Child care is essential in the formative years. The breastfeeding period is one of the most crucial steps in child care as it helps with essential development.

Breast milk helps the child receive adequate nourishment because they digest it easily. It also boosts their immune system to protect against infections and bowel problems that are more common in babies with down syndrome. Children with down syndrome can be even more sensitive and require a lot more care than usual. Not every mother is aware that breastfeeding a child with down syndrome can be a challenge. So, to help you out, we’ve listed a few things that you would need to know when breastfeeding a child with down syndrome. 

1. Support Is Crucial

It’s essential that you always have a firm pillow or other support structure to hold your baby, like any newborn. However, children with down syndrome may lack the muscle definition required to support themselves properly. Their neck and head are usually the weakest areas, which makes holding their heads up quite difficult. The firm cushion will help ease their muscles as well as give the mother a firm hold, so her baby doesn’t move around too much.

2. Avoid Baby Coughing

The position you hold your baby in is also vitally important. A common problem among babies affected by down syndrome is that they drink too quickly, which results in gulping and coughing. To help correct this, make sure that your baby is positioned higher than your breast.

3. Ensure Adequate Supply

While newborns are quite sleepy, a baby with down syndrome can sleep more than normal babies. This makes it vital to ensure that your milk supply is adequate, and you should take advantage of their wake time and feed them as much as possible during this window. 

4. Protruding Tongue

Another common complaint among children with down syndrome is a tongue that sticks out. This makes it harder for the baby to latch onto the nipple, making it difficult for them to feed. Initially, you might need to work on this, and you could learn a few tips to prevent this – one such being to rub their chins.

5. Underweight Baby

Even if you have been feeding your baby consistently, and providing adequate nourishment, there are chances that your baby may still be underweight. The acceptable rule is about four ounces a week. If your baby is not growing well, it could be because he is missing out the high-calorie milk that comes at the end of every feeding session, you may try to feed more often or pump while baby is napping, which will help you keep up your production and provide an extra boost if you run out of milk before baby is done.

6. Information Is Crucial

When dealing with down syndrome, information gives you the power to handle the situation. It’s good to reach out to other parents that are dealing with the same situation. There are plenty of forums for parents to help them with challenges. Details like the proper diet for a breastfeeding mother, how to deal with challenges, how to stay healthy and get enough rest are some of the most common topics. Parents in Australia also have the option of reaching out to Down Syndrome Australia and their various state-by-state counterparts, which all have information on local support groups and activities to get involved in.

7. Latching On

Your baby may find it hard to latch onto the nipple. To resolve this, express a little milk out of your nipple and ensure that the baby has their mouth full. This will help you express more milk as well as put the baby in a comfortable position. You can also try the Dancer grip, this position supports your baby’s chin in the space between your thumb and forefinger, which will help them maintain a good latch. To do this, support your breast at your baby’s mouth with three fingers underneath, leaving your thumb and forefinger available to cradle your baby’s chin and cheeks.

8. Skin To Skin Contact Is Important

While you may need to resort to pumps to fulfill your baby’s milk requirements, you would still need to have skin to skin contact with your child. This is a special moment for any mother and child as it forms the initial bond. This establishes the mother as the food provider and the primary caregiver for the child, you can try taking a bath with your baby in your arms or, if it’s warm enough, bottle feeding in a crop top.

9. Don’t Get Overwhelmed

All new parents are subject to panic, as the initial experience can seem overwhelming. You will naturally feel stressed about ensuring your child is well taken-care-of. However, don’t let that dull the experience of being a new parent. It is one of the most joyous and life-affirming experiences you will have.

So, there you have it, nine things that we think are crucial for breastfeeding a child with down syndrome. Make sure to consult your doctor or lactation specialist and seek help wherever you might require it.

How did you go breastfeeding your baby for the first time? SHARE with us below!

Image source Shutterstock

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  • I work with special needs children aged from 4 to 17 but I had not considered that they would be any different regarding breast feeding then any other baby. This article has really made me think.


  • Very informative, thank you for sharing.


  • You can also see a speech pathologist who specialises in feeding to add to your support network.


  • Great tips !
    My nearly 3 year old with Down Syndrome has still major issues to drink properly.


  • Great information not only for mums with Down Syndrome babies. It’s hard to get the hang of breast feeding and each child seems to have a different problem.


  • My younger daughter has Down syndrome and I distinctly remember how sleepy she was and how much of a struggle it was to keep her awake long enough to get enough milk. She ended up breastfeeding for over 2 years and that success was largely due to me getting similar advice after she was born. Great tips!


  • Thank you for this information, it is very interesting to know. The position of the fingers always did that with my own children, except one that had to be feed up hill, due to the speed of my milk for the first few weeks. Nothing like seeing milk coming out of the nose plus the mouth to learn different ways to BF.


  • great tips!


  • My son was born 5 weeks early and as babies don’t develop the sucking reflex until 37 weeks we tried, but eventually had him fed via a tube and continued offering the breast until he would take it and then we were able to go home some 10 days or so later.


  • My youngest has Down Syndrome and had lots of feeding problems. She’s 2 yr and 10 months now and still struggles with drinking and spills enormous amounts.


  • i didnt know there would be any difference good info.


  • I had never considered there would be any difference


  • My breastfeeding experience did not go well. Fortunately there was lots of help at hand with medical staff and community health care workers.


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