What Do You Do When Your Newborn Can’t Nurse?



Part of Dr. Sneed’s specialty training in Osteopathic Manipulation focused on using manipulation to help newborns as young as 30 minutes old. The following is one of our most favorite letters sent to us by a new mother whose son was recently treated by Dr. Sneed. It is an excellent example of how manipulation can help something as seemingly uncontrollable as a newborn’s ability to feed – and showcases why we get such incredibly joy out of our jobs each and every day.


My first experience with OMM, through Dr. Sneed, occurred only three days into motherhood when I realized that my newborn son was, quite literally, starving.  After a day home from the hospital, he was crying, anxious, and constantly trying to nurse, and I knew something wasn’t right.  Even though my milk had come in, and he was latching properly and nursing for long stretches of time, he was receiving little to no milk.  I took him to our pediatrician who agreed he had lost much too much weight, and we found ourselves in the hospital emergency room, where my son was poked, prodded, catheterized, and had tiny needs inserted to take blood from veins so small they were barely visible, like fine blue hairs.


The effort to find out what was wrong was fruitless, resulting only in what was the most terrifying night of my life as a new mother.  After an overnight visit, the hospital pediatrician had a lactation consultant visit us who identified that my son’s inability to nurse effectively was the result of the muscles on one side of his face not working correctly, possibly because of trauma moving through the birth canal.


I was sent home with a hospital breast pump and a special bottle and nipple, as well as instructions that I would need to exclusively pump and feed him via bottle for at least a few weeks until this issue could resolve on its own.  I was both committed and terrified; as my baby had shrunk to just barely 6 pounds and any further weight loss meant more hospitalization and inserting an IV line.

I sent an email to a few close friends letting them know the situation – one of whom immediately referred me to Dr. Sneed as someone who might be able to help.  Upon meeting my son, Dr. Sneed laid him down on his back and sat behind his head.  He placed his hands on my son’s head and neck and my son quieted down immediately.


Dr. Sneed spent approximately 10-15 minutes evaluating my son’s head, neck, and body structure.  He was very quiet and calm, and allowed me and my mother (who was staying with us) to watch.  Dr. Sneed talked with us about my son’s plagiocephaly and how it affected the ability of my son to use his tongue and mouth effectively when he nursed.  He then spent approximately 15-20 minutes manipulating my baby’s head.  I expected crying and fussing; instead I watched my son visibly relax, as though he were receiving a massage, under the nearly imperceptible movements of Dr. Sneed’s fingertips.


When Dr. Sneed was finished, he told us that my baby would likely sleep soundly that night and would be very hungry when he awoke – but would be able to nurse effectively.  His description was perfectly accurate.  By early the next morning, my son was nursing with gusto, a full belly sticking out, and complete satisfaction.  His transformation over a twelve-hour period was so total and dramatic I’m not sure I could have believed it if I had not watched it unfold before my own eyes.


Within a week, my baby had gained more than a pound in weight, back to his birth weight – right where he was supposed to be.  He is now a happy, healthy 16-pound 5 month old who continues to be exclusively nursed, and I am so thankful for the guidance and expertise that Dr. Sneed gave us during that first terrifying, yet priceless, week.  Now I check with Dr. Sneed first for any concerns I have about my son, and I am so thankful that he is located in Fredericksburg where we can see him as needed.

Old Dominion Osteopatic Medicine

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