You may be aware of the tremendous benefits that breastfeeding provides to newborns. Breast milk contains natural antibodies that fortify babies’ immune systems. This is especially important to infants with Down syndrome, who have higher rates of respiratory and other infections. Breast milk can also reduce bowel problems, which are more common in babies with Down syndrome, and contains an ingredient known to promote brain growth and development.
In addition, the physical process of breastfeeding strengthens babies’ jaw and facial muscles, which helps lay a good foundation for speech and language development, and provides skin-to-skin contact, a form of sensory stimulation that creates neural connections that can facilitate future learning.
There are many great reasons to breastfeed, but whether or not to do so is a personal choice. Some mothers breastfeed exclusively while others bottlefeed. Still others combine the two. There are many factors that play into this decision, including whether or not you feel your body is producing enough milk, whether or not your baby has health complications, and whether or not you plan to return to work soon after delivery.
If you do plan to breastfeed, be aware of certain factors that might make it challenging. Babies with Down syndrome have low muscle tone, so it may be difficult for your baby to “latch on” to your breast at first. As these babies also tend to be sleepier than other infants, you will likely have to make an extra effort to raise your baby’s alertness and keep him or her awake throughout the entire feeding. Also, if your baby needs surgery, he or she may require a feeding tube for a short time.
When it comes to feeding, the important thing is to make the choice that is best for you. Feedings should provide quality time for a mother and her child to bond, so they should always be as comfortable and stress-free as possible for both individuals. A meeting with your hospital’s lactation specialist is a great place to start learning about which feeding option may be right for you.
The information featured in this section is reproduced via an exclusive arrangement with National Down Syndrome Society [ONLINE] Available at http://www.ndss.org