Looking After Yourselves
Feeding Your Baby
Your Baby's Development
Feeding Your Baby
Feeding a baby with Down syndrome is very
similar to feeding any other baby so use the usual sources of
information and support (Plunket, La Leche etc.) just as you
planned during pregnancy. This section just covers areas that
are especially important when feeding a baby with Down syndrome.
Will my baby have problems with feeding?
Sometimes our babies feed easily with no more problems
than with any other baby.
Sometimes feeding babies with Down
syndrome can be harder and needs more time, patience and perseverance.
Our babies have low muscle tone and so may have trouble latching
correctly to the breast or the teat of a bottle and in coordinating
sucking, swallowing and breathing.
Our babies may have difficulty maintaining
a seal. Gentle upward pressure on the chin may help this.
Our babies may be too sleepy to feed.
They may tire quickly before they have had enough milk.
Our babies may find it hard to gain
weight. Like all babies our babies lose up to 10% of their birth
weight in the first three or four days, but it may take them
longer to regain this weight.
Our babies tend to gain weight slowly.
Plot their weight gain on the special Down syndrome growth chart
in the booklet Your babys health.
When should I feed my baby?
Your baby needs at least one night feed and frequent
feeds during the day. Seek the advice of your health care team.
Some of our babies wake up by themselves
and show obvious signs of hunger. Others need to be woken up.
Some of our babies dont cry or
show you they are hungry even when they are awake.
Babies who are sleeping lightly and
getting ready to feed may
Have rapid eye movement
Move their arms and legs about more
Make sucking movements with their lips
Start pulling faces
Babies can often be woken up if you
Loosen or remove their covers
Talk to them
Change their nappy
Gently rub their hands and feet
Gently move their arms and legs
Wipe their face with a cool damp cloth
Hold them in an upright or standing position
You may need to burp your baby
and use continued gentle stimulation to keep your baby awake
during the feed. If you are breastfeeding try swapping to the
other breast several times.
Sometimes babies wont wake up
to feed, or dont get enough milk from the breast or bottle.
Milk can then be given directly into their stomach through a
Will I be able to breastfeed?
Almost all mothers can breast feed or provide breast
milk for their babies with Down syndrome.
Sometimes breastfeeding is established
easily with no more problems than with any other baby.
Sometimes breastfeeding a baby with
Down syndrome can be harder and needs more time, patience and
Sometimes mothers choose not to breastfeed
or find that because of their circumstances breastfeeding is
not right for them.
Will my baby be able to breast feed?
Many babies with Down syndrome are able to breastfeed
successfully from birth. Often these are babies born at full-term
with no additional problems.
Other babies are not able to breastfeed
fully at first, but as they grow older they usually become better
at feeding and are able to be fully breast fed.
Often these babies are small, have additional
health problems or are very sleepy or floppy babies.
A few babies have major medical problems
which effect feeding. Babies with gastro-intestinal (GI tract)
who need an operation will not be allowed to feed at first and
instead will get nutrients through a big drip called a long-line
into their veins.
Babies with severe heart conditions may be
unable to feed because they are tired or breathless.
Mothers of these babies can use a breast
pump to build up their milk supply, and their milk can be given
to their babies by naso-gastric tube when the baby is well enough.
With patience and perseverance and following
surgery for any medical disorders, these babies can often fully
breast feed within a few weeks or months
How does breastfeeding help a baby with
Breastfeeding has many benefits for all babies. Some are especially
important for babies with Down syndrome.
Close body contact
This helps you bond to your baby and provides your baby with
important sensory stimulation.
Breast milk has antibodies or immunoglobulins that help your
baby fight infections. Babies with Down syndrome often pick
up infections more easily than other babies.
Many babies with Down syndrome become constipated probably
due to their low muscle tone. Babies who are breast fed generally
dont get constipated.
Helps with learning to talk
Our babies often have low tone and are floppy. The actions
involved in breastfeeding will help improve muscle tone in the
lips, mouth and tongue These muscles are important in learning
Best nutrition for brain growth
Breast milk provides the best possible nutrition for brain
growth and development.
How should I hold my baby to breast
Once breast feeding is going well, you will be able to
feed your baby anywhere, in any position and with any way of
holding that is comfortable for you.
But as you start breastfeeding a baby
with Down syndrome, it is often best to use these positions
Try to find a quiet, relaxing place
with a comfortable chair offering good support. Have someone
nearby who can add and move around pillows for support as needed.
Sit upright, rather than slumping back or tensing forwards.
If feeding from the left breast, then use your right
arm to support your baby.(It may feel more natural to let your
baby snuggle into the crook of your left arm, but this makes
it harder for you to see how the baby is taking your nipple
and may not offer your baby enough support at first.)
Your elbow supports your babys buttocks,
your arm supports the back and shoulders,
your hand supports the neck and head.
Turn your babys whole body towards your breast,
babys chest to your chest, babys chin to your breast
at the right level.
How should I put my baby to the breast
Start your milk flowing before you put your baby to the
breast, hand express a little colostrum onto the nipple by gently
massaging and squeezing your whole breast.
Support your baby so that your babys
mouth is at or just above the level of your nipple.
Tickle your babys upper lip with
your nipple and wait until your babys mouth is wide open.
Hold your left breast with your left
hand in a C shaped hold behind the areola (brown
area around the nipple) so you can offer the breast to your
baby. Dont squash the areola as this can change the shape
of your breast making it harder for your baby to latch on.
Put the nipple and a lot of the areola
(brown area around the nipple) into your babys mouth making
sure your babys tongue is below the nipple.
Your babys lips should be turned out; not tucked
in. Your baby should be making chewing movements not sucking
on your nipple.
It may feel unusual but should not
hurt. If it does hurt, gently break the suction by putting
your finger into the corner of your babys mouth, and try
As the milk flows your baby should
begin to swallow. You can encourage swallowing by gently stroking
in a downward motion on the outside of the throat.
Your baby needs to coordinate sucking,
swallowing and breathing. This can be a hard skill to learn
and at first your baby may gulp and choke.
Im finding breast feeding very
hard, what should I do?
If you are breastfeeding and your baby doesnt feed
often, your breasts may not get enough stimulation and your
milk supply may drop. It may be helpful to hand express a little
milk after feeds or use a hand or electric pump when your baby
wont feed to keep your milk supply up.
You may need additional support and
information. Many hospitals employ a lactation consultant or
have midwives with a particular interest in feeding problems.
A speech language therapist may also be consulted.
Most difficulties will resolve as your
baby grows stronger and learns to breastfeed. Some babies take
two months or more before feeding is established but then go
on to have no further problems.
Only you can make the decision whether
or not to stop breastfeeding.
If you find breastfeeding so difficult that it is affecting
your own well-being and your relationship with your baby, then
it may be best to stop. You dont need to feel guilty,
you have tried your best.
The most vital part of parenting is
to love your baby, breast feeding is just one part of parenting.
When should I introduce solids to my
Babies with Down syndrome should be introduced to solids
at the same time and in the same way as other babies at around
five to six months.
It may take longer for our babies to
coordinate the actions needed for eating solids.