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Breast and Bottle Feeding

Feeding a Baby with a Chromosome Defect

Many newborns with trisomy 13 or 18 experience feeding difficulties because they lack the co-ordination to suck and swallow properly. In addition, babies may have a cleft lip or palate. These challenges can lead to problems with slow growth and low weight gain. For this reason most babies born with Edwards' or Patau's syndrome start off by being feed by nasogastric (ng) tube. For newborns, the milk through the tube may be either breastmilk or infant formula.

Breastfeeding

Breast milk protects a baby against certain infections, and mothers who want to breastfeed can express their breast milk for bottle or tube feeding. Many UK hospital now have support in the neonatal unit for mothers who would like to give their baby breastmilk, whether direct or via a feeding system.

  • Kellymom is a US website with information for mothers who would like to express breastmilk to feed their baby. The sections on Breastfeeding Your Premature Infant and Down Syndrome both contain practical information on how to express and maintain your milk supply when your baby is not directly breastfeeding.
  • Tommy's has information for new parents about feeding your premature baby, which includes expressing and storing breastmilk.
  • If you prefer a pump over hand expressing, the NCT provides a hire service for hospital-grade electric breastpumps that you can use at home.

Bottle Feeding

There are many powdered and liquid infant formulas available, and the midwife will advise on what to use and how much to give. Babies may need frequent and smaller feeds. Enlarging the hole of an ordinary teat does not solve the feeding problems, and panic and choking soon result. Babies can swallow air when using ordinary feeders and this causes wind, vomiting and colic.

The Haberman Feeder is a specialist feeder designed to help babies who have a condition that makes feeding difficult. It concentrates the baby's sucking effort directly onto the milk in the teat so that even the weakest suck gets results and gives the baby complete control. Air swallowing is reduced, and babies with feeding difficulties and/or a cleft palate can benefit significantly. The parent can help the baby by gently squeezing and releasing the teat to control the amount of milk that flows into the baby's mouth.

  • You can buy versions of the Haberman feeder in the UK from online baby stores, eBay as well as direct from the manufacturers. The two main producers are Medela (SpecialNeeds Feeder (TM)) and Athrodax (The Haberman Feeder (TM)).
  • CLAPA (The Cleft Lip & Palate Association) has a quick delivery service of specialist feeding equipment (including the Haberman Feeder) - they aim to get orders out within 24 hours of receipt.

Cleft Lip and Palate

Babies with a cleft palate are unable to make a seal between the mouth and the nipple/bottle teat, and cannot suck effectively. Your midwife, infant feeding specialist midwife or cleft team feeding adviser should be able to support you. If direct breast or bottle feeding is not possible, you should be shown other methods.

Colic

Colic is painful for a baby and distressing for the family. Smaller and more frequent feeds may help, and the Haberman Feeder can reduce the amount of air swallowed during a feed. The baby should be given a thorough medical examination to eliminate the possibility of other medical conditions, and in cases of severe colic, anti-gas medication may be prescribed.