The other day, our office assistant informed us that a particular parent had decided to stop having her baby adjusted. When the mother and I discussed this, she told me she had taken her baby to the pediatrician and was told that "there was no reason the baby should need chiropractic care," and that the baby would "outgrow" the head tilt.
I was not surprised about the pediatrician’s erroneous comment that children "outgrow" postural compensations. I was more concerned with the fact that, by recommending the infant discontinue care, she was speaking completely out of her scope of practice on a topic about which she had not received any formal education.
I looked at the mother and responded, "I am disappointed that a doctor would step out of her expertise into the specialty of another with an unfounded recommendation to discontinue care. Pediatricians have no training in the biomechanics of the spine, in postural compensations and the long term neurological effects this may have on the infant’s overall health and well-being. A pediatrician has no clinical experience with chiropractic spinal correction and its efficacy in infants. A similar scenario would be if you asked your pediatrician if she thought your child needed dental care. If you did and she responded that she didn’t think so, she, again, would be completely out of her scope of practice by suggesting you avoid care. So, too, her response about the importance of chiropractic care came from ignorance, not clinically based knowledge."
In the above scenario, you can replace the word chiropractic with the word homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture or midwifery and the word biomechanics with the word remedies, nutrition, meridians or natural birthing, respectively. The fact of the matter is that most pediatricians are becoming aware of holistic care, but remain limited in their knowledge of the care. The comments made about these types of care are often based on personal opinion. As a result, most parents are receiving "professional" advice based on assumptions, not clinical experience or education.
When reading current surveys and papers published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is clear that a large percent of today’s pediatricians are curious about holistic care but do not know where to begin to learn about it. Although some medical schools are beginning to offer classes on Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), they are simply courses on theory, not practice, and are, of course, subject to the knowledge and perspective of the instructor.
As practitioners, here are some suggestions we can give our patients when discussing holistic modes of care with their pediatricians.
1. Ask them what they know about it.
2. Ask them how they have come to that conclusion.
3. Ask them about their clinical experience with it.
4. Ask them if they are interested in learning more.
If their conversation is progressing and they are offering the parent an interested ear, have your patient suggest to the pediatrician that he or she meet with you. I know that any doctor member of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, for example, would be willing to meet with a pediatrician in their community and take the time to explain the importance of chiropractic care in infancy to them.
If your patient’s conversation with the pediatrician is not progressing well and there seems to be no interest, or even resistance to their health care choices for their family, it may be time for that patient to find a new pediatrician. According to numerous studies, many pediatricians are interested in learning and supporting more holistic models of care. Parents may need to be reminded that it is their right to choose providers that support their choices in health.
As for the mother and infant in our practice? The mother also realized that the pediatrician’s personal opinion was just that: a personal opinion outside her scope and experience. Her daughter will continue under regular care with us. Next week, I will call this pediatrician’s office and invite her to lunch. If we have the opportunity to meet, I will prepare myself with articles and information published in textbooks on adjusting children. If she is open to a new perspective on helping the infants in her practice—great! I will be supportive of her practice and probably subscribe her to the ICPA Pathways to Family Wellness Magazine so she can continue to learn more about the vital services we provide.
Dr. Jeanne Ohm instructs internationally on the topic "Chiropractic Care for Pregnant Women and Children." She is Executive Coordinator of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association: www.icpa4kids.com and can be reached at