Frequently asked questions
Is my baby too sleepy?
It is very common for babies with Down syndrome to be sleepy initially and you may need to make some effort to rouse your baby and to keep him or her awake during feeding. You may find that you need to establish a regular feeding schedule rather than waiting for your baby to wake to be fed. Rest assured that this stage will pass after a few weeks.
Is my baby strong enough to breastfeed?
Babies with Down syndrome, and particularly those with heart conditions, may tire easily and find it difficult to muster the energy for a lengthy feed. You may need to feed more frequently or use top-up feeding strategies (see below) in the initial stages.
Is breastfeeding too difficult for my baby?
Babies with Down syndrome do often take longer to establish breastfeeding than other babies. This may be due to lack of energy or it may be that reduced muscle tone means that your baby may have trouble grasping the nipple and attaching correctly. Some babies have trouble coordinating sucking, swallowing and breathing and may gulp and choke as they feed. They may get less milk for their effort and get tired easily. Both energy levels and muscle tone gradually improve and as your baby grows they will become stronger, learn control of those muscles and be more able to feed effectively.
Is my baby gaining enough weight?
Newborns with Down syndrome may lose more than 10% of their birth weight and take up to 4 weeks to regain it. In order not to compromise your baby's weight gain, you may initially need to feed more frequently or to top-up breastfeeds using expressed breast milk given by dropper, spoon bottle (possibly with a special teat). Try to avoid the use of a Nasal Gastric Tube (NGTs) if possible as they can interfere with learning to breastfeed and long term use may lead to speech difficulties later in life (see more about this here
Should my baby be measured on regular Maternal Child Health Growth Charts?
The simple answer here is No. Babies with Down syndrome are characteristically smaller than the general population. See more about why we should use specific charts here
Royal children's Hospital Melbourne
Is support available?
In the early days of establishing breastfeeding, you and your baby are likely to need some extra help, so it is important that you access good and encouraging support to help you stay calm and patient while your baby learns.