- Breast milk provides extra protection against infections and bowel problems which babies with Down syndrome are more likely to develop.
- Breastfeeding improves mouth and tongue coordination, giving a child with Down syndrome a real developmental advantage.
- The act of breastfeeding provides additional stimulation for your baby.
- Breastfeeding promotes closeness between mother and baby, and enhances mothering skills.
- Extra patience and reasonable expectations are critical when breastfeeding a baby with Down syndrome. Low muscle tone and a weak suck can impede the baby’s ability to breastfeed. Here are a few tips that may help you breastfeed your baby:
- Because babies with Down syndrome are often sleepy and placid, you may need to interest your baby through frequent breast feedings throughout the day, wake him fully before breastfeeding, or provide extra touch and stimulation to keep him alert.
- Pay extra attention to positioning your baby at your breast. Try to keep you baby’s body elevated near your breasts with his ear, shoulder and hip in a straight line and use extra pillows for support.
- If gulping and choking are a problem, try positioning your baby so that his neck and throat are slightly higher than your nipple.
- If poor muscle tone makes it difficult for your baby to latch on well, try supporting your baby’s chin and jaw while nursing, using the “Dancer Hand Position”. To do this, cup your breast with your thumb above your areola, your index finger pointing outward, and the other three fingers below the areola. Use your index finger to support the baby’s jaw while nursing. As breastfeeding enhances your baby’s muscle tone, he will be able to support himself.
Resources for Additional Information
These are available from your local La Leche League Leader or our catologue.
Breastfeeding the Baby with Down Syndrome by Shelly Wright Timko, BA; Yvonne D. Culp, RN; Julia G. Pindell, BFA; and Roseanne Harakal, BS. This unit describes the genetic causes and the conflicts mothers may experience in their decision to breastfeed the baby with Down syndrome. (No 382-19, 12 pages, $3.00)
Breastfeeding a Baby with Down Syndrome. Newly revised pamphlet providing education and support for breastfeeding a baby with Down syndrome. (No 528-24, $1.95)
Source: La Leche League International Visit their website at: www.lalecheleague.org