Supporting Breastfeeding

La Leche League Canada

Babies with Down Syndrome Can Breastfeed

on May 25, 2015

Parents may find out that their baby has Down Syndrome before baby is born or after he/she arrives. Either way, there are many emotions and questions to deal with as they face a radical shift in their expectations of what life will be for this child and for the family.  For those who haven’t yet experienced such a life changing moment, there is a wonderful story called Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley that is worth taking a moment to read.

The theme of World Down Syndrome Day 2015, focused on opportunities and choices.  One of the first choices parents of a baby with Down Syndrome have to make is how to feed the baby.  Like most Canadian parents, they were likely planning to breastfeed and now may find themselves wondering if it is possible.  The Canadian Down Syndrome Society’s slogan is “See the Ability” and La Leche League Canada encourages everyone to assume that babies with Down Syndrome do have the ability to breastfeed.

Every baby with Down Syndrome is unique so, just like all breastfeeding parents, you will need to learn about your baby and what works best for him.  Baby may have some physical characteristics that impact breastfeeding but with assistance, support and a bit of time breastfeeding can get off to a good start.

Babies with Down Syndrome may have low muscle tone which can affect the strength of their tongue and lips as well as the neck.  There are a variety of ways you can hold your baby during breastfeeding that will help to support her head, neck and upper back.  By providing good support, baby doesn’t have to work so hard to maintain her body position and she can put more energy into suckling.  Positioning the mother’s hand to support the baby’s chin can also help a baby with low muscle tone keep her head steady during breastfeeding.


Many babies with Down Syndrome are very sleepy in the first few weeks which can impact their breastfeeding routine and weight gain.  For these babies, it may be necessary to wake them up to ensure they are feeding 8-12 times in a 24 hour period.  Many babies doze off at the breast because they are warm and comfortable.  If baby isn’t staying awake long enough to get a good feeding and the higher calorie hindmilk, it may be necessary to take steps to stimulate him to stay awake for a full feeding. Breast compressions during the feeding can also help keep the baby nursing and increase intake.

La Leche League Canada and the Canadian Down Syndrome Society teamed up to produce a breastfeeding information and resource guide for new parents of babies with Down Syndrome.  It is available as a downloadable PDF.  La Leche League Leaders can help with ideas and suggestions for positioning the baby and encouraging a good milk supply.  Talking to an LLLC Leader and attending LLLC meetings can be very helpful as you work out what your baby needs to be able to breastfeed successfully.

Here is a link to some lovely photos of breastfeeding babies who also happen have Down Syndrome.  .

If you need more information or have a breastfeeding problem or concern, you are strongly encouraged to talk directly to an accredited La Leche League Leader.  In Canada, Leaders can be located by clicking or Internationally


If you have found this article helpful, La Leche League Canada would appreciate your support in the form of a donation at so we can continue to help others breastfeed. Thank you!





One response to “Babies with Down Syndrome Can Breastfeed

Your Comments are Welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: