Chiropractic Care for Baby & Toddler Sleep Problems

in New York City

As a chiropractor who treats babies and toddlers, I often share with parents’ insights on how to improve their child’s quality of sleep.   After all, good sleep helps to develop alertness and memory in addition to strengthening the immune system.  Additionally, research has shown pediatric sleep disorders contribute to attention deficit, hyperactivity, mood disturbances and memory problems. Ensuring your newborn or toddler develops a healthy sleep routine is important and safe and gentle chiropractic care may help.


Why is sleep important for babies and toddlers?

Sleeping difficulties are common with babies and toddlers and can become disruptive to the entire family as someone has to get up and help a child fall back to sleep.  Research has shown the importance of sleep with young children in developing memory function and learning.  In fact, there is proven science documenting strong links between sleep quality and quantity with daytime cognitive and behavioral performance of children.  One such study showed persistent reduction of only 1 hour of a child’s sleep at age 40 months can adversely impact a child’s academic performance by age 6.  This adds to the evidence showing the importance of babies and toddlers having healthy sleeping patterns today, for the betterment of their behavior and academic performance tomorrow (years later).  Plus, children who sleep better are less prone to sleepwalking, nightmares, and moodiness. 


Common reasons why babies and toddlers are not sleeping welling:

  • Night sweats
  • Restless sleep
  • Poor appetite in mornings
  • Sleepy during the day
  • Poor attention span
  • Moody / aggressive
  • Crying spells
  • Nightmares
  • Sleep walking
  • Unable to sit still
  • Stomach complaints / colic
  • Achy legs


How much sleep should babies and toddler get?

Newborns have sizable sleep requirements; upwards of 16 hours in a 24-hour period, evenly divided between night and day sleeps. Initially the sleep cycle of a newborn is dependent on feeding, with waking during the night every 2-3 hours for feeding (with the occasional 5-hour cycle), and sleep cycles during the day being divided into 4 equal naps generally of 2 hours each. 

By 6 months, a baby’s night sleeping patterns start to reflect that of their parents, no longer requiring overnight feeds (Research) & (Research).  At this point the total number of hours a newborn sleep continues to decrease, diminishing to 12 hours by age 3 (Research).  Day sleeping also gradually decreases; reducing to 1 nap a day at 18 months which by age 4 is entirely phased out (Research).  But even if your baby or newborn is receiving the proper hours of sleep, they may still wake up tired and restless the next day due to poor quality sleep.  

What is Chiropractic Care for Babies & Toddlers?

Chiropractors evaluate the musculoskeletal system and identify any mechanical issues and underlying causes of sleeping difficulties.  If detected, with gentle care soft tissue massage, mobilizations and or gentle adjustments are carefully applied to relieve any stress on baby or newborn’s spine, leaving their bodies able to relax when sleeping.

Chiropractic care applies targeted delicate manipulations to promote self-healing through restoration of the baby or toddler’s nervous system’s functioning. It’s a painless, natural, drug-free, and subtle hands-on intervention.  Know that a chiropractic care for babies and toddlers is not the same procedures and techniques applied to adults. 

For example, chiropractic care can help improve flexibility and movement in a baby or toddler’s joints, something important in the rib and chest region for breathing.  Restricted flexibility in this region reduces respiration capabilities of the chest wall. While this is not always apparent when a child is awake, the increased energy needed for full deep breathing while sleeping takes its toll and can leave a child restless and tired when they wake up in the morning.


How Chiropractic Care Can Help a Baby or Toddler Sleep

Chiropractic care can help restore healthy spinal and central nervous system function. Research has shown improvements in the functioning of a baby or toddler’s spine and central nervous system resulted in improved: 

  • sleep duration
  • reduced night-waking, 
  • reduced length of time required to fall asleep

 (Research) (Research) (Research) (Research)

This is due to chiropractic care being effective in:

  • reducing discomfort or pain experienced by a child,
  • Improving feeding quality
  • Improving spine biomechanics & the musculoskeletal system
  • Improving the child’s neurological functioning

It’s important to know that sleep is a complex homeostatic (state of balance) function, in part regulated by the autonomic nervous system, which is separated into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. 

  • The sympathetic central nervous system, similar to a gas pedal, is your body’s stress and fight or flight response. 
  • The parasympathetic central nervous system, similar to a brake pedal, controls digestion, relaxation, rest and immune function. 

A subluxation (disruption to the spine) occurs when a vertebra of the spine ever so slightly moves out of position causing irritation on nerves within the spine.  Spinal nerves, now protruding from between the bones, then malfunction and interfere with messaging (signals) taking place within the central nervous system between the brain and body. Studies have proven subluxations can occur and sustain in place without pain, yet still disturb proper nerve function. 

Any pressure or subluxation to a baby or newborns’ nervous system can trigger a dominant sympathetic (fight or flight) state limiting their ability to rest, relax, and digest properly along with reducing their immune system functions.  The child’s overall ability to sleep and realize the full cognitive and developmental benefits of healthy rest and sleep is compromised.

Establishing balance between a baby or newborn’s sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system is the chief objective in treating your child with chiropractic care.  This is because any pressure or subluxation (trauma or stress) on the spinal cord and or brain stem that can disrupt the nervous system’s signaling (and balance) is commonly found to be the culprit preventing your child’s ability to sleep.

Research published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics (JCCP), documented infants sleep better when under chiropractic care.  In the research involving 117 infants brought in for chiropractic care, their parents were asked to complete a questionnaire on their children’s sleep patterns and behaviors. The parents were then asked to complete follow up questionnaires on subsequent visits for chiropractic care, the 1st, 4th and 7th visit to the chiropractic clinic. The research concluded parents reported significant improvements in: 

  • time required to fall asleep 
  • number of continuous hours of sleep
  • deep quality sleep from only a few chiropractic treatments

Source: Dr. Joyce Miller and Evidence Based Chiropractic Care for Infants (chiropracticscience.com)


How a Baby & Toddler’s Nervous System is Disrupted

Stressor that can interfere with the healthy functioning of a child’s nervous system can come from thoughts, traumas and toxins.

  • Thoughts (emotional): Medical testing, Time in the hospital/NICU, stress on the mother and family, etc.
  • Traumas (physical):  In-utero constraint, birth trauma, car seats, falls, injuries, baby carriers, etc.
  • Toxins (chemical): antibiotics, soaps, vaccines, lotions, formula, cleaning products, etc.

These stressors to a baby or newborn’s nervous system can produce subluxations  misaligning the spine and affecting the proper functioning of the nervous system and its ability to adapt to different environments.  I specialize in finding and correcting your child’s subluxation in order for them to function optimally and sleep better.


Having Your Baby or Toddler Receive Chiropractic Care: What to Expect

Chiropractic care for babies and toddlers involves a gentle touch massaging of joints and muscles associated with the spine.  The objective is to identify and correct any spinal imbalances.  Any imbalance left untreated can produce inflammation that irritates nerves which in turn stresses the nervous system disrupting its proper functioning. The purpose of a baby or toddler gentle chiropractic adjustment is to alleviate stress so that baby and or toddler (and family) can sleep.  By adjusting the locked elements in a child’s body (cranial bones, neck, and spine) we can alleviate discomfort, improve both relaxation and blood flow all which will help your child sleep better.

It’s understandable for parents to feel nervous when having their baby or toddler receive chiropractic care for the first time.  So, parents are clear on what their child’s first appointment will look like, here are the main components of a baby or toddler new patient exam:

1. Detailed History

I start with mom’s pregnancy and continue up through and to your appointment date. Early-life possible interferences of the nervous system can surface and present today in many ways – so we maintain a holistic understanding and approach in our analysis.

2. Postural Assessment

I look for rotations and/or tilts with your child’s head, shoulders, and hips. For babies, this assessment is often performed while the child is laying on their back. If your baby is walking, from the side while standing I will review the curvature of their spine

3. Primitive Reflexes

I test primitive reflexes (newborn reflexes) in order to assess the development of your child’s neurology.   For example, the “grasping reflex” is a motion babies produce involuntarily.  Reflex performance can indicate stress in your child’s nervous system.

4. Palpation of the Spine

In effort to identify spinal misalignments I gently assess the movement of the bones in the neck and back. This can be performed from different positions, allowing us to assess from wherever your child is most comfortable, including being held in your arms.

5. Adjustment

If I find spinal misalignments, I will recommend a procedure such as an adjustment. The pressure applied in a chiropractic adjustment for a child is a delicate one or two-finger method and similar to what you would use in testing the ripeness of an avocado, as the bones of children are soft and not fully formed. 

