Breastfeeding a Child with Down syndrome
After eagerly waiting for your bundle of joy for 40+ weeks, it can be extremely overwhelming and tough to learn that the child is born with Down syndrome. 1 in every 700 children born in the USA alone are found with this syndrome, so don’t feel you’re all alone in it, trust me you’ll find a lot of support and guidance out there. Anyone in your situation can have a million doubts, questions and conflicts in their mind and one of the major worries will be feeding the little one. Breastfeeding your baby is the best gift you can give and it’s no different if your baby is suffering from Down syndrome. If you feel that your milk supply isn’t enough try lactating cookies, treats, drinks or emergency lactation brownies.
What’s Down syndrome?
Before I guide you further about how to breastfeed your baby suffering from Down syndrome, let’s first know a thing or two about it. It’s one of the most common chromosomal and congenital abnormalities in the world. The reason for why some children suffer from this syndrome is that they receive an extra copy of chromosome 21 during their development stages. Every cell of the baby’s body has 23 pairs of chromosomes, half are inherited from mother and half from the father. This particular syndrome occurs when some cells or every cell receive an extra copy of chromosome 21. The reason for this additional copy is unknown but it affects the development of brain and body which means that the child will face various mental and physical challenges all throughout the life.
The effects of Down syndrome can be quite varying in their nature. Most often, people think that everyone suffering from Down syndrome may look the same and suffer with the same kind of physical and mental disabilities but that isn’t the case. Some people might have pretty mild effects, making them capable of having a job, physical relationships and an independent life. Others may be affected more and suffer from a wide range of problems thus dependent for lifelong. The key here is to get the treatment started as early as possible. With the right care, treatment and nourishment children suffering from Down syndrome can reach to their full capacity and lead a normal happy life. The first step to achieve that should be nursing the baby.
Breastfeeding Benefits for a Child Suffering from Down syndrome
The benefits of breastfeeding the baby suffering from Down syndrome are equal, if not more than any other normal baby. Although the breastfeeding challenges are a lot, it’s surely possible with the right amount of effort, perseverance and will power. Here are some benefits of breastfeeding that your Down syndrome suffering child will highly appreciate.
1. Immunity Boosters
Children suffering from Down syndrome are more likely to be born prematurely, which means their immunity will be really low when they enter this world. The first milk that comes in the mother’s breast named colostrum is a thick yellow milk that is jam packed with immunity boosters. Children suffering from Down syndrome are prone to viral, ear and respiratory infections and mother’s milk gives the much needed immunity to the child to fight with these infections.
2. Easy Digestion
Breast Milk is full of all essential nutrition, vitamins, calories and fluids that every baby needs. On top of that, breastmilk is very easy to digest as its light weight is very important for the child suffering from Down syndrome. Breast milk is far easier to digest than the formula milk as its heavy and Down syndrome child might have gastrointestinal issues as well. If you’re worried about how to increase milk supply, try lactating cookies to boost milk supply naturally.
3. Better Bonding
Breastfeeding is the best way to bond with your little one. While nursing the baby, the skin-to-skin contact made between the mother and child plays a crucial part in dealing with the postpartum depression for the mother, it also helps her in overcoming the fears and uncertainty regarding her child’s health. On the other hand, it has amazing mental and physical benefits for the child. It also helps in the development and strengthening of the facial muscles which are imperative in speech advancement.
Tips and Trick for Acing the Breastfeeding
The child with Down syndrome suffers from low muscle tone or in other words weak muscles that don’t have much strength in them, especially their tongue and lips. They might also won’t be able to multitask like suck, swallow and breathe all at the same time, making them splutter and spray the milk or take a huge gulp. Make sure the baby’s chin and body is well supported by the mother’s arm. The head should be in the right position to have a proper latch.
A baby that’s suffering from Down syndrome has most often a tongue that is sticking out which makes breastfeeding quite a task. You can wait for the baby to either open its mouth wide enough or tongue pointing downward so that a good latch is created. You can do that by pressing every so lightly on the chin that brings the tongue down and makes the baby open the mouth. You can also train the baby to keep the tongue down by pressing it with the index finger and then pull it out.
The key to successfully breastfeeding your Down syndrome baby is to start nursing as soon as the baby comes to the world. Put your baby to feed after every one to two hours initially by holding them close to you. Both the mother and the baby need a lot of quality and undivided time together to understand each other and the process. The Down syndrome babies are usually very weak and they hardly give out any visible signs of when they need feeding.
Babies suffering from Down syndrome really need their mother’s undivided attention, love, care and nourishment. Get comfortable with your new job as it will be the key factor in making your child strong and healthy in future.