Osteopathic Treatment Coupled With Lactation Consultations for Infants’ Biomechanical Sucking Difficulties

Osteopathic Treatment could be combined with Lactation Consultations to manage Infants’ Biomechanical Sucking Difficulties.

Mother-baby dyad care, including skin-to-skin contact of healthy infants and mothers, is an important component of maternal-newborn care. Beginning at birth,mothers and newborns should be viewed as a unit with no disruption of the parent-infant relationship.

The World Health Organization and Health Canada recommend breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months, and they support maintaining it for 2 years or longer with appropriate complementary feeding. Few mother–infant dyads achieve these recommendations, it is within their first month of life that babies are most at risk of being weaned. Half of mothers who stop breastfeeding in the first month report biomechanical issues  (Herzhaft-Le Roy et al. 2016).

Lactation consultants around the world have extensively studied the biomechanics of sucking, from birth to weaning. Lactation Consultants are trained to assess difficulties, correct positioning, provide emotional support to the mothers, and help babies express their behavioral sequence leading to breastfeeding from birth. However, these professionals often feel helpless when biomechanical sucking difficulties persist in infants despite their advice. Osteopathy has been used and documented by some and the approach appears promising  (Herzhaft-Le Roy et al. 2016).

Few studies, however, have explored the effect of an osteopathic treatment on infants’ breastfeeding biomechanical difficulties. Some authors have described cranial dysfunctions and restrictions of skull sutures being linked to breastfeeding difficulties  (Herzhaft-Le Roy et al. 2016):

1.  An exploratory study on the effect of birthing on 1,255 newborns, found that more than 88% of infants had cranial restrictions.

2. A study cohort of more than 1,000 babies, identified different restrictions in skull sutures and their potential effect on cranial nerves involved in the sucking process.

3.  A pilot study involving six infants ages 3 to 6 weeks that measured prefeed and postfeed percentage of fat in human milk (creamatocrit), as it has been shown that fat concentration in human milk could be a marker for effective feeding. Mothers and infants were first assessed by an IBCLC, given advice, and referred to an osteopath for 4 weeks of treatment (once a week). There was a significant change in creamatocrit before and after the month of treatment. Prefeed and postfeed fat in human milk with six infants feeding normally were then compared. Creamatocrit after four treatments was improved, suggesting that osteopathic treatments are more effective than lactation consultations alone

It is important to highlight that the scientific literature on the subject of biomechanical sucking dysfunctions and osteopathy is sparse. In addition, no study to our knowledge has been conducted to assess the effect of an osteopathic treatment coupled with lactation consultation on these difficulties (Herzhaft-Le Roy et al. 2016).


The study provides a first step to better understand how osteopaths can support mother–infant dyads experiencing biomechanical sucking difficulties. Although local practices may differ, integrating osteopaths in the IBCLCs’ network could be helpful when babies experience biomechanical sucking difficulties. These findings suggest that a single osteopathic treatment coupled with lactation consultation is effective to reduce biomechanical sucking difficulties in infants younger than 6 weeks  (Herzhaft-Le Roy et al. 2016).

The study is one of the first to bring together lactation consultants and osteopaths to address infants with biomechanical sucking difficulties. Findings support the hypothesis that the addition of osteopathy to regular lactation consultations is beneficial and safe (Herzhaft-Le Roy et al. 2016).

Key Points

  • Perinatal healthcare providers are often confronted with biomechanical sucking difficulties. Osteopaths offer treatment for these difficulties with little empirical evidence.
  •  A statistically significant improvement in sucking skills (measured by the LATCH score) was found in treated newborns compared with usual care.
  •  The combination of lactation and osteopathic consultations seems to be promising.

Cam Osteopathy

Therefore it is currently not suitable to offer osteopathic treatment for infanct biomechanical difficulties. Even the Advertising Standard Authority in the UK makes it very clear that Osteopaths should not offer treatment for this sort of presenting complaint (ASA, 2016).

Reference List

Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) (2016). Osteopathy: ASA review and guidance for marketing claims for pregnant women, children and babies.

Herzhaft-Le Roy J, Xhignesse M, Gaboury I (2016). Efficacy of an Osteopathic Treatment Coupled With Lactation Consultations for Infants’ Biomechanical Sucking Difficulties. J Hum Lact. Dec 1:890334416679620.


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