It is a myth that babies with Down’s syndrome cannot breastfeed. Many babies with Down’s syndrome are now breastfed. Sometimes breastfeeding is established easily with no more problems than with any other baby. Sometimes breastfeeding a baby with Down’s syndrome can be harder and needs more time, patience and perserverance. Sometimes mothers choose not to breastfeed or find that because of their circumstances breastfeeding is not right for them.
Almost all mothers who want to can breastfeed or provide breast milk for their baby. For some mothers breastfeeding is established easily but other may find it takes a little more time, patience, and perseverance.
Support should be available to help you if you want to breastfeed your child. Many hospitals employ a lactation consultant or have midwives with a particular interest in feeding problems.
‘I was informed before my baby was born that she would never breastfeed. It took some doing, a mixture between breastfeeding and expressed breastfeeding, but she fed for sure!’
Some babies will become better at feeding as they grow older and will be able to be fully breastfed. Some mothers choose not to breastfeed or find that because of their circumstances, breastfeeding is not right for them.
‘I had always intended to breastfeed and, when I was told after the birth that my daughter had Down’s syndrome, I was even more determined that she would have the very best start in life that I could give her.’
A few babies have medical problems which affect feeding. Babies with gastro-intestinal tract (GI tract) disorders who need an operation will not be allowed to feed at first and will get nutrients intravenously. Some babies with heart conditions may be unable to feed immediately because they are tired or breathless; mothers of these babies can express breast milk by hand or pump to build up their milk supply. Their milk can be given to their babies by naso-gastric tube when the babies are well enough. With patience, and following surgery for any medical conditions, these babies can often fully breastfeed eventually.
‘My baby was tube fed for a few weeks until she learnt to breastfeed. She was breastfed for 22 months.’