Caring for a baby with Down's syndrome

We take a look at Down's syndrome and offer advice to help ensure the best care for your baby.

17 July 2014
by Karen Nel

Down's syndrome (also known as Down syndrome) is a genetic disorder which is caused by the presence of extra genetic material. It occurs as a result of faulty cell division in the womb. Down's syndrome usually results in mild to moderate intellectual disability and a number of typical physical characteristics, such as upward slanting eyes, small facial features and a single crease on the palm of each han. However, a baby with Down's syndrome will also strongly resemble the other members of their family.

Down's syndrome is often accompanied by other more serious health issues, such as congenital heart defects (see below), problems with vision and hearing, as well as unusually loose joints and poor muscle tone (the baby will feel unnaturally floppy).

What you should know about Down's syndrome

Finding out that your child has Down's syndrome is difficult news to deal with. Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel – be it grief, anger, or sadness. Be kind to yourself and support your partner in every way that you can.

As soon as you have dealt with the news, tell your family members that your child has the chromosomal condition. Remember that they will take their cue from you. So if you are positive about your child’s future, they will be too. If you seem devastated, then they will react similarly.

Remember that your baby is first and foremost a baby, who needs your love and care like any other baby. Although a baby with Down's syndrome will take longer to achieve milestones such as sitting, walking and talking, they will reach them and your encouragement and involvement is crucial to them developing optimally.

Have your child’s hearing and sight screened as soon as possible. With early intervention, you can minimise speech and other developmental delays. Many children with Down's attend mainstream schools with great success.

Don’t be afraid to have other children, if you want a bigger family. Your chances of having another child with Down syndrome are no greater than any other couple of the same age as you and your partner.

Debbie’s story

Debbie Rossi is mom to Mateo (8), Isabella (6) and Juliet (2): “We didn’t know that Isabella had Down's syndrome before she was born. I went for all the pregnancy scans – including the detailed scans – but it simply wasn’t picked up. Shortly after her birth, the paediatrician mentioned to my husband and I that he thought she may have Down's syndrome. To formally diagnose it, they had to do a blood test and the results took 10 days to arrive. I think that was the hardest part – not knowing for 10 days – the first 10 days of your child’s life.

"The results came back positive and that was the beginning of our new lives. There have been many challenges along the way, but I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change anything if I could. I only know Isabella as she is, and she’s the most beautiful, happy, loving little girl. In fact, she’s the easiest of my three children at the moment. There have been so many blessings that have come along with her. We’ve celebrated every milestone in her development in ways that you simply don’t do with a child who is developing normally.

"One of the things that I’m most joyful about is that she’s in a mainstream school. She’s the only child with Down's syndrome in her class and her friends are just so amazing. Isabella struggles verbally, so she uses sign language to communicate and her friends have also learnt it now. It’s really amazing to see.”

Make use of Clicks Clinics Mother & Baby Wellness services

Clicks is here to help you with your pregnancy and your baby's health. Our Mother & Baby Wellness services available at our Clicks Clinics offer a variety of services, including:

  • A "Well Baby" consultation (meeting with a Clinic Sister for advice on your baby's health and needs), plus immunisation. We offer all baby vaccinations as per the EPI schedule, as well as many additional ones.

To make an appointment at a Clicks Clinic, call 0860 254 257 or visit Clicks Clinics online.

Shop online at Clicks.co.za for baby essentials

Clicks has a wide selection of healthcare, accessories, creams and foods to help parents from pregnancy to birth and beyond. If you prefer the convenience of online shopping, purchase your mother and baby products here.

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