Breastfeeding a baby with Down syndrome

Breastfeeding a baby with Down syndrome has incredible influence on the long term resulting cognitive growth and emotional growth of the child.

It is not common for physicians to support breastfeeding when there is a diagnosis of Ds and there is unfortunately very little hands on support available. A  few possible reasons for this might be that you need to carefully audit your baby to make sure your little one is able to nurse effectively; additionally some babies take a while before they have enough organizational skills/tone to really latch on. A mother who is committed to breastfeeding and is fortified with a deep well of patience and love, should eventually be able to teach her young learner how to breastfeed.

If you are a mother struggling with your latch, or are fearful that you cannot support your baby through breastfeeding because of your baby can’t manage to suck well, there are some support systems out there.

Quite a few mothers use supplemental nursing systems (sns) to make it easier for their baby to obtain milk. (We will have a post on how that works soon) You will need to pump in addition to regular breastfeeding in order to have milk to put into your sns. Here is a good link to a user friendly sns called Lact-aid: Using a supplemental system may help a low tone baby remove milk more efficiently, which in turn will encourage your body to respond by making more milk.

Because of the significance of human touch and eye contact, breastfeeding will offer your amazing and delightful baby the very best encouragement to participate socially and will increase the likely hood of better facial muscles and jaw tone. Breastfeeding is serious work, and uses many muscles to achieve a full tummy!  A baby with special needs will flourish in his/her mama’s arms, and the extra attention you give while nursing will result in a well bonded and attached little person. The core of human development starts with the emotional bond between mother and baby, as well as the strength and good health we receive from mother’s milk.

Here are some useful links to material about breastfeeding a baby diagnosed with Down syndrome:

“How To” Articles:…syndrome-2627/…11282&nbr=5883 -shows diagrams of nursing positions that may be helpful.

Mother-to-Mother information:…with-down.html…-syndrome.html

Down syndrome growth charts:

Informational websites on Down syndrome:
Standford University, Down Syndrome Research Center

Labbok/Hendershot Article:
•Principle finding-the longer the duration of breastfeeding, the lower the
incidence of malocclusion.
(This means mouth deformity- essentially the teeth and pallet are encouraged to grow in a healthy and open manner instead of resulting in the typical growth of high pallet and bubble pallet associated with bottle feeding. This may eventually give the tongue more resting space and encourages face muscles to have proper development)
•Bottle feeding leads to a habit of forward tongue thrusting and a weakened
development of the orbicularis muscles.
(Increasing the development of the facial muscles is critical, and may be associated with earlier speaking and more clear pronunciation in a baby with Down syndrome)
•There is a significant decrease in tongue thrusting with an increased duration of breastfeeding.

(of importance to the baby with trisomy 21 due to increased tongue thrusting and speech) *My additions in italics- Administrator

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