For Families and Carers : Feeding

Mother holding baby 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.’

Weaning – Babies with Down’s syndrome should be introduced to solids at the same time and in the same way as other babies. It may take them a bit longer to co-ordinate the actions needed for eating solids.

  • Introduce your child to finger foods as you would any other child, offering different textures and flavours.
  • Give your child choices and let them touch and play with different foods.
  • You may have to give your child a new food gradually and on a number of occasions before they will eat it.

Your child’s speech and language therapist can give you advice about feeding.

More information – If you would like some more information on feeding, the Early Support booklet has guidance on helping your child with feeding. Sometimes the best source of information is other parents. If you would like to know more about other people’s experiences with feeding bottles, please read our blog post on Feeding Bottles.’