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Behavioral vs Medical Sleep Problems in Infants and Children

I get a lot of calls that start with, “I don’t know if you can help with this…” or “I’m at my wits end and don’t know how to fix my child’s sleep problems…”

The very first thing I do when talking with these sleep deprived moms (and dads) is to make sure that the sleep problem is behavioral, and not medical, in nature.

Dr. Lisa Shives at Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, IL  developed a questionnaire to screen sleep issues in children that I often use to make sure sleep apnea isn’t the culprit.  Some of the questions include:

  • Does the child have large tonsils?
  • Does the child snore, gasp, or stop breathing while sleeping?
  • Does the child sleep with a hyperextended neck?
  • Has the child stopped growing at a normal rate?
  • Is the child overweight?
  • Does the child have problems with bedwetting (over age 5)?

If parents answer yes to any of these questions, I recommend that they make an appointment with their pediatrician to investigate further whether a referral to a medical sleep specialist is necessary.  But when these are not the issue, I ask a few more questions of my own:

  • How does your child fall asleep at bedtime and for naps?
  • What do you do when your child wakes in the middle of the night?
  • Does your child wake too early in the morning and what happens at that time?
  • Does your child need you (or something) to be able to fall asleep?

When a child has trouble settling down at bedtime or nap time, is used to waking at the crack of dawn or needs mom to rock or feed to sleep, uses a pacifier regularly to fall asleep, or prefers the motion of the swing or riding in the car to fall asleep, the sleep problem is behavioral…and that I CAN fix.

But sometimes a new mom will call me wanting advice about her baby with colic or for their child who doesn’t rely on sleep props and is on a pretty good schedule but still not sleeping.  Those first few months can be brutal for parents and baby with the constant crying and feelings of helplessness in comforting your baby.

Well, I may have some good news for you!  I’ve found a pediatric chiropractor who has had success helping relieve colic symptoms.  Dr. Katie Sleigh of Sleigh Family Chiropractic shared a story of one family who brought their baby in to see her:

Photo courtesy of Sleigh Family Chiropractic

“I had a recent a case of a young mother and her daughter who came into our office.  The mother said it was heart breaking listening to her daughter’s screaming.  She felt helpless because there was nothing she could do to make her daughter feel better.  She tried everything – changing her diaper, rocking her, feeding her, changing her formula – but nothing seemed to work.  After one chiropractic adjustment, her daughter slept through the night and did not scream in pain anymore.  Chiropractic care doesn’t ‘treat’ colic, but by restoring balance and alignment in the spine and nervous system, the symptom may go away.  Many times infants endure trauma to their delicate spines and
nervous systems in the birthing process.  This can lead to various problems including digestive issues and discomfort.  Gentle infant chiropractic adjustments help to relieve the stress and discomfort in an infant’s body.  In turn, colic symptoms are alleviated.  In addition, this will help decrease stress for the entire family!”

Dr. Katie sees newborns and children of all ages.  Here is an article from her website “When should my infant or child be checked by a chiropractor?”  Dr Katie shared, “The birthing process itself is commonly the first stress to an infant’s spine.  Even if it’s a ‘normal’ birth without any complications.” As children start toddling around and then playing sports, they will fall and get bumped several times each day.  Dr Katie explained, “those minor traumas accumulate stress and misalignment in the spine.”  She also said that while adults will make an appointment for an adjustment because of aches and pains, a child typically won’t complain about headaches or back pain.

I was even surprised at how young her clients are…picturing the adjustments that adults typically.  But she nodded knowingly saying she gets that a lot.  She explained, “Pediatric chiropractic adjustments are very different than adult chiropractic adjustments.  The amount of pressure used for an infant adjustment is that which you would feel comfortable using with your finger tip on a ripe tomato without puncturing the skin.”

If you would like to get more information about pediatric chiropractic care, call Sleigh Family Chiropractic at (847) 788-0880.  If you are not in the Chicago area, here is a site to find a pediatric chiropractor near you.

I’m excited to share that Sleigh Family Chiropractic has a special offer for friends of Sleep Training Solutions…If you would like to get your child checked, Dr. Katie will do an initial consultation and evaluation for $20!  You just have to mention this blog post when you call to schedule an appointment.

If you rule out medical issues for your infant’s sleep issues (including reflux and food allergies) and fear he or she is beginning to rely on sleep props and easily gets off schedule, I can help you develop healthy sleep habits and get your newborn on the right schedule.  Send me an email and I’ll explain how I can help!


Dr. Katie Sleigh is a certified pediatric chiropractor who practices with her husband at Sleigh Family
Chiropractic: A Creating Wellness Center in Arlington Heights, IL.  She is a member of the International Chiropractic Association with a special focus on pregnancy and kids.  She is also certified in the Webster Technique. Dr. Katie has studied the care of children extensively and is passionate about keeping kids healthier naturally.




Disclaimer: I am not getting compensated by Sleigh Family Chiropractic for this post, but Sleep Training Solutions is partnering with Sleigh Family Chiropractic to offer clients expanded resources.  In the end, I just love sharing information about great businesses that help parents (and parents-to-be) make great choices!


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