I typically demonstrate this technique and amount of pressure on the parent’s wrist to give them certainty of what the adjustment would feel like for their baby.

I hope this is helpful in giving you a sense of what to expect at your baby or toddler’s first visit with me.  

About Dr. Kaminsky & Craniosacral Therapy

Dr. Kaminsky is a 1999 graduate of the University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic. He is licensed to practice in NY and has completed close to three thousand hours of professional continuing education since becoming licensed in March of 2000.

The primary approach used in his office is Craniosacral Therapy (CST) which is a method focusing on the cranium (head) and sacrum (a large bone at the base of the spine) scientifically proven to control life sustaining fluid flow throughout the body.

Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle, non-invasive, hands-on manual therapy approach that brings about healing via the fluidity of the body. The existence of the Craniosacral System was first discovered by Osteopath Dr. William Sutherland in the early 1900’s, calling it Cranial Osteopathy.  And later rediscovered, validated, and developed by Dr. John Upledger in the late 70’s early 80’s, who renamed it Craniosacral Therapy after doing five years of research at the Michigan State University, School of Medicine. In 1983 Dr. John, as he was fondly called, established a teaching institute in Palm Beach, Florida, to teach this cranial sacral method to all healthcare providers. The Upledger Institute is still very active today.

The craniosacral mechanism pumps fluid which is produced in the brain, called cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF), through the fascial network of the body, the purpose of which is to lubricate joints, muscles, organs, all cells and all tissues. It is the driving life force for your body’s systems to function properly, CSF also carries healing properties to bodily traumas, injuries and past surgeries.

The proper function of your cranial sacral mechanism, via CSF flow, maintains the normal tone of your muscles, provide nutrients to your organs, and keeps you out of pain. It sustains human life and allows your nervous system to stay responsive to challenges of daily living and your mind-body life experiences. The better your craniosacral mechanism functions, the better the flow of this life sustaining fluid, the better your body can handle physical and emotional stress. The uninhibited flow of this fluid throughout your body allows you to thrive, opposite of survival mode.

CSF is part of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) brain and spinal cord), which is physically encapsulated within the dural membranes of the spine and head.

One of the functions inside of your brain is to automatically generate energetic rhythmic impulses that function to pump CSF throughout your body, regulating your peripheral nerves, nervous system and organ systems, which in turn, sustain your function (physiology) and life. It is an important force that maintains everything functioning in your body. This is what we call the Craniosacral System, or Craniosacral Mechanism. It is the hydraulic, energetic and rejuvenating system of your body.

This measurable life force of moving fluid is palpable to a trained craniosacral therapist, like the heart rhythm, pulse rhythm, breathing rate, that can all be felt, so too can the Cranial Sacral Rhythm (CSR) be palpated and measured. It is the foundational diagnostic tool in real-time used to evaluate your current state of well-being (or lack thereof), and potential for health improvement and healing.

Compromises of your rhythmic impulse, correlates to CSF flow restrictions in the system which the body is unable to self-correct or overcome on its own. This is the reason why over time we develop pain, dis-ease, symptoms, conditions, mind-body disconnect and basically all human physical and psychological ailments.

When the fluid isn’t flowing optimally, your bodily rejuvenation is affected, and this is where the skill of an experienced craniosacral therapist becomes valuable. By placing his or her hands on your body, most commonly on your head and sacrum, for diagnostic purposes, the practitioner can detect, feel, evaluate, and rate the SSQAR (strength, symmetry, quality, amplitude, rate) of the rhythm; then bring forth correction of any limitations with subsequent experienced hand placements on different parts the body during a session.

A craniosacral therapist helps your rhythm reset, restore and renew allowing for healing to take place of the mind-body connection, musculoskeletal tightness and spasms, neurological deficits, autoimmune issues, organ function, many common conditions, and of course pain. Through a practitioners properly focused and attuned touch, your body is facilitated to release channels of fluid stagnation and flow restriction, which ultimately breakthrough, overcome and improve CSR and the function of vital fluid flow.

Dr. Alex Kaminsky is an advanced practitioner of Craniosacral therapy, having studied up to advanced levels including SER and pediatric courses. He has built a solid foundation with many years of experience, treating babies, children and adults.

To learn more, visit the other pages on this website. Call to schedule your appointment with Dr. Kaminsky.