Our journey started October 9, 2014. I gave birth by C-section to a little boy named Anthony Joseph (AJ). AJ was born with a little something extra- he was born with Down Syndrome. AJ has a big sister, Bella (with no DS), who adores him. We found out at the 20 week ultrasound that he might have DS. And we found out right before we left the hospital that he definitely did. He had to be in the NICU for the first day and night because of jaundice. I can remember my husband telling the nurses, “Now, we don’t want any pacis or bottles, ok?” I attempted to nurse him and he latched a few times, but only with a shield. I had been told that it might be difficult to nurse him because DS babies have low muscle tone in their mouths.
Well, I continually pumped and nursed him and gave him a bottle for around a week or two. Then I became “lazy.” I would just give him the bottle of breastmilk and not nurse. I did that a few days in a row and when I went back to nurse him it was a fight. He cried. I cried. It was horrible. My supply went down, so I rented a hospital-grade pump. He fought me every single time I tried to nurse him. Every single time. I finally called a lactation consultant and she gave me a few tips, which helped for a couple of days. Then we went right back to crying and fighting.This went on for three months.
I returned the pump. I was starting to make peace with the fact that I was about to have to just give him formula. It broke my heart. I can remember praying, Please, God, just let him suck one time, that’s it. I picked him up, positioned him and put him to my breast. He latched! My 3 month old started nursing, and without a shield! I was in shock. My husband was in the middle of grilling when all this happened. He came into the house and I whispered “Joey, look!” He said “Well I’ll be.” I thought it was probably a fluke. I nursed him again, and then again, then again. I can tell that since I have been nursing him his muscles are stronger in his mouth- he doesn’t leak milk out of his mouth when he eats now.
It’s never too late to try to nurse, and it’s possible to nurse a baby with Down Syndrome. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t! Yes, it is tough, but I promise it’s worth it.
Rose Anne Garcia
Rose is SAHM to Bella, 6, and AJ, 5 months. She enjoys reading, the beach, and traveling with her husband of 12 years, Joey.