Down Syndrome

Infant Breastfeeding Challenge with Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a syndrome that some babies are born with. This syndrome can cause both physical and mental delays, and each child affected by it develops differently.

However, despite the challenges that this condition could expose your child to, they have a great chance of developing a fulfilled and healthy life.

Primary symptoms of Down syndrome

There will be no syndromes for a pregnant woman with a baby with Down syndrome during the pregnancy. However, the doctor who follows your pregnancy will most likely notice that your baby has this syndrome through the screenings they perform before giving birth. Among the symptoms that your baby will present, we name the following:

  • Flat or irregular facial features.
  • Smaller head, ears, and a shorter neck compared to other babies that don’t suffer from this syndrome.
  • If your baby has this syndrome, they might also have a bulging tongue and eyes that point upward or downward.
  • Weaker muscles that might affect the motor skills of your baby.
  • Babies who suffer from Down syndrome might be born at regular size, but they will develop at slower rates than other babies.

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What causes Down Syndrome?

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that stops one chromosome from separating correctly. This is chromosome 21, and it might split in three or in one instead of splitting in two how it would be expected.

This genetic disorder is one of the most common in the United States, with one in 700 babies born with Down syndrome.

There are several types of Down syndrome, but they are medically treated similarly.

  • Trisomy 21: This version of Down syndrome implies chromosome 21 splitting in a different copy in each cell. Unfortunately, this version of the syndrome is also the most common one in the world.
  • Mosaicism: In this case of Down syndrome, the baby has a copy of the 21 chromosomes in specific cells but not in all of them. Babies with the mosaicism type of Down syndrome will have fewer symptoms of the disease.
  • Translocation: The translocation version of this syndrome implies only one part of the 21 chromosomes attached to another chromosome. From all versions, this type of Down syndrome is less problematic.

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Breastfeeding a baby with the Down syndrome

Breastfeeding is essential for babies with Down syndrome as it can bring them a variety of benefits. However, there are certain aspects you need to consider in such a situation!

  • The weak muscle tone might affect the suction as well as the latching of your baby. With practice and proper guidance from a lactation specialist, you can help your baby eat correctly and stay comfortably attached to your breast until the nursing meal is over. Often, babies with Down syndrome can gulp on milk, and they struggle swallowing. If you notice this happening with your infant, try feeding them more often and for a shorter period. Always hold their head in place when you are nursing them, in a position that both of you are comfortable in.
  • Tongue thrust is a symptom of Down syndrome, and it can complicate the nursing process. If this is a struggle for your baby, try to put them in a position to open their mouth wider when they are sucking. Then, you can press on their chin gently as they are sucking, so you make sure they swallow correctly. If no technique works, you might want to try pumping your milk and feeding your baby using a bottle. Doing so will give you more control over their feeding.
  • Down syndrome babies tend to be more sleepy than other babies, and therefore, they might not make it to the end of the meal. If this is the case, you can switch breasts more often to keep your baby alert and caress them while eating their meal. Another strategy is to stimulate your breasts by using a pump right before you feed your baby. This will establish a steady milk flow so your baby will not have to work so hard to eat as much as they need.
  • A baby with Down syndrome might gain weight at a slower pace than other babies. So, it is crucial to not track your baby’s development according to regular charts as they might gain less weight. Instead, there are special charts for babies with Down syndrome that you can follow.

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The benefits of breastfeeding a baby with the Down syndrome

Babies that suffer from Down syndrome can benefit significantly from breastfeeding. Here are only a few advantages that breastmilk will bring to your baby, compared to formula meals.

A) Breastfeeding supports your baby’s immune system

A robust immune system is crucial for a baby with Down syndrome. Statistics show that breastfed babies tend to be more resistant to infections and other diseases than formula-fed babies. Your breastmilk will help the little one develops the proper antibodies they need to grow healthy and develop harmoniously. In addition, babies with Down syndrome are more sensitive to respiratory infections, so having a robust immune system is essential.

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B) You can help to strengthen their muscle tone

The action of nursing, including latching and sucking, will help your baby develop stronger muscles, especially in their facial area. They will learn to use their mouth and tongue, and nursing can help them develop harmonious facial expressions. To see results in this aspect, you will need to breastfeed your baby exclusively for at least six months.

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C) Breastmilk offers your baby all the nutrients they need

Your breastmilk is all your little one needs to develop healthily. It contains vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, and you can count on the fact that your breastmilk keeps your baby hydrated as well. Plus, your baby will definitely benefit from the bond you create with them during these nursing sessions.

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Treatment of Down syndrome

While no treatment can cure a baby with Down syndrome, there are still things you can do to make sure they have a better quality of life.

  • First, your doctor will recommend a set of exercises that will help your baby develop motor skills to parameters that are as close to the normal ones as possible.
  • You can also help them with language and cognitive skills by practicing at home and following therapy steps with a specialist.

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However, each child with Down syndrome is different, and they develop uniquely. This is why a specialist in this condition will have to evaluate your baby and guide you towards the best measures you can take for their well-being.

Infant Breastfeeding Challenges

Infant Breastfeeding Challenges

Not only do the mons run into several maternal challenges during the breastfeeding phase but babies too. Here are the top 6 infant breastfeeding challenges.

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Key References
  • “What is Down Syndrome? | National Down Syndrome Society”. Accessed August 03, 2021. Link.


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