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Breastfeeding with Down Syndrome

Today we would like to share with you the breastfeeding journey of our customer and friend, Tammy and her newest baby girl Stella.We found out our baby may have Down Syndrome during our routine Ultra Sound at 19 weeks.  The doctor saw “markers” that indicated Down Syndrome.  We had a blood test done, two weeks later, it was confirmed.  After a couple weeks of “grieving” I decided I better prepare myself and began my research on Down Syndrome.  I quickly learned of all the things that my baby would be able to do, crawl, walk, ride a bike, go to school, play sports, etc., basically everything my older two boys did with maybe just a little extra effort.  I was back to being excited, anxious and nervous about having a new baby in the house again.  (My older boys are 7 and 9). 


My most enjoyable moments when my boys were babies were the time I spent breastfeeding them.  I remember being so nervous with my oldest but then it just came so naturally.  I loved that time I got with each of them, just baby and mommy.  It is the most special bond humans can share.  So when I became pregnant again, of course, I knew I would breastfeed and looked forward to it.  However, during my research on DS, I kept finding articles about mothers who could not or had hard time breastfeeding their babies with DS.  This was due to their low muscle tone that is common in babies with DS.  This made me nervous.  The thought of not being able to nurse my baby was very upsetting to me.  It weighed on my mind throughout the rest of my pregnancy. 

But on Nov. 1, just minutes after Stella was born she began nursing.  She latched on like she had done it a thousand times.  Oh what a relief that was!  A moment I will never forget.  Words can not explain the feeling that first time your brand new baby begins to nurse.  The next time would not be so easy.

When it was time for her to eat again, I was ready, willing and able but she was not.  She worked so hard to get latched on but struggled.  I didn’t remember it being this hard with my boys.  It was frustrating but she eventually latched on and once she was on she did great.  This continued to be a problem, her latching on.  She was also jaundice, which made it very hard to wake her up and keep her awake during a feeding. But I worked hard and she worked harder and neither of us ever gave up.  I kept thinking, I’ve done this twice I can do it again.  After a few days home and still struggling and her not gaining weight, I decided it was time to see a lactation consultant.  I kept thinking surely there is nothing else she can teach me, I’ve done this before.  But I was wrong.  She was able to watch and assess our nursing techniques and give me advice on how to adjust them.  Every baby is different, some it comes easy to and some we have to give a little extra help.  Soon Stella was beginning to gain weight and latching on like a champ.  

My decision to breastfeed was not one I had to think about.  Once I felt that little baby inside me moving around, I knew I would do anything for each of them.  It was apparent to me that breastfeeding was the best thing for them.  It wasn’t until later that I realized it was also good for me.  There are so many benefits to breastfeeding your baby.  The list goes on and on.  There are a couple of reasons that breastfeeding is especially beneficial for a baby with Down Syndrome. For one, it helps strengthen their muscle tone and develop their mouth and tongue coordination which will help them with speech in the future.  It also helps increase brain growth.  The skin to skin contact is great stimulation for your baby and helps you get to know your baby.  Breastfeeding is the most natural thing you can do with your baby. 

Stella is now three months old and when I am nursing her and she looks up at me with those blue, almond shaped eyes and gives me one of those milky grins, my heart melts.  There is a connection there that only a nursing mom and baby can have.  She needs me and loves me unconditionally as I do her.  And I know with out a doubt that I am doing the best thing for her.



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