Caring For A Baby With Down Syndrome
The way you would care for a baby born without any birth defect is to some extent the same way you should take care of a baby with down syndrome. Your little one will need you to change their diapers, feed, dress, cuddle, play, talk to them and also give them some extra care.
Every child, no matter if your baby is living with down syndrome or not, is unique and individual in their own way. As a parent you will have to get to know your child’s personality and learn ways you can connect with you baby over time. Having a new baby will come with challenges, and for your baby living with Down syndrome you will have to make adjustments so that you and your little one can grow together.
What is Down Syndrome?
Down syndrome is a condition that is genetic. A baby with Down syndrome is born with an additional copy of the 21st chromosome. This condition can either be detected during pregnancy through genetic tests or during birth. Babies with Down syndrome in most cases usually have moderate intellectual and physical disabilities.
What health problems are likely to affect a baby with Down syndrome?
· Poor muscle tone
A baby born with Down Syndrome will not have a good muscle tone thus making it difficult for them to sit up, roll over, and even walk on their own. Due to low muscle tone, try implementing the use of a baby bouncer to help your baby learn to sit up and engage with their surroundings. Additionally, look for appropriate toys that will help your baby reach developmental milestones for their fine motor skills like grasping and reaching.
· Trouble swallowing
Some babies may experience trouble swallowing. Some will also have a blockage in their gastrointestinal tract. You may want to consider surgery to help alleviate the issue. Be careful to pay attention to what foods you give your baby when you decide to start solids. This can be a difficult task to transition from breastfeeding to solids since the signs when your baby is ready will be different compared to their peers.
· Heart problems
Babies with Down syndrome often have some sort of heart defect. Heart problems are usually detected through an ultrasound. If the baby is found to be suffering from a heart defect, then surgery is recommended to fix this problem.
· Hearing problems
Babies with Down syndrome normally have smaller Eustachian tubes and as a result get a fluid buildup. The treatment for the fluid buildup involves the surgical insertion of tubes to relieve the ear. Unfortunately, if a baby suffers nerve damage, then there are high odds of permanent hearing loss.
If this is the case for your baby, your doctor may recommend the use of hearing aids. Treatment for this is important as it could affect your little one's speech development.
Eye problems such as cataracts or other vision problems that may require you to get your baby glasses.
Other health issues though less likely to happen to a baby with Down syndrome include:
· Thyroid disease
· Anemia due to the red blood cells inability to provide the body with oxygen and deficiency of iron.
· Blood cancer (also known as leukemia) in early childhood.
How to care for a baby with Down syndrome
1. Early intervention.
Your baby may take longer to achieve developmental milestones than a baby without this condition. However, it is advisable for all parents with babies with Down syndrome to embrace early intervention physical and occupational therapy as it helps infants and toddlers achieve various milestones faster.
These milestones include:
· Language and vocabulary.
· Motor developments such as walking, crawling, dressing, writing etc.
· Social behaviors such as good manners, sharing, maintaining eye contact and turn taking in conversations.
· Academic development such as early childhood counting and reading.
2. Push your little one's chin up while nursing.
Most babies with Downs syndrome can hardly coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing during nursing. To ensure that your little one does not choke on milk or food, be sure to push their chin up as you feed them. Also, be certain that he or she is fully awake while feeding them.
3. Join a support group or organization.
Parents to babies with Down syndrome are also advised to consider joining the nearest support group in their town. This makes it possible for you to access the community resources for parents with babies with Down Syndrome. If you don't know of any, ask your doctor as he or she may know of places where you can find one.
4. Be patient
As your little one learns how to sit, walk, crawl, talk among other skills, you need to be patient no matter how long he or she seems to be taking. To help them learn a little bit faster, you could:
· Move your little one's legs and hands in a motion mimicking swimming movements.
· Hold your baby in sitting position and let him or her lean forward to maintain balance.
· Hold your baby in a standing position on your laps and bounce him or her up and down.
· Help the little one roll over to ensure he or she is mobile and stronger over time.
5. Encourage your baby to make use of his or her large muscles
Regular use of the large muscles such as the legs, hands will help your baby get stronger and achieve milestones a little bit faster. You can do this by:
· Placing the toys, a little bit out of his or her reach thus promoting your little one move to get them.
· Allowing your baby to clap or slap on the table occasionally.
Know that your child will sometimes be challenged and as a result fail to achieve the set goals as soon as expected. But just hang in there, in due time, your baby will continue to learn and grow everyday and with time will reach their own accomplishments.