positional preferencing were common behaviours described, and different parts of the body, be it the neck or lower back or even their shoulders, correlated with these behaviours. 

But how can a baby develop a dysfunction or restriction in motion – especially in the neck? 

You have had your baby, right? There are 9 months that that bub is renovating your uterus before D-Day occurs, and even after that there are accidents, falls, bumps, knocks, sibling “affections”, overzealous horsey rides, getting stuck in things – do I need to go on? Babies are resilient, yes, but they can still experience the world around them. In fact, these experiences may not always be the most pleasant experiences. In 2014, researchers looked at MRI’s of a baby brain and compared them to an adult, and found that 19/21 areas involved in pain processing were the same.7 The areas of the brain involved in pain processing begin developing by the 24th gestational week, so they certainly have an ability to perceive discomfort.8

So allow me to use pain as a bit of an example.

I want you to imagine that you have a bit of a sore neck. In fact, its one of those episodes where if you try to look to one side, it catches you and creates a sharp, jolting pain. What if the breast you need to attach to is on the side you don’t like turning to? Would that interfere with your breastfeeding?

Or what if its just bugging you so much you don’t want to look that way, so you face the other way instead. Could this lead to a preference in position?

Or maybe its just getting to be a bit too much for you. You’re a baby – how are you going to let people know how you feel? I’ve got an idea; lets try crying for a while.

Do these sound familiar? 

Now I want to make it very clear that this is not a solution for everyone. Not all babies are unsettled because of a problem in their neck. Not all babies have breastfeeding problems because of a problem in their neck. This really highlights the importance – and I cannot stress this enough – of working with a team to help your baby. It takes a village to raise a child. Let us be a part of your village.

Within the health profession, there are Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Physiotherapists – as well as other professions I am sure – who have had additional training in infant spinal assessment, and are able to provide gentle, age-appropriate care for musculoskeletal restrictions in your child. If you are unsure or would like to discuss this more, contact our team and we will happily discuss this further with you. 






1. Eliot L. What’s Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life. Bantam Books; 2000.

2. Schott JM, Rossor MN. The grasp and other primitive reflexes. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2003;74(5):558-560. doi:10.1136/jnnp.74.5.558

3. Schore AN. All our sons: The Developmental Neurobiology and Neuroendocrinology of boys at risk. Infant Ment Health J. 2017;38(1):15-52. doi:10.1002/imhj.

4. Schore AN. Early organization of the nonlinear right brain and development of a predisposition to psychiatric disorders. Dev Psychopathol. 2002;9(04):595-631. doi:10.1017/s0954579497001363

5. Schore AN. Attachment and the regulation of the right brain. Attach Hum Dev. 2000;2(1):23-47. doi:10.1080/146167300361309

6. Fludder CJ, Keil BG. Presentation of Neonates and Infants with Spinal vs Extremity Joint Dysfunction. Chiropr J Aust. 2018;46:79-91.

7. Goksan S, Hartley C, Emery F, et al. fMRI reveals neural activity overlap between adult and infant pain. Elife. 2015;4. doi:10.7554/eLife.06356

8. Maxwell LG, Malavolta CP, Fraga M V. Assessment of pain in the neonate. Clin Perinatol. 2013;40(3):457-469. doi:10.1016/j.clp.2013.05.001


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