“Breast is Best!” This is true even for babies with health problems or special developmental needs. In fact, babies with special needs require the power of breastmilk to fulfill these special needs. It is important to understand that it is not easy to breastfeed babies with special needs. However, with a lot of commitment and a Breastfeeding helps moms feel more ‘normal’ and more connect to their child.
Supermilk for tiny babies:
Premature infants need extra amounts of some nutrients in order to grow quickly and to help organs mature and grow. Preterm milk is higher in calories, protein and fat. It is especially high in brain-building fats. The immature intestines of premature babies have difficulty absorbing formula fat. However, mother’s milk has high lipase that helps the fat be more digestible. With mother’s milk, they get nourishment and protection.
Babies with cleft lip or cleft palate:
Cleft lip and cleft palate are common birth defects and they can be corrected early on with surgery. Even if the defects cannot be fixed with surgery, a mother can and should breastfeed her child. Mothers having babies with cleft palate needs to work with a lactation consultant who is experienced with cleft palate babies.
Tips for feeding babies with cleft palates:
- Feed baby in an upright version of the clutch hold
- Aim the nipple at the part of the palate that is intact
- Use the dancer hand position (palm supporting the breast underneath, thumb and forefinger in a U-shape supporting baby’s cheeks and chin)
- Encourage baby to comfort suck, even if he isn’t getting much milk
- If baby is unable to take milk from breasts, pump and feed the baby
Babies with Down Syndrome:
Babies with down syndrome have struggles nursing, but mothers have persisted for years and there have been lots of success stories on breastfeeding babies with down syndrome.
There are many benefits to breastfeeding babies with down syndrome.
- Breastfeeding helps these infants have less cough and colds.
- Breastfeeding provides help with development of muscles in the mouth and jaw, which can help with speech later on.
- Many babies with down syndrome may have heart defects and breastfeeding helps in growth of these babies and provides better immunization.
Feeding babies with down syndrome can be challenging, especially in the early weeks. There are a few suggestions to help mothers with breastfeeding down syndrome babies, as they are prone to have low muscle tone and latch-on difficulties.
- Try nursing in the clutch or reverse cradle hold. Use gentle pressure behind baby’s neck to help him stay on the breast.
- If baby falls asleep, take him off, wake him up and nurse on other side.
- Pump briefly before offering the breast to the baby to stimulate milk-ejection reflex.
- Hold the baby skin-to-skin.
With special needs kids, it is very important for moms to give breastfeeding a try. Do everything to get off to a good start. With abundance of love, the will to commit to breastfeeding a little effort, every mom with special needs kid should be able to breastfeed.