Special needs: you can do it!

In the beginning your baby will have the same needs as any other baby. They need to be fed, bathed, changed, loved and played with. Treat your baby the same as you would your other children. A loving family will cause them to thrive.

As your baby grows, he or she may be slow to react to you, but don’t be discouraged. You will find that the more you hold and cherish your baby, the reaction to your love will follow. Plus you will both benefit from the contact.

However, as your baby grows older, you will have to help him reach his developmental milestones.

What about my baby’s health?

Health varies from baby to baby, but Down syndrome babies are more prone to certain medical defects and problems. Most of these are treatable.

  • Most children with Down syndrome suffer from a weakened immune system. They are more susceptible to colds and flues, infections and stomach upsets than other babies.
  • The probability of heart defects is high. Although the mildest cases can get better with time, surgery is usually needed. These surgeries are often very successful.
  • Children with Down syndrome often have thyroid problems and it is a good idea to have the thyroid function tested regularly. Ruotine tests should be done at birth, six months and thereafter every year.
  • The nasal passages are narrow and block easily. Keep the nose open to prevent mouth breathing. The nose, throat and chest are particularly prone to infection.
  • Partial hearing loss is common, usually because of repeated ear infections. Any suspicion of a eye or ear infection should be seen to as soon as possible.
  • Dry irritated skin and sore lips are common. If your baby’s skin is dry or sensitive use a moisturiser like aqueous cream, baby oil, lanolin cream, vitamin E oil or olive oil. Babies with Down Syndrome usually have bad circulation so use a towel to rub him down after bathing and then moisturise with cream or oil.
  • Bad eye sight happens often and eye tests are recommended during the first year. Should your baby’s eyes become full of mucus consult your doctor immediately.
  • Gastrointestinal problems may occur with birth and can be corrected with surgery.
  • Babies with Down syndrome have trouble regulating their temperature and don’t handle changes in external temperature very well. So keep your baby warm and well covered in winter and cool in summer. Bath your baby daily, but keep the bath temperature mild. One solution is to let your baby sleep in a warm babygrow without blankets, or to make him a sleeping bag to sleep in. Keep your baby out of the wind.
  • Some children with Down syndrome tend to become overweight as they grow older, thus it is a good idea to start with a healthy balanced diet from early on. Try to avoid too much starchy food and sweets.
No one with Down syndrome has all of these health problems, but a good prevention plan is necessary for each child. With accurate diagnosis and the correct preventative measures most of these medical problems can be handled easily.

Teamwork between the family and the health care practitioners is necessary to diagnose and treat medical problems. A complete check up every six months is advised for at least the first 5 years.

You will soon have a healthy, happy toddler giving you lots of love and smiles.

Have any more questions? Try these articles:

What is Down syndrome?
Diagnosis: Down syndrome
Down syndrome myths

Do you have a child with Down syndrome? What has your experience been like?

The Down Syndrome Association can be contacted on (021) 919 8533 or info@downwc.co.za

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