JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - One-month-old Freddie is a little fussy because he just woke up, but with a gentle scoop, his exam is underway.
Dr. Franca Alterman, of Alterman and Johnson Family Chiropractors, said she can tell a lot when she holds a baby upside down.
"When I turn him, there's nothing fixed," Alterman said. "He's hanging normally and everything is moving right."
She checks the alignment of his spine while his mom watches closely to make sure her baby boy is doing OK, and according to Alterman, Freddy is doing great.
Four-month-old Quinlan, on the other hand, is a work in progress. When he was born, his mom, Carrie Murphy, said his ear was stuck folded down because of the position of his head, and he wouldn't breast feed because it wasn't comfortable. Her lactation consultant recommended that she visit Alterman.
"I started finding the breastfeeding problems due to misalignment of the neck and head bones causing babies the inability to breast feed properly," Alterman said.
After the first week of using a painless activator, Murphy said she could see the difference.
"His head was a lot straighter on his own," she said. "He actually was sleeping better. He was only sleeping one to two hours, and he started sleeping two to three hour stretches."
Dr Hilleary Rockwell, of St. Vincent's Medical Center in Riverside, has been a practicing pediatrician for 26 years. He is not buying the chiropractic benefits.
"Kids are all over the place all the time. You're not going to realign or disalign the baby for anything you can or don't do," Rockwell said. "They're doing it all to themselves 24 hours a day."
Rockwell believes adjustments are more anecdotal than scientific.
"It's not a necessary therapy," he said. "It's probably, in general, a harmless therapy, but it's probably going to waste you money or time."
That's a debate Alterman said she's heard before, but she believes it's much more complicated.
"The truth is that they don't grow out of it," she said. "It's the spine. Somewhere else makes a different tilt to compensate for whatever is going on, so it looks like they grow out of it, but now they have two problems."
Both moms said they're believers because they've seen the difference in their own babies.
"He's doing great now," Murphy said of her son Quinlan. "He holds his head up. You can see that."
Alterman said after the initial visit, she writes up a plan of action for the parents. Depending on the problem, the baby usually has three visits a week for several weeks. After that the parents can decide whether the baby needs follow-up visits.