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Breastfeeding a baby with Down syndrome - Zoe & Dexter


Labour arrived and all was good. It was exciting, empowering and emotional. After just 4.5 hours my beautiful baby was here.


As I looked at his perfect face, the words down syndrome rang in my head and I tried to ignore it.

Before I knew it paediatricians flooded the room and one asked if I'd noticed anything "funny" about my baby 


I was trying to get him to latch, a single 25 year old first time mother determined to breastfeed. But, he was taken from me and put into the special care unit and I was told I would not be able to nurse my baby because babies with DS have low muscle tone and are not strong enough to nurse.


For the first two days he had to be fed formula as he was under an oxygen tank and could not be removed so I asked he be fed by tube so he did not get used to the taste or feel of bottle and formula. 


I went away and hand expressed colostrum into syringes and then squirted it into his little mouth. One of the nurses said "All these babies are nil by mouth you can't do that". As politely as possible I told her I wasn't going to stop feeding him my colostrum, and I didn't. I gave him around 5 syringes across days two and three of his life and on day 4 he was discharged from the high risk unit and into the nursery.


By this point my milk had come in and as he wasn't under the oxygen tank anymore I decided to teach him to latch.


It was hard and he had to be fed expressed breast milk through his nose tube until day 6 when he had his first day of exclusively breastfeeding.


The nose tube was then removed. Although he did have and does still have low muscle tone which is present in all people with DS and that meant he was quite floppy so he could only feed laying across my lap and I had to hold the back of his head (it is usually best to support the nape of the neck) and his arms and legs would just kind of dangle of me rather than grip or grab my breast or clothing.


Nonetheless we fed anywhere we wanted to anytime we wanted to for 8 months. Not sure if it's coincidence but he has never been sick, has beautiful teeth, is over average size for his age and has good coordination. These characteristics are not often seen in children with DS. I have never met another child with DS who was breastfed.

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