How to Care for a Newborn With Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a genetic condition that occurs when chromosome 21 makes an additional copy of itself and triplicates. Babies born with this condition are at greater risk for complications, including infections, heart defects, obstructed bowels and hearing or vision loss, according to the National Down Syndrome Society 1. By being aware of your newborn’s special needs, you can take a proactive approach to his care.

Follow through with your newborn’s appointments. If a doctor diagnoses your baby with Down syndrome, she will do a complete physical exam on your baby to confirm her diagnosis. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that the physician will also look for conditions associated with Down syndrome and make notes about your newborn’s physical features 2. Conditions the physician may monitor on an ongoing basis include thyroid disorders, respiratory infections, dental problems and vision problems.

Protect your newborn from illnesses. The American Academy of Family Physicians explains that babies with Down syndrome are at an increased risk for developing respiratory, throat, nose and ear infections, as well as chronic infections 2. Avoid exposing your newborn to people who are sick, including family members. If you think your child has developed an infection make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

Closely watch your newborn as you feed him. Some newborns with Down syndrome have low muscle tone or control, which can cause them to choke or feed slowly. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you monitor your newborn’s weight to make sure he’s receiving enough nutrition. The pediatrics organization encourages breastfeeding and says that you should keep your newborn alert as he feeds.

Pay attention to how your newborn digests food. Newborns with Down syndrome are prone to bowel and stomach problems. If your baby’s stomach swells, frequently spits up or has abnormal stools, call the pediatrician.

Enroll in an Early Intervention service through your state’s Department of Health or Education, or a private agency. Early Intervention services are developmental services your baby can receive as soon as his first day of life through age 3, according to When you participate in this type of service, experts provide the specialized interventions that benefit newborns and babies with Down syndrome, such as physical and occupational therapy.