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Feeding Strategies in Babies with Down Syndrome

Date: August 13, 2012 Author: admin Categories: Articles

Babies with Down Syndrome commonly have developing difficulties with speech and swallowing which may be addressed very early. Your baby is likely to have low oral tone including the muscles of the oral cavity. The lips and tongue are especially at risk to develop less strength that is needed as your baby grows, necessary for breast or bottle feeding, eating and speech. Because of the low tone, the tongue appears oversized, flaccid with a rounded tip and frequently at rest between the gums.

The tongue is very important in feeding. The soft palate or roof of the mouth is a soft spot growth plate like the fontanelles on he head, which eventually close as your baby grows. The stimulation of sucking the tongue against the palate is important to stimulate this closure. There is also a connection with fluid in the ears, another common problem in babies with Down Syndrome. It is critical that she sits upright to feed, with her ears higher than the mouth, to reduce the likelihood of ear fluid. Place the nipple lower than your baby’s mouth. If the tongue stimulates the palate during sucking adequately, which will also occur with proper positioning, the palate will develop in a smooth, arched manner. If her mouth is closed, her tongue is in an active phase of toning against the palate. If not, a high narrow palatal vault with a bony notch will develop. If fed in a reclined posture, your baby is susceptible to ear infections. Reclined feeding may encourage mouth breathing thereby generating more mucous in the nose which would the drain to the ear by way of the Eustachian tube.

For young infants, use a Playtex Nurser with the bag liners. Take the baby’s lead. When he sucks, press the bag to increase the volume of liquid drawn in by the tongue. He will exercise his tongue every time you press. Don’t press if the baby stops to breathe or swallow. Let the baby rest when he needs to because his endurance may be poor. Your baby will be exercising his tongue every time you press, and increase the strength of his
tongue.

Babies over 8 months may be ready to use a straw which will exercise their tongue by sucking through it. It will help her retract or pull back her tongue while pursing he lips. The first straw should be straight and short, and the baby may need to tae a large amount of the straw in her mouth. As the baby increases her tongue strength, allow les and less of the straw to go into her mouth, so the tongue can be further challenged. As the baby improves her ability to use only” of a straw into her mouth to suck, give her a longer straw. The Party stores sell all kinds of straws with twists and turns that are colorful and attractive. Gradually add more complex straws as your child is able to use each one.

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