Background: Despite well-known recommendations from national and international bodies including the World Health Organization, few mothers achieve the goal of breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months. Half of mothers stop breastfeeding due to biomechanical issues in the first month, despite increasing support from lactation consultants. Osteopaths worldwide work with these babies, but there is little empirical evidence for this type of treatment. Research aim: This study aimed to determine the efficacy of an osteopathic treatment coupled with usual lactation consultations on infants' ability to latch. Secondary objectives included assessment of nipple pain and mothers' perceptions of the effect of treatment.
Methods: We conducted a single blind, randomized controlled trial at a mother-to-mother support group between January and December 2015. Data were collected at four different times over a 10-day period (T0-T10) from 97 mother-infant dyads using the LATCH assessment tool, a visual analog scale (VAS) to document mothers' nipple pain, and a de novo questionnaire for breastfeeding management and potential treatment side effects.
Results: There were consistent statistical and clinical differences in the mean LATCH scores between the treatment and the control groups ( p < .001). However, no significant differences in the VAS scores were reported over time ( p = .713). Mothers reported no serious or unexpected side effects during the follow-up period.
Conclusion: This 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.
Keywords: LATCH assessment tool; breastfeeding; dysfunctional suck; lactation consultant; mother–infant dyad; osteopathic treatment; sucking difficulties.