Sam's story of breastfeeding child with Down's syndrome

Samantha Allen, member of the Infant Feeding Team at King's shares her experience of breastfeeding her child with Down's syndrome

Samantha Allen

When I found out at 13 weeks that our baby might have Down's syndrome, one of my many worries was not being able to breastfeed. I found a lot of information online about all the possible feeding difficulties and not much positive information. I fed my eldest daughter for over 2 years, I loved our breastfeeding relationship so much that I trained to be a peer supporter to help other mothers, and I now work as an infant feeding support worker.

I was planning to have a home birth with Róisín, but after a scan picked up some issues, I needed a c-section. So, I wrote a birth plan to request immediate skin-to-skin, if possible. I wanted to do everything I could to try and help with getting breastfeeding off to a good start.

I started hand expressing at 36 weeks, so I had syringes of colostrum just in case I needed them. Róisín did well at birth, we had skin-to-skin straight away and for some time afterwards. She was 5lb and very sleepy, but she had a little go at breastfeeding. I fed her colostrum regularly from birth. I did lots of hand expressing then used a pump and was getting good amounts of colostrum. On her second day she had some jaundice that needed phototherapy for a few hours, but she was fine after that. We spent a lot of time in skin-to-skin and practicing latching over the 5 days I was in, and she got better every day. Róisín is now 2-and-a-half and still breastfeeds occasionally to go to sleep at bedtime.

Babies with Down's syndrome may sometimes have some difficulties with breastfeeding, so getting the right support is important, but it is most definitely possible